Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Using Soap to Cure Acne – It Really Works!

By Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, Double board-certified dermatologist

Are you trying to treat acne on a budget? You really can cleanse your face with soap and water. The key is using the right kind of soap.

Acne soap
Soap and water can be used to cleanse acne-prone skin, but choose a soap that lathers or has small bubbles.


  • Even soap and water can cleanse acne-affected skin, but choosing the right acne soap is essential.
  • Big bubbles and foamy lathers of soap usually damage sensitive or dry skin. Small bubbles and creamy lathers of soap or cleanser are best.
  • You can’t scrub your acne away. Let your cleanser do the work.
  • Clean towels help you maintain clean skin.
  • There are many good acne cleansers in all price ranges, but a complete skin care system may be a better investment.

Soap and Your Skin

Many of us think of a “good” soap as a soap that makes a lots of suds. Generally that is exactly the opposite of what acne-affected skin needs.

The problem with big bubbles of soap is that they have relatively high tension along their edges. This forces the soap into the top layers of the skin, and that is a bad thing. When soap gets into pores, it dissolves oily sebum, but it may get stuck if the pores are too narrow. And the act of washing the skin with bubbly soap narrows pores by drying out and tightening the skin around them.

A desirable acne cleanser makes a creamy lather of very small bubbles. Small bubbles do not force soap into pores, and make the cleanser easier to rinse off the skin. This is important because many soaps contain ingredients that can irritate the skin. Generally speaking, it you can smell your soap, with the exception of neem or tea tree oil soaps, it contains an ingredient that can irritate your skin or dry it out.

You Can’t Scrub Your Acne Away

The very worst way to use soap as a cleanser for fighting acne is to wrap yesterday’s wash cloth around the bar and scrub away at your pimples. A used wash cloth can put grease, grime, skin oils, soap film, and acne bacteria right back on your skin as you are trying to get them off.

In fact, you should not use a wash cloth on your face at all. Instead, let your soap do all the work of cleansing your skin. With clean fingertips (so you don’t put bacteria on your face), make a lather of soap. Apply the soap lather to your skin and allow it to do its work for 15 to 30 seconds. Then rinse off the soap with warm water and pat your face dry with a clean towel.

How You Can Tell Your Soap Isn’t Right For Your Skin

When you wash your face, you should not feel any lingering after-effects from your soap. You should not:

  • Feel tightness in the skin on your face 5 to 10 minutes after you dry your skin. Tightness is caused by excessive evaporation of water from the skin.
  • See grayness or scaliness when your skin dries. Soaps that contain acetone, alcohols, or sudsing agents often have this effect.
  • See redness or irritation when your skin dries. This is a sure sign that you have broken down the skin barrier.
  • Break out in hives after you use a soap. Herbal essences, fragrances, and floral ingredients are most likely to cause this problem.

The longer you leave a soap on your skin the more likely it is to irritate the skin. The more alkaline your soap is, the more likely it is to irritate the skin. Most dermatologists now agree that an acidic soap, with the same pH as the skin (4 to 6.5) is the best product for getting rid of excessive acne bacteria. (A few acne bacteria on the skin are actually beneficial for the skin, by consuming excess oil without damaging pores.)

The right cleanser can make acne, rosacea, or skin damage from Retin-A or Accutane better. There are also soaps that you can use for perianal itch, contact dermatitis, and dry skin caused by Sjögren’s disease, but you probably don’t want to put them on your face.

Which Soaps Are Best for Acne?

There is always someone who gets a bad reaction to just about any skin care product. When you are using a product for the very first time, test a tiny dab on the skin of your inside forearm, leaving it there for at least 12 hours. If you don’t have a skin reaction on your arm, you probably won’t have an immediate, severe, allergic reaction on your face.

There are soaps in all price categories that are good for acne. Here are just a few.

  • Alpha Hydrox Face Wash and Alpha Hydrox Foaming Face Wash are great for cleansing all the very driest skin. They cost between US $6 and $9.
  • Dove Cool Moisture Facial Cleansing Cloths are also good for all but the very driest, flaking skin. Each cloth in a package of 30 costs about US 20 cents. A bar of Dove soap, however, is usually a problem for dry skin.
  • Olay Foaming Face wash, for about US $5, is a great product for sensitive skin.
  • Jan Marini Bioglycolic Bioclean Cleanser, available at department stores, is good for exfoliating dry skin. It costs about US $30 per bottle.
  • Clean and Clear Daily Pore Cleanser, the oil-free version, is great if you have a problem with blackheads or whiteheads. It costs about US $6 a bottle.
  • Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser, for about US $7 a bottle, is good for blackheads and whiteheads. It won’t remove them immediately, but you may see results as soon as the next day or as long as a week later, depending on how impacted the blemish is. The Neutrogena make-up removal pads are a good buy if you use makeup.
  • Boots Expert Cleansing and Toning Wipes, for just US 15 cents each, are a great buy and a good choice for cleansing very dry or sensitive skin.
  • CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser, at about US $12 for 12 oz (360 ml), is also a good buy for treating dry or sensitive skin.
  • Body Shop Aloe Calming Facial Cleanser, selling for about US $14 for 6.75 ounces (204 ml), is a good choice for sensitive skin.

And the worst possible choice? That’s hard to say, but probably Lava soap is the worst possible choice for treating acne-affected skin. Just say no to any product that contains harsh chemicals or scratchy abrasive ingredients.

And if you just don’t have time to look for, buy, and try one acne soap after another, consider investing in an acne treatment system like Exposed Skin Care, which comes with a money-back guarantee.

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reta Reply

Hi every body, I used to have big problems with washing my face, but am getting in better shape now. Here's a good site I found that really helped. It gave me great workouts and useful information tips and showed me what I was doing wrong before...there's even lots of free articles on the site...

February 28, 2014 at 3:01 pm Reply
Tom Reply

Thanks, learned so much about soaps now. Tom.

November 26, 2014 at 7:32 pm Reply
Mr. Clearskin Reply

The advice about not using Lava soap for face washing is completely misguided. Not only does Lava soap work for this works *well*. There are plenty of web testimonials pointing out this fact. As a teenager with a train wreck for a face, I would have gladly used it. At 44, I have bad acne scars on my neck from that period and Lava helps keep the itching, soreness, and irritation to a minimum. I'm so glad I have it...and it's cheap. Only a 1 step process, as opposed to, oh, ten.

December 12, 2014 at 3:19 pm Reply
Atlanta Reply

My stepdad used to have a bad bad case of pimples/acne his nickname was pizza face, and my pimples are now showing up around my forehead and my checks I'm worried there gonna get really bad and want to prevent it from getting any worse so my stepdad said natural soap bars are what he used and it worked .. And one other question? Does going and seeing a dermatologist and getting pills help?!? I would really like to know thanks !

June 1, 2016 at 9:04 pm Reply
LilSqueezee Reply

Hi, I have had multiple different forms of acne over the years, and I would say that if you are having difficulty with you’re skin it is a great idea to see a dermatologist. Seeing a dermatologist early on can help prevent acne scarring and other acne related conditions such as depressive episodes. There are so many treatments now available to treat acne through prescription only that can be highly effective, there are also laser treatments available that help to get rid of what you have and prevent future breakouts. This is a great route for people who don’t want to take meds. There is one particular soap that is very effective for problematic skin, it is sold by Erno Laszlo a cosmetics company founded by a dermatologist. You can speak to a representative to help you figure out which soap you need, but I would say the black or brown soap (sea mud or phelityl), watch the videos on the site because how you cleanse your face matters, and no you don’t need the cleansing oil or the moisturizer, they’re too expensive. Find a face cream that works for you without all the acne stuff “acids” etc. These soaps help rebalance your skins ph and stabilize it. All the acids on the markets do is make your skin dry and red and more prone to sebum overproduction. Hope that helps. PS that soap is expensive but it last six months. Use it for at least 2 months, you will see changes. And exfoliate, invest in a Luna available at Sephora.

February 19, 2018 at 1:05 am Reply
Anamar Reply

I just bought a new soap that is for acne and the two times I've used just after I dry my face I feel like if I made any harsh gestures my skin may break, there are some places where there are wrinkles! I needed to put some cream. Maybe it happened because a few weeks ago I was at the beach and thats dead skin? My skin is really oily.

January 25, 2017 at 8:39 pm Reply
Alana Reply

I use good old Dial. I spent all of my life with HORRIBLE acne and spending all kinds of money on products when a bar of Dial Soap did the trick.

June 22, 2017 at 9:18 pm Reply
Anu Reply

Hi, i have acne on my arms , back of my shoulder. What type of soap i have to use? Can i use keto soap? I have this problem for past 5years.

June 25, 2017 at 4:42 pm Reply
saroj kumar shrestha Reply

Hi, i am searching ur product on googel and i want use becouse i have lot off pimples on my face i'm worried to there gonna get really bad. can i know please where can i found this product please let me know.

September 21, 2017 at 1:28 am Reply
Anne seriaa Reply

Hi I have acne on my face in my fore head and cheeks and I feel soo bad when I see my face in the mirror .can I use tedibar soap ????? And I consulted with a doctor he gave a cream so I what to clear it in my holidays ...pls answer mee

April 27, 2018 at 4:38 am Reply
Leah Reply

I have used a lot of the soaps from the store, and my face always gets used to them and always breaks out. The only thing my face never gets used to is lava soap. My skin is tough so I don't have to worry about allergic reactions, but I have bad acne. If you need something that will keep away acne once and for all (and it seems nothing ever works) try lava soap. It was the best day when my friend gave me this bar and it has lasted over a year because I keep it wrapped in a towel for use in the shower. But always dry with a clean towel. So maybe lava soap isn't for mild acne, but it was a life saver for me and now I won't have as many acne scars. It was a great topical after the dermatologist said that pills would only help - such as the "cure all" - birth control.

May 13, 2019 at 11:07 pm Reply