I love glycolic cleansers. They are amazing on oily skin. I tried SO many glycolic acid cleansers trying to find the best one. MD Forte Cleanser II and III are still my absolute favorite glycolic acid cleansers (reviewed here) because they leave my skin perfectly degreased, smooth and matte, but not tight. However, I still prefer my cleansers to have salicylic acid, a pore-penetrating and purifying ingredient. I have super oily, acne-prone pores and salicylic acid is a necessity. Finding a glycolic acid AND salicylic acid cleanser that is not excessively drying is VERY difficult. The three below are my favorites at various price points.
DDF Brightening Cleanser, 8.5 oz for $38.00
DDF Brightening Cleanser is one of my staples and I have purchased it three times. You can feel it purifying your face whenever you use it. It has glycolic acid, salicylic acid, malic acid, glycyrrhiza glabra root extract (brightening ingredient) and a vitamin c derivative (another brightening ingredient). It exfoliates old skin cells, clears out pores, evens out uneven skintone, whether it’s hyperpigmentation from a blemish, or the incidental uneven tan. This gives a refreshing clean feeling to the skin, but it can also be a bit drying. I know if I use this I have to scale back everything else I do. You can feel the cleansing power in it. Because of this, I do not use it every day. I save this for extra oily days and the summer. I do not like to regularly use this in the winter, although I do use it occasionally in the winter when I want to get an extra deep clean.
It also doubles as a targeted body cleanser for problematic parts of the body that may experience excess overpigmentation like knees, elbows, or if you suffer from buttne or bacne (oh, how sophisticated of me, but did I really want to use the word buttocks?). If you do use this on knees, elbows, arms, or legs to lighten scarring, or brown spots, just make sure to double up on the moisture after. This is really drying and skin that is NOT oily, and those body parts are already extra dry to begin with.
As far as recommendations go, I only suggest those with non-sensitive oily skin to use this product. This is a great product for those with older, rougher skintypes that have suffered sun damage and need the brightening and exfoliative action of this cleanser, or anyone with oily, acne-prone skin.
Ingredients: Water, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Glycolic Acid, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Salicylic Acid, Panthenol, Prunus Persica (Peach) Leaf Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Morus Alba Bark Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract, Sodium Benzoate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, Butylene Glycol, Disodium Edta, Methylisothiazolinone, Fragrance.
Topix “Glycolix” Gly-Sal 10-2 Cleanser, 6.7 oz for $19.50
I discovered Topix “Glycolix” Gly-Sal 10-2 Cleanser because I wanted a cheaper alternative to DDF’s Brightening Cleanser. Hello?! Have you seen how expensive that bottle is? That’s $38.00! This is nearly half the price! But I also wanted something with more salicylic acid. Unlike the DDF Brightening Cleanser, which does not tell you how much glycolic acid, or salicylic acid, it has the Topix “Glycolix” Gly-Sal 10-2 Cleanser makes it very obvious: 10% glycolic acid and 2% salicylic acid. However, I find it a teeny bit more drying than the DDF Brightening Cleanser. This is a must during the summer, but I can also use it year round as long as I am not aggressive with other products in my regimen. It lacks brightening ingredients to handle post acne marks but the pore declogging aspect is worth it. The antioxidant green tea and Zinc PCA increase the skin conditioning. I have purchased this product many times. I have purchased the 5-2 version once, but I decided there was no reason to go down in actives when for some reason the 5-2 version didn’t feel that much less drying as the 10-2 version.
I can only really recommend this for oily, acne-prone skintypes that aren’t sensitive. Your skin should be fairly non-reactive to glycolic acids.
Ingredients: Salicylic Acid 2%, Camellia Sinensis Leaf (Green Tea) Extract, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance, Glycolic Acid, Linolemidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Polysorbate-20, Purified Water, Red #40 (CI-16035), Sodium C12-15 Pareth-15 Sulfonate, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Triethanolamine, Yellow #5 (CI-19140), Zinc PCA
B.Kamins Acne Wash, 8.0 oz for $34.00
I purchased this in the summer of 2012. If you read some of my posts over the summer, then you know that I was experiencing really bad acne breakouts that just did not want to stop. I was throwing everything at it. Blitzing my skin meant that my usual oily skin cleansers became too drying and painful. But I could not just switch on to a moisturizing product because my pores were still too greasy even if my skin was superficially dry and irritated. I selected this cleanser specifically because B.Kamins focuses on sensitive oily, acne-prone skin. My skin was both at this point.
This is a gentle skin cleanser that contains buffered glycolic acid, lactic acid and 2% salicylic acid, along with skin conditioners, allantoin and panthenol, with B.Kamins proprietary moisturizing B Maple Complex to soothe sensitive skin and prevent it from overdrying. This stuff is amazing. I was able to integrate this into my skincare routine and not experience any drying or irritation. I was amazed at how my skin felt AFTER I used this cleanser. It felt purified but gently moisturized. This product left my skin feeling silky-smooth and pampered. It kind of felt like matte “BUTTA.” Yes, I felt up my face for a while. The only other product that left my skin feeling like that was the Astara Blue Flame Purifying Treatment, which was weird. It may have been the Maple Complex within the cleanser that provided that soft, matte “butta” feeling to my skin, in combination with the allantoin and the panthenol.
This stuff is amazing for normally greasy skin, that has been irritated and dried out by retinoids. Because it is so expensive, I showed restraint during the summer and I still have over half the bottle left. This is a great colder weather face wash for normal to oily skintypes that are acne-prone but still have sensitive skin. I can use this year round, but I prefer to save it for extra sensitive skin days that require pore purification and gentle, minimal mattifying moisture.
Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid, Aqua/Water/Eau, Lauryl Glucoside, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Acer Saccharum (Maple Isolate / Isolat D’érable), Glycerin, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Panthenol, Allantoin, Mentha Piperita.
DRUGSTORE BUDGET BUY
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Blemish Cleanser, 5.1 oz SRP
If these glycolic acid + salicylic acid cleansers are out of your budget, or seem like they may be too aggressive for your skin, then I suggest picking up the drugstore budget buy: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Anti Blemish Cleanser. I used this cleanser for several years before I moved on to MD Forte, DDF, and my Glycolix cleansers for more aggressive exfoliation and purification.
Neutrogena’s acne care line is one of the best drugstore lines for mild acne that requires a little bit more oomph, than gentler lines like Aveeno’s, or Yes to Inc.’s acne lines. I consider Neutrogena’s acne line to be a consistent middle of the road drugstore brand in the way it handles acne. With Aveeno best for more sensitive skin types and Stridex and Oxy being more aggressively drying. However, for the most post, the overwhelming majority of acne care products in drugstores are fungible, with the difference coming down to packaging and marketing.
Ingredients: Salicylic Acid (0.5%), Water, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Glycol Distearate, Glycolic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Cocamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Polyquaternium 11, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance