Washing Your Face With Antibacterial Hand Soap for Acne

Man cleansing hands -- does anitbacterial hand soap clear acne?
Photo: JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Antibacterial hand soap can get your skin squeaky clean and reduce bacteria.  So, you start thinking maybe this would help clear up your skin. 

Does antibacterial hand soap make a good acne treatment cleanser?

Antibacterial hand soap won't clear acne.

Antibacterial hand soap isn't a great choice if you're looking for a facial cleanser to treat acne.

It's true that the bacterium Propioni acnes are one factor linked to acne development.

Reducing acne-causing bacteria can have a positive effect on your skin.

But bacteria is only one piece of the acne-causing puzzle. There are other factors at work too -- hormones, abnormal shedding of skin cells, and overactive sebaceous glands.

These factors contribute to the development of comedones, which is a fancy name for plugged pore.  These pore blockages start off so tiny that you can't see them with the naked eye.  But they can grow and progress into blackheads and inflamed pimples. 

Antibacterial soap can't stop pore blockages from forming.  And to improve acne you have to get these comedones under control.

"Squeaky clean" isn't good for your skin (and won't improve breakouts either.)

Remember also that antibacterial hand soaps are made for, well, your hands.  The skin on your hands is tougher and can generally tolerate stronger cleansers than the delicate skin on your face.

Using hand soap on the face can easily over-dry and irritate your skin.

  Squeaky clean isn't what you're going for here. Over-drying and irritating your skin can actually make acne breakouts worse.

A cleanser designed for the face, not the hands, is a much better way to clean delicate facial skin.  So keep the hand soap for your hands. There are better antibacterial cleansing options for your face.

Instead of antibacterial hand soap, try these bacteria-busting acne treatment products.

If you're keen on using an antibacterial soap to treat facial acne, choose one that is specifically made for the face. Triclosan, the active ingredient found in most antibacterial hand soaps, is incorporated into some brands of acne facial cleansers.

But this isn't the only ingredient that can help reduce acne-causing bacteria.  You can also choose an acne cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide not only will help reduce bacteria, but can also reduce oiliness and keep pores from becoming plugged.

You needn't spend a lot of money on an acne cleanser either. A drugstore brand can work just as well as a fancy salon product.

Keep in mind, cleansers aren't the only way to banish acne-causing bacteria.  OTC benzoyl peroxide lotions can help keep bacteria in check.

And, of course, there are plenty of prescription acne medications.  This is the route you should take if your acne is moderate to severe.  Over-the-counter treatments just won't be strong enough to get your acne under control.

In any case, if you need help getting your acne cleared up, put in a call to your physician or dermatologist.

Next steps:

How to Choose an Acne Treatment Cleanser

How to Choose the Right Acne Treatment for You


Choi YS, Suh HS, Yoon MY, Min SU, Kim JS, Jung JY, Lee DH, Suh DH. "A study of the efficacy of cleanser for acne vulgaris." J Dermatolog Treat. 2010 May; 21(3):201-5.

United States. NIAMS. "Questions and Answers About Acne." Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, 2006.

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