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Best Over-the-counter Acne Treatment

Over-the-counter acne products usually contain certain active ingredients that address and cure some underlying causes of acne and pimples. Usually, acne is caused by the presence of excessive sebum or oil on the skin, bacteria, and clogged skin pores.
Chandramita Bora
Last Updated: Jul 13, 2018
Acne is caused by excessive secretion of sebum by the sebaceous glands, which clog the skin pores. Bacteria, dead skin cells and dirt get trapped inside such skin pores, causing infections and the development of acne and pimples. Acne can be treated with herbal remedies, over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Over-the-counter Acne Medication
Best acne treatments vary depending on whether your skin is sensitive, dry or oily. Treatment of mild or moderate acne differ significantly from the treatment of severe breakouts. Some acne products contain chemicals that destroy acne-causing bacteria, while others address issues like presence of excessive oil or sebum on the skin and clogged skin pores.
Active Ingredients Used in Acne Products
Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most important active ingredients found in the over-the-counter acne products that work well for moderate to severe acne. It basically works by destroying the acne-causing bacteria and removing the dead skin cells. The over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide preparations are usually available in 2.5 to 10% strengths.
Benzoyl peroxide makes the skin dry and sensitive to UV rays. Also, scaling, redness and minor swelling may occur at times, not suitable for sensitive skin. But it can be effective for oily skin as it removes excess oil from skin. Some known acne products that include this chemical are: Proactiv, Benzaderm Gel, Neutrogena On-the-Spot and Clearasil.
Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is another important ingredient found in acne products. It helps unclog the skin pores by stimulating the exfoliation of dead skin cells. It can effectively treat mild acne without being harsh on the skin. However, it can cause a mild tingling sensation on the skin. It is usually available in 0.5 to 2% strengths.
Some possible side effects of salicylic acid are, skin dryness, peeling, and increased sensitivity to sunlight. Some good quality acne products with salicylic acid are, Noxzema Anti-Acne Gel, Noxzema Anti-Acne Pads, Clearasil Clearstick, Stridex, and Neutrogena Acne Rapid Clear Daily Treatment Pads.
Sulfur and Resorcinol
Sulfur and resorcinol are usually included together in acne products. They help remove excess sebum or oil and dead skin cells, in order to unclog the skin pores. They can also destroy the bacteria responsible for causing pimples. Sometimes, one can experience peeling, redness, and dryness after using sulfur and resorcinol-containing acne products.
Examples of sulfur and resorcinol containing products are, Clearasil Adult Care Medicated Blemish Cream, Clearasil Adult Care Medicated Blemish Stick, Glytone Flesh Tinted Acne Treatment Lotion, and rezamid Acne Treatment Lotion.
Alcohol and Acetone
Alcohol and acetone are mainly found in astringents, toners, and cleansers. These are basically used to remove dirt and excess oil from the skin to prevent the skin pores from getting clogged. Alcohol and acetone can be very effective in treating acne on oily skin.
However, individuals with dry skin can experience excessive skin dryness after using alcohol- and acetone-based acne products. Some common alcohol and acetone based acne products are, Glytone Acne Cleansing Toner and Seba-Nil Liquid Cleanser.
Apart from these, some acne products contain alpha hydroxy acids that stimulate the exfoliation of dead skin cells. The best one should treat acne without causing much side effects. For mild acne, salicylic acid-based acne products work aptly, For moderate to severe acne, products with benzoyl peroxide are required, but are unsuited to sensitive skin.
Benzoyl peroxide, alcohol and acetone-based products are considered good for treating acne on oily skin. It is better to try a mild product in the beginning and use higher strength products when required. If you experience any kind of reaction like skin irritation, redness and inflammation, then be sure to inform your dermatologist at the earliest.
Disclaimer: This information is for factual purposes only and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.