ADULT ACNE SUCKS! Cleansers for Grown Up Blemish Prone Skin


As a teenager, other than a few PMS related zonkers, acne wasn’t an issue. I recently decided to stop taking birth control pills during an attempt at a cleaner lifestyle (till I realized I can’t live without cheese) and the hormonal acne backlash has been horrifying. No, its not from eating processed foods or lack of water. Its not from poor skin care habits (please) or introducing copious amounts of dairy back into my diet (it’s not that much). Personally – and the cause differs from person to person – throwing my hormones into a tailspin by stopping the Pill is the only culprit.

While the only thing I can do to wait for my hormones to regulate (I’ve been back on the pill for a month) – incorporating “acne-prone” into my skin care criteria has proven difficult. Most products do little to stave off angry red breakouts and just leave my skin flaky and dry.

In this ADULT ACNE SUCKS! series, I’ll be breaking down the three steps of effective acne skin care: cleansing, treating and covering. In this section we’ll take a look at CLEANSERS FOR BLEMISH PRONE SKIN.



$16.99 / 4 oz. $$ white squeeze tube |
Product Rating: ★★★★★★★★ (8/10)

“Light, clarifying cleanser for breakout-prone skin. Helps to clear & prevent breakouts. Exfoliates skin to clear clogged pores.”

This gentle, yet powerful acne cleanser uses 2% salicylic acid to combat blemishes and oily skin without over drying. It has a fresh scent, a good amount of foam and rinses clean. This is a good choice for adult acne sufferers since it contains calming ingredients that help stave off flaky skin. While this claims to remove makeup, using a separate makeup remover is till recommended for best results. I’m curious to see how this works with the rest of the MD Complete system for blemish prone skin.

$45 / 6.8 fl. oz. $$$  plastic bottle |
Product Rating: ★★★★★★ (6/10)

“Erno Laszlo Anti Blemish Beta Wash cleans, purifies and reduces acne breakouts by unclogging pores and eliminating excess shine. Salicylic acid exfoliates the skin to refine the tone and texture for a brighter complexion. Myrrh, rosemary, sage and chamomile soothe and calm inflammation.”

With only 1% salicylic acid and a very light foam, Erno Laszlo’s classic Beta Wash formula has a menthol scent and leaves oily skin feeling cool and relaxed. While this may be a good choice for those with minor blemishes, the menthol can potentially be irritating and did not leave my skin feeling “clean”. My 12 year old daughter has been using it (she doesn’t wear makeup) with good results – however, due to the price, this wouldn’t be my first choice for pre-teen skincare. I only purchased this because it was on sale for $14.50 on Hautelook.

$8.99 / 8 oz. $ plastic pump bottle |
Product Rating: ★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

“Deep cleanse and prevent breakouts. Dr. Lin’s gentle foaming cleanser soothes, heals and reduces inflammation to treat and clear acne and the marks left behind.”

This cleanser was purchased out of desperation – although the inclusion of kojic acid, arbutin and other ingredients had me hoping it would get rid of some scaring too. With 2% salicylic acid (this is the highest for OTC acne cleansers), this watery foaming cleanser has a good amount of foam, rinses clean and leaves skin feeling fresh. There was also a noticeable reduction in blemish size within a few uses. While skin did get a little dry and flaky, this was easily remedied with the addition of an oil free moisturizer and reducing use to 1x a day.

$8.99 / 6.78 oz. $ squeeze tube |
Product Rating: ★★★★★★★ (7/10)

“When you are fighting acne, faster is better. Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Daily Face Wash is dermatologist tested to give you visibly clearer skin in as little as 12 hours. It is scientifically formulated with maximum strength acne medication and starts working quickly to open blocked pores, so you get visibly clearer skin fast.”

The name Clearasil is synonymous with acne skin care. Rapid Action Daily Face Wash has a rich foam, slight fragrance and rinses clean. 2% salicylic acid fights acne and the product promises to deliver clearer skin in as little as 12 hours. While my pre-teen did okay with this – it was far too drying for my 40+ skin. Still, its a good choice and did a good job on mopping up oils and drying out smaller blemishes quickly. I still prefer the Dr. Lin Daily Cleanser for how it makes my skin feel and the secondary benefits of lightening discoloration.

$35.50 / 8 oz. $$$ plastic bottle |
Product Rating: ★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

“AHA/BHA Cleansing Gel by Renée Rouleau is formulated for those with acne, blemishes, clogged pores and all problem types. This non-drying, deep pore cleansing gel discourages blemishes and fades post-breakouts marks to reveal clearer and more even-toned skin. Salicylic acid along with gentle jojoba beads allow for effective exfoliation and clearing. Recommended for teens, adults or anyone struggling with breakouts. This cleansing gel comes in a large 8 oz bottle—almost twice the size of most cleansers, so it’s sure to last a long time. The result? Beautiful, healthier and clearer skin with fewer breakouts and clogged pores.”

Renee Rouleau’s products are not cheap and very hard to come by. There aren’t any big promos or free gifts. The real gift is clear skin. The AHA/BHA Cleansing Gel has a more gooey texture vs. other gel cleansers and has jojoba beads for manual exfoliation. What impressed me the most about this was while it was effective at reducing acne, it doesn’t dry out my skin at all. No flaking or irritation. The 8 oz. bottle lasts a very long time and the additional acids (glycolic and lactic) help to reduce acne scars. Just be sure to use a small amount, use enough water to activate and rinse well. An additional step to remove makeup prior to use is also recommended.

$26 / 6.75 oz. $$ plastic squeeze tube |
Product Rating: ★★★★★★★★ (8/10)

“Clarifying Cleanser’s rich lather strips away pore-clogging grime, oil, and irritants, while encapsulated salicylic acid provides a sustained release of medication for hours of acne treatment, even after rinsing. A bestselling Murad product for nearly 20 years, this cleanser is recommended as the first step in any Murad acne routine. Clarifying Cleanser is formulated to improve skin’s health as part of Dr. Murad’s Inclusive Health® system of care.”

A clear, foaming cleansing gel, Murad Clarifying Cleanser has 1.5% salicylic acid and is best for those with very oily skin since it is a bit stripping. My sister swears by this cleanser and since she’s been using it, hasn’t had any major breakouts. If you feel more comfortable with a mainstream brand and have consistent breakouts, this would be a good choice. The Dr. Lin Daily Cleanser would still be my top choice and since it costs considerably less (but would last about 1/2 the time of the Murad due to its consistency), worth a look. The Murad is also available in a 12 oz. size for $35 ($46 value) and comes with a pump – this would be a great buy as well.


** MD COMPLETE CLARIFYING CLEANSER INGREDIENTS: 2% Salicylic Acid. Water, Acrylates/Aminoacrylates/C10-30 Alkyl PEG-20, Itaconate Copol, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate. Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Glycol Stearate, Sodium Citrate, Cocamidopropylamine Oxide, Linoleamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride, Phosphate, Fragrance, Glycerin, Lactic Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Ascorbic Acid, Panthenol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Ammonium Hydroxide, Algae Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Bisabolol, Cola Acuminata Seed Extract, Lecithin, Propylene Glycol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Papain (source:

ERNO LASZLO ANTI BLEMISH BETA WASH INGREDIENTS: Salicylic Acid 1%. Water (Aqua/Eau), Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium C8-16 Isoalkylsuccinyl Lactoglobulin Sulfonate, Algae Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Rosa Centifolia Flower Water, Commiphora Myrrha Resin Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Hypericum Perforatum Extract, Camphor, Menthol, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Sodium Chloride, Benzophenone-4, Copper Pca, Trisodium Edta, Dmdm Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben. (source:

DR. LIN DAILY CLEANSER INGREDIENTS: 2% Salicylic Acid. Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Glycerin, Lauryl Glucoside, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, Arbutin, Kojic Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium PCA, Allantoin, Panthenol, PEG-150 Distearate, Phenoxyethanol, Aminomethyl Propanol, Methylisothiazolinone, Fragrance (source:

CLEARASIL ULTRA RAPID ACTION DAILY FACE WASH INGREDIENTS: Salicylic Acid 2%. Water, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Hydroxide, Acrylates, C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Fragrance, Disodium EDTA, Lavandula Stoechas Extract, Helichrysum Italicum Extract, Cistus Monspeliensis Extract. (source:

RENEE ROULEAU AHA/BHA CLEANSING GEL INGREDIENTS: Purified Water, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Disodium Cocoamphodipropionate, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Phenoxyethanol, Slicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil. (source: product packaging)

MURAD CLARIFYING CLEANSER INGREDIENTS: Salicylic Acid 1.5%. Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Methyl Gluceth-20, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Butylene Glycol, Cimicifuga Racemosa Root Extract, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Silver Citrate, Menthol, PEG-150 Distearate, Corn Starch, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch Octenylsuccinate, Glyceryl Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Polysorbate 80, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Chlorphenesin, Methylisothiazolinone, Limonene, Tangerine Leaf Oil, Citronella Oil, Lemon Peel Oil, Lime Oil, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Mandarin Orange Peel Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil, Fragrance. (source:

**This product was submitted by product  representatives for review consideration. This is not an advertisement for this product. All reviews and information is gathered independently by Cosmetic Monster or from press releases – and no compensation is received based on the outcome or sales generated from this review. Cosmetic Monster pays WordPress to be AD FREE and does not participate in affiliate programs – all links are provided to promote products, but without compensation. Only REFERRAL links for sites like Hautelook or Birchbox yield compensation (usually points or credit).


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