Our editors searched Japanese e-commerce sites (such as @cosme, Amazon, and Rakuten) for face washes that work on acne-prone skin. We looked at products with salicylic acid; we looked at pore-clearing stuff; we looked at foams and clays and bars of soap.
After some hemming and hawing, we narrowed our list down to 19 options. We then tested them for the following:
- Cleansing Power
- Hydration (that is, how hydrated your skin is after cleansing)
This is how we hand-picked the best Japanese face washes for acne. For those interested, we also discuss face washing technique at the end of the article–just a quick heads-up so you don’t miss it.
Top 19 Best Japanese Face Washes for Acne to Buy Online
We slathered artificial sebum on glass slides and washed them (that’s what that red stuff in the pictures is). We tried the products out ourselves, then measured moisture levels in our skin. And based on their performance, we ranked the top 19 Japanese face washes for acne available online.
※Japanese prices for the products are given; they’ve merely been converted into USD for easy viewing.
1. Bifesta Medicated Acne Care Foaming Whip
Strikes a Balance between Cleansing Power and Hydration. The Wash Most Likely to Work for Your Average Joe
We weren’t getting any wishy-washy bubbles with Bioré’s foaming whip; this stuff was dense. When it came to cleansing power, we were in that Goldilocks zone; it rid our skin of impurities without stripping away essential oils.
The foam was so plush and the bubbles so fine and packed together, we were able to wash off without really touching our faces (with our fingers). Wasn’t dehydrated either; as long as you don’t have naturally dry skin, you shouldn’t feel any tightness after cleansing.
We liked that we didn’t have to take time and work it into a lather. It’s also labeled as unscented, though it smells faintly of citrus fruits.
|Japanese||ビフェスタ 泡洗顔 コントロールケア||Active Ingredients||Isopropyl Methylphenol, Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
2. Meishoku Medicated Bigansekken Skin Soap
The Best Steal. Most Cleansing Power You Can Get for about Three Bucks
This lathered into a dense, fluffy foam. It had enough cleansing power to wash away impurities, but it still wasn’t too dehydrating. However, we stress that you should moisturize soon after–especially if you have dry skin, as you may feel some tightness.
Still, you’d be hard put to find another product that works this well at the same price point. We also liked the herbal scent; it wasn’t too pronounced, so there shouldn’t be many people who’d be bothered by it.
|Japanese||明色美顔石鹸||Active Ingredients||Salicylic Acid|
3. b.glen Clay Wash
The Clay Wash that Really Cleanses. Can be Used with a Whole Line of Products
This is one of those rare Japanese face washes you don’t need to work into a lather. We tried to, out of curiosity, but all we got was some loose foam. It was pretty gentle and left behind a decent amount of oil; we’d say this level of cleansing power is just right for those with dry skin.
We felt squeaky clean after washing, but there wasn’t any tightness.This is not considered a medicated product. b.glen has an entire line to go with the face wash, so if you like using products from the same brand, this is a good a place as any to start your battle against acne.
|Japanese||b.glen クレイウォッシュ||Active Ingredients||–|
4. Dr.Ci:Labo Medicated Acneless Soap EX
A Strong Soap to Combat Oiliness. Very Easy to Work into a Lather
Okay, so we can’t really say this face wash was hydrating. But look at how clean it will leave your skin! It certainly did what a soap was supposed to do and got rid extra oils and impurities–plus, it’s not like it didn’t leave any of the good stuff behind.
It lathered very well, and we loved how the plush foam felt again our skin. We did feel some slight tugging afterwards, so make sure you moisturize immediately.
|Japanese||ドクターシーラボ アクネレスソープ||Active Ingredients||Isopropyl Methylphenol|
5. Primary Inc. Non A.
Best Bar Soap if You Want to Leave Skin Hydrated
Bar soaps are supposed to have a lot of cleansing power; compared to its competitors, Non A. was simply decent. With a foaming net, we were able to lather up some larger bubbles–so the foam wasn’t thick and springy so much as light and fluffy.
The product’s greatest strength lay in how much moisture it left behind. It likely won’t leave your skin feeling stretched taut across your face, so we’d recommend it to dryer folks looking for a good bar soap.
|Japanese||プライマリーNon A||Active Ingredients||Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
6. Mentholatum Acnes Medicated Foaming Face Wash
If You Want a Gentle Foaming Wash Above All Else
This was refreshing with the scent of citrus fruits. It also left skin pretty well hydrated, though we found cleansing power to be a bit lacking. It does rely on vitamin C derivatives for moisture, so we wouldn’t use this in place of a lotion. Still, it’s worth considering if you’re looking for something gentle.
|Japanese||メンソレータム アクネス ふわふわ泡洗顔||Active Ingredients||Isopropyl Methylphenol, Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
7. Astalift Lunamer AC Fiber Foam
If You Need Something that Actually Moisturizes the Skin (and Can Skimp on the Cleansing)
The formula featured glycerin, which was just one of the reasons it got an A+ for hydration. But as with most goods thing in life, there was a trade-off, and Astalift’s Lunamer could offer only very light cleansing.
This also wasn’t a medicated product, so if you’re looking for acne prevention, we recommend using it in conjunction with toners and creams from the same line.
|Japanese||ルナメア ACファイバーフォーム||Active Ingredients||–|
8. Cow Brand SkinLife Medicated Foaming Face Wash
If You Want Something that Leaves You Feeling Refreshed
First, the good. We loved the faint scent of grapefruit. The formula left skin pretty hydrated. The face wash felt light and refreshing. But we were disappointed by cleansing power, which didn’t seem to be enough for oily, acne-prone skin.
|Japanese||スキンライフ 洗顔フォーム||Active Ingredients||Isopropyl Methylphenol, Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
9. LION Pair Acne Creamy Foam Medicated Face Wash
Works as a Hydrating Face Wash but Not as a Heavy Cleanser
This contained concentrated glycerin, so skin felt quite soft after washing. It was one of the few products that got an A for hydration. However, it didn’t really cleanse. We wouldn’t recommend it for oily skin, though it might work for adult acne.
|Japanese||LION ペアアクネ クリーミーフォーム||Active Ingredients||Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium, Isopropyl Methylphenol|
10. TSURUNISHI Medicated Acne Care Face Wash
Didn’t Quite Make the Cut: Loose Foam Leaves You Wondering if You’re Getting Cleansed at All
This was completely unscented and got an A for hydration. But it didn’t lather well and didn’t clean, either.
|Japanese||鶴西ニキビケア洗顔||Active Ingredients||o-Cymen-5-ol, Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
11. FANCL Acne Care Washing Cream
Didn’t Quite Make the Cut: Feels Good but Not the Most Effective as a Face Wash
There wasn’t much tightness after washing, and we felt refreshed. However, it didn’t do much to clear away oil.
|Japanese||FANCL アクネケア 洗顔クリーム||Active Ingredients||Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
12. kao Bioré Marshmallow Whip Medicated Acne Care
Didn’t Quite Make the Cut: Fun to Use but Not Sure How Clean It Leaves You
The product was aptly named. The foam came out as springy as marshmallows and smelled like flowers. However, we felt like there was still a lot of oil lurking around after use.
|Japanese||花王ビオレ マシュマロホイップ アクネケア||Active Ingredients||Isopropyl Methylphenol, Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
13. kao Bioré Skin Care Face Wash Medicated Acne Care
Didn’t Quite Make the Cut: It May Leave Skin Feeling Light, but It’s Not Tough on Filth
This felt clean. Its floral scent was clear, and it left us feeling light and refreshed. However, it didn’t actually clear away much oil.
|Japanese||花王 ビオレ スキンケア洗顔料 アクネケア||Active Ingredients||Isopropyl Methylphenol, Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
14. Tokiwa Pharmaceutical NOV A acne foam
Didn’t Quite Make the Cut: Yet Another Face Wash That Isn’t Dehydrating Because It Doesn’t Cleanse
This pretty much didn’t touch sebum. At least it lathered into a nice thick foam and didn’t dry out skin.
|Japanese||常盤薬品工業 ノブ A アクネフォーム||Active Ingredients||Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
15. Mentholatum Acnes Medicated Pore Cleansing Face Wash
Didn’t Make the Cut: Hasn’t Much to Offer Beyond a Pleasing Citrus Scent
This didn’t cleanse much, and it deprived our skin of some moisture. At least it smelled like oranges.
|Japanese||メンソレータム アクネス 毛穴すっきり粒つぶ洗顔||Active Ingredients||Isopropyl Methylphenol, Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
16. Orbis CLEAR Wash Oil Cut Medicated
Didn’t Make the Cut: Cuts Moisture without Cutting Oil
For a face wash, this had very little cleansing power. Skin didn’t feel too dry after a wash, but when we measured hydration levels, we were disappointed by the results.
|Japanese||オルビス クリアウォッシュ||Active Ingredients||Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
17. Rosette Cleansing Paste Acne Clear Medicated Foaming Face Wash
Didn’t Make the Cut: Doesn’t Hydrate and Doesn’t Cleanse
This was a clay-based wash, but it didn’t absorb oil like it should’ve. It did feel refreshing, and we liked the scent of green herbs.
|Japanese||ロゼット 洗顔パスタ アクネクリア||Active Ingredients||Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate|
18. Rosette Cleansing Paste for Rough Skin Medicated
Didn’t Make the Cut: Doesn’t Work Well as a Cleanser and the Dispenser’s Hard to Use
We opened the cap and there was a second lid inside. You press down on the second lid and product oozes out of the opening in the middle–we thought it was a lot of hassle, but to what purpose?
The product neither absorbed much oil nor hydrated skin. Also smelled like sulfur.
|Active Ingredients||Sulfur, Photosensitizer 201, Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate|
19. BCL AHA Cleansing Research Medicated Acne Wash
Didn’t Make the Cut: Doesn’t Absorb Excess Sebum and Still Manages to be Drying
This is marketed as a three-in-one-product: makeup remover, face wash, and acne treatment. However, cleansing power was so weak that we weren’t sure it worked on oil, much less makeup.
|Japanese||BCL AHAクレンジングリサーチ アクネウォッシュ||Active Ingredients||Isopropyl Methylphenol, Glycyrrhizinate Dipotassium|
How We Tested Our Products
We determined that the best face wash for acne needed to be strong enough to rid our skin of excess oil and other impurities. And yet, it couldn’t be completely drying. This is how we tested for those factors.
Test ①: Cleansing Power
We covered 19 glass slides with artificial sebum. We then applied the face wash on top of each sample, working it in for about 20 seconds, before rinsing the slides off with lukewarm water. Finally, we looked at how much sebum was left on the slides.
We found that the denser the foam, the stronger the cleanser. Foaming wash is usually made up of larger, looser bubbles, so they tend to be milder. On the other hand, bar soaps lather up to a plush foam, and they’re more likely to leave you squeaky clean.
Test ②: Hydration (How Hydrated Skin Was after Cleansing)
We used a moisture analyzer and measured water levels in our skin before application. We then worked the products into our skin for 20 seconds each, rinsed off, waited for five minutes, and measured water levels again. Finally, we compared the figures and ranked the face washes.
This likely won’t come as a surprise, but plusher foams were more dehydrating. Makes sense–the better a product is at ridding your skin of impurities, the more oil it’s going to strip away. Also, keep in mind that dehydrated skin doesn’t always feel taut, so that shouldn’t be your sole indicator.
Tips on How to Choose a Japanese Face Wash for Acne – Buying Guide
Here are three big things to look out for.
① Stronger Doesn’t Equal Better–Cleansing Power Depends on the State of Your Skin
You can get teen acne, and you can get adult acne. They’re caused by different things and require different treatments.
Teen acne usually appears in the T-zone (your forehead and around your nose), and it’s caused by the overproduction of oil. If you’re suffering from teen acne, you want more cleansing power–enough to rid your skin of excess sebum. Look for bar soap or thick foam cleansers.
On the other hand, adult acne usually appears around the U-zone (your chin and your cheeks). It’s triggered by things like stress, dry skin, and lack of sleep. If this sounds like you, try to avoid anything too callous; that means no scrubs and nothing that’s going to deprive your skin of too much oil.
② OTC Drugs are Good, but Not Necessarily More Effective–All They Do is Contain Some Active Ingredients
You may notice that some Japanese face washes are labeled as “medicated※1” or “OTC drugs※2”. All that means is that the formula contains active ingredients at a certain concentration. Here are some common examples of active ingredients, along with their effects:
- Anti-Inflammatory Agents: glycyrrhizinate dipotassium※3, allantoin※4, stearyl glycyrrhetinate※5
- Anti-Bacterials: o-Cymen-5-ol※6 (formerly known as isopropyl methylphenol※7)
- Exfoliants: salicylic acid※8
Be aware, however, that these ingredients are present in low concentrations, and you won’t get the same effects with an OTC drug as you would with a prescription drug. They do tend to work very well as preventive measures, but OTC drugs are neither guaranteed to heal acne nor stop heavy breakouts.
※1 薬用: medicated
※2 医薬部外品: translated here as “OTC drug” (also known as a quasi-drug)
※3 グリチルリチン酸ジカリウム: glycyrrhizinate dipotassium
※4 アラントイン: allantoin
※5 グリチルレチン酸ステアリル: stearyl glycyrrhetinate
※6 シメン-5-オール: o-Cymen-5-ol
※7 イソプロピルメチルフェノール: isopropyl methylphenol
※8 サリチル酸: salicylic acid
③ Keep Those Pores Clear–Look for Products Labeled Non-Comedogenic
A non-comedogenic product doesn’t clog pores. And, as you know, blocked pores are one of the main culprits behind acne–in fact, a comedo is a kind of pimple. In Japan, if a product has undergone proper testing, it should say so on the packaging※9.
Of course, just because a product has had its non-comedogenic claims tested doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed not to cause acne. None-comedogenic face washes also tend to be more expensive, but we’d still recommend them over untested products.
※9 ノンコメドジェニックテスト済: non-comedogenic tested
What Causes Acne?
Propionibacterium acnes, right? (Known in Japanese as アクネ菌–literally, acne bacteria.) Not quite.
Final Answer: All that Sebum that’s Congesting Your Pores
Acne happens when the balance of sweat and oils in your skin is skewed, causing the excess juice to clog up your pores. Our friend, the bacterium P. acnes is a result, rather than a cause.
P. acnes lives in your hair follicles and is an example of what medical literature calls “opportunistic pathogens”–that is, microorganisms that don’t harm their hosts under normal conditions. Actually, P. acnes can be pretty beneficial, as it produces fatty acids and glycerin, which are components of healthy skin.
However, once the pores it calls home are blocked, P. acnes begins to proliferate. P. acnes usually secretes a harmless substance that allows it to break down sebum and eat it as food. However, too much of this secretion causes inflammation of the skin, which in turn causes acne.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you can solve all your breakouts by getting the strongest face wash available. After all, when you forcibly strip your skin of oils, it will respond by producing even more oil (in an act of rebellion). You’ve got to find that delicate balance between clear pores and hydrated skin.
Face Washing Techniques: How to Cleanse Your Acne-Prone Skin
Here are some tips from our Japanese editing department.
Our Two Big Rules–Lather up and Be Gentle
Let us teach you how to wash your face.
- Wash your hands with soap and water. Get under those fingernails.
- Rinse off your face with lukewarm water–that’s 30-36℃ (or 86-96.8℉ to you nonconformists).
- Dispense a generous amount of product and lather up well.
- Start off with your most oily areas (that is, your forehead and nose) and gently work the product across your face for about 20 seconds.
- Rinse off again with lukewarm water and pat dry with a towel.
Try not to scrub at your face with your fingers; instead, let the cushion of foam do most of the work. That foam actually starts soaking up oil as soon as it touches your skin, so there’s no point to washing your face for too long. Make it a habit to rinse off after about 20 seconds.
Also, we said it once, but we’ll say it again. Pat dry with a towel. Not hit dry and certainly not scrub dry. Gently lay the towel onto your skin and let it absorb the water.
Don’t Wash Too Much–That Would be Counterproductive. Pay Attention to Your Moisturizers as Well
When your skin’s oily or you’ve got a bad case of acne, you’d think you could clear things up with just a few extra washes. If only. The truth is, when you wash your face too much, you deprive it of essential oils. Your skin then produces even more sebum to make up for the loss, and now you’re back where you started.
Also, make sure you moisturize right after you cleanse. Just avoid creams and lotions that contain a lot of oils, as these can also feed your acne. Look for toners and light moisturizers, which work largely by drawing water into your skin.
Round out the Rest of Your Japanese Skincare Routine with Moisturizers
We can’t stress this enough–if you’re battling acne, keeping your skin hydrated is as important as keeping it clean. Below are some other products to help you out.
We rounded up members from our editing department, purchased the 19 most popular Japanese face washes for acne, and tested them all.
Remember, the worse your acne gets, the more likely it’ll lead to scarring–and there really isn’t much you can do about acne scars on your own. The best kind of treatment is preventive treatment, and that’s where face wash comes in. If you’re already suffering from a really bad breakout, go see a dermatologist.
Original by Yukina Matsuda; Translation by Jasmine Li
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