Review: Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash (Does It Really Work?)

A few months back during a period when I was struggling with mild-moderate hormonal acne, I tried Neutrogena’s Oil Free Acne Wash along with a few of their spot treatment products in an attempt to fix a chronic breakout problem I had become confused and frustrated by.

When you’re dealing with acne and doing all of the right things, from diet, to changing pillowcases and linens nearly daily, to using the right products, and it still persists, we’re often left wondering, what is going on and how can this stop?

And, we all wonder, how did it even start in the first place?

I tried the Neutrogena Acne Wash after my mom sent me a care package (as all good moms do for their adult children after hearing them whine long enough during phone conversations), and used it religiously twice a day with clean towels.

I made sure to change nothing else about my routine and use only the gentlest moisturizer (safe for acne-prone skin that had not broken me out in the past) along with it- for the purpose of a fair review.

So does Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Wash actually work, and is it worth it?

Review: Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash (Does It Really Work?) 1

Review: Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash

There are a few different versions of the Neutrogena’s Acne Wash (one is cream based, one is gel based, one is pink grapefruit), the one I tested out was the gel-based pink grapefruit cleanser, and had high hopes based on user feedback and friend recommendations.

Before we begin, make sure you’re ordering Neutrogena from a legitimate retailer, NOT from a counterfeit seller. For your convenience, here is the Amazon link to an authentic Neutrogena retailer.


Unfortunately, for my skin, it did not seem to make much of a difference at all. I still continued to experience the same amount of breakouts and the wash itself seemed very drying.

At first, I tried to change other things in my routine and attribute to the lack of success to diet or stress, or anything and everything else possible.

On a positive note, I will say the Neutrogena Face Wash did not cause any worsening of breakouts or any redness, irritation, rashes, or redness after use even with very sensitive skin.

But with that said, for a drugstore product, it is certainly not the cheapest product on the shelves, and considering all of the great feedback, I did have higher expectations for at least subtle improvements in skin quality and breakouts after use.

With that said and to be completely fair, there are users who swear by Neutrogena’s Acne Cleanser and will use nothing else- especially those with acne-prone combination and oily skin types. With maximum strength Salicylic Acid acne medicine contained in the wash, it is known as the “#1 dermatologist recommended drugstore brand acne wash.”

It definitely foams up quite nicely, has a lovely fresh scent, and feels clean and refreshing to apply.

So while this was simply too harsh for my dry skin and did not work in treating my breakouts, it still remains a fan-favorite, and may work for you, particularly if you have combination or oily skin and mild-moderate acne (I would not recommend Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Wash for cystic acne or more complicated dermatological conditions).

Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash prod
Image Credit: Neutrogena

Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash Ingredients

When you’re dealing with acne, chronic breakouts, and sensitive skin, it’s fair to want to know what’s going into your skin and the benefits with everyday product use. With that in mind, here are a look at some key ingredients contained in Neutrogena’s Acne Wash and some benefits with use:

Salicylic Acid

  • Provides the skin with a deep, thorough cleanse and exfoliates
  • Helps to unclog pores and rid the skin of blackheads, blemishes, whiteheads, oil, and debris
  • Helps to calmed inflamed acne and prevents new acne from forming (but is not a treatment for cystic acne)
  • Rids the skin of excess oil (great for oily and combination complexions)
  • Helps to calm irritated and inflamed skin
  • Helps to firm and plump the skin by speeding up the cellular turnover process
  • Helps promote smoother, clearer, and more vibrant skin
  • Gently removes dead skin and can help treat skin redness

Vitamin C

  • Anti-inflammatory benefits: helps to expedite healing rates, great for treating redness, soothing topical abrasions, and any skin irritation
  • Anti-aging benefits: antioxidant-rich vitamin C helps boost collagen production and elasticity, diminishing the appearance of any wrinkles or fine lines
  • Safe and suitable for all skin types, especially acne-prone skin, benefits including decreasing breakouts and preventing acne-causing bacteria
  • Treats signs of sallowness or dullness on the skin and improves and restores radiance, leaving skin hydrated and glowing
  • Helps heal sunburns and promotes skin repair after exposure to UVA/B radiation, acts as a natural sun protective factor to help heal future damage as well (preventative care)
  • Improves hydration and moisture, helps bind moisture into the skin and restores any depleted hydration, promoting a smoother aesthetic
  • For dull or sallow skin: brightens the skin and reduces signs of uneven tone and discoloration, promoting an even and smooth skin tone

Grapefruit Extract

  • Softens and smoothens the appearance of the skin, evens out tone and texture
  • Grapefruit contains a high amount of antioxidants and Vitamin C, which both protect, nurture, and hydrate the skin
  • Vitamin C and antioxidants benefit the skin by protecting from environmental damage, such as pollution, and sun damage
  • Anti-aging benefits: helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, sun damage, sun spots, pigmentation, and loss of elasticity
  • Over time with continual daily use, treats more advanced signs of aging like deeper set wrinkles and dark spots from sun damage
  • Potassium found in grapefruit extract helps treat wrinkles and UV damage, as well as sun spots and hyper-pigmentation (preventative anti-aging)
  • Refreshes skin, providing a thorough and deep cleanse
Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash in hand
Image Credit: Neutrogena

Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash Pros and Cons

While I was not a huge fan of the Neutrogena Acne Wash, it still remains a staple for many fans and has a loyal following. So to remain as objective as possible, here are some main pros and cons to bear in mind prior to purchase:


  • The wash is completely oil free and does not feel greasy, sticky, or leave behind any residue
  • Feels soft and refreshing on the skin
  • Provides a very deep cleanse that removes all makeup (including eye makeup)
  • Is not irritating to the skin (does not create any redness, irritation, rashes, or worsen breakouts)
  • Works extremely well for those with combination or oily skin, especially in controlling excess oil production and t-zone shine
  • Has been a fan favorite and bestseller for years for those with acne-prone skin and is known for being top recommended by dermatologists and skincare experts in the field
  • Safe for even very sensitive skin types
  • Suitable for all ages (from teenagers to more mature customers)
  • Provides exfoliating at the same time as cleansing, working to remove blemishes and debris, oil, and dirt from the t-zone and nasal area
  • Gentle fresh citrus scent that doesn’t smell of any harsh chemicals or perfumes
  • A small amount of product goes a very long way, adding value (the wash should last for several months)
  • Gets rid of blackheads via exfoliation near the nose and t-zone area
  • Some reviewers felt this was a very good anti-acne treatment and did notice a visible decrease in the appearance of acne marks and future breakouts


  • Even using a serum and moisturizer afterwards, the product felt quite drying on the skin
  • I did not notice any significant differences or improvements in the appearance of acne marks or blemishes at all when using this wash, although I did not notice them getting worse (at least)
  • In comparison to other drugstore products, this is certainly not the cheapest product on the shelf, so it is safe to say you could probably find a generic store brand with the same ingredients or different brand with better benefits
  • This is not a product for those with serious skin conditions or cystic acne marks, and should not be used as a treatment for such
  • Does not remove acne scar marks (some reviewers have asked this question, and the product may have been marketed this way at some point)
Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash Grapefruit Backdrop
Image Credit: Neutrogena

Neutrogena’s Money-Back Guarantee Policy

If you have very sensitive skin and acne-prone skin (presumably) or have not used Neutrogena products in the past, the return and exchange policy in this case may be a highly important factor for you.

The manufacturer, Neutrogena, has a strong return and exchange policy that honors full refunds upon dissatisfaction or allergy, and this policy favors the consumer, both new and returning.

If you are dissatisfied with the use of Neutrogena’s Oil Free Acne Wash, or if it does not work for your skin to provide suitable skincare and anti-acne benefits, or you experience any product allergy or reaction to the formulation, you may elect to return it at any time.

In this case, you will receive a full refund equal to the entire purchase price of the item (if purchased via Amazon).

In this case, the formulation of the wash was gentle enough to use even with very sensitive and acne-prone skin and did not cause any irritation or breakouts, but due to any personal sensitivity concerns this policy may help assuage fears, as individual allergies are highly variable.

However, I cannot say that it worked to treat existing breakouts or proved beneficial for anti-acne benefits, and was a bit drying.

Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash Sizes
Image Credit: Neutrogena

Review: Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash (Does It Really Work?) 1

Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash: Worth It?

For the vast majority of fans and users, Neutrogena’s Acne Wash seems to be a favorite and go-to, so maybe my experience was outside of the norm (unfortunately).

If you do have mild to moderate acne and combination or oily skin you may very well love this product, as it does have deep exfoliating benefits and oil control properties- and offers a deep refreshing cleanse that removes all makeup.

With that said, for those with dryer skin types who experience breakouts, you may find this product irritating or drying on the skin.

While it washes the face and feels great to rinse with and apply, afterwards the skin is left feeling a bit tight.

On top of that, I did not notice any difference or decrease in the appearance of hormonal breakouts, even while following all of the best advice for acne-prone skin while using this product.

I had high hopes for Neutrogena’s cleanser after reading reviews and listening to trusted recommendations, but unfortunately (and we all have different skin types), this just did not work out for me.

If you are already a fan of the product, I would never discourage trying a new regimen if something is working for you.

However, if you are someone with sensitive and acne-prone skin, I would recommend other cleansers on the market that have proven better benefits and actually provide more acne fighting ingredients, but have gentler formulations.

2.5/5 stars.

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash

Gets Rid of Acne


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User Rating: 0.35 ( 1 votes)

Beverly Friedmann

NYC Native. Photographer/writer; focused on fashion, street style, and architecture. Lover of human beings, equality, and animals!

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