Best Acne Treatments and Products

You can buy many acne medications at the store to treat mild to moderate acne and prevent breakouts. They include cleansing lotions, gels, foams and towelettes, leave-on products, and kits. How do you know which products are best for you?

The Food and Drug Administration warns that some popular nonprescription acne products applied to the skin (topicals) can cause a serious reaction. This type of reaction is quite rare. It is common to have some irritation or itchiness when you try new acne products. If such side effects don’t go away, stop using the product and seek medical care.

Active ingredients in acne products

Acne products work in different ways, depending on their active ingredients. Some work by killing acne-causing bacteria. Others remove excess oil from the skin or speed the growth of new skin cells and the removal of dead skin cells. Some acne products try to do all these things.

Here are common active ingredients found in acne products used on the skin and how they work.

  • Benzoyl peroxide.
  • Adapalene.
  • Salicylic acid.
  • Azelaic acid.
  • Alpha hydroxy acids.

Choosing your acne product

The acne products that are best for you depends on your skin type, acne type and skin care preferences. Here are some general guidelines for choosing and using topical nonprescription acne products:

  • Begin with benzoyl peroxide and adapalene.
  • Start with lower strength acne products.
  • Use more than one product.
  • Choose the form that works for you.
  • Be patient.

Skin care tips when using acne products

  • Wash acne-prone skin twice daily.
  • Try cleansing cloths or towelettes.
  • Use just the right amount: Use a thin layer of the product — just enough to cover the face
  • Use nonoily, water-based facial products: Choose nonoily (noncomedogenic) products for your facial moisturizers, acne concealers and cosmetics. They help avoid clogged pores and ease dry, peeling skin.
  • Avoid irritants: Oily or greasy skin care products, sunscreen and hair products can worsen acne.
  • Don’t pick or squeeze blemishes: Doing so increases your risk of infection or scarring.
  • Watch what touches your face.
  • Protect your skin from the sun: The sun worsens dark spots (postinflammatory hyperpigmentation) that can linger after acne has cleared.
  • Shower after strenuous activities: Oil and sweat on your skin can lead to breakouts.

Note: If your acne doesn’t improve after 2 to 3 months of trying a skin care routine with your chosen acne products, consider seeing your health care provider or a skin specialist (dermatologist) for a prescription lotion or medication