The daily acne struggle is real for many people. It’s often viewed as a coming-of-age problem that fades away as you grow older. But for some, breakouts persist well into their adult years. Whether you’re dealing with adolescent or adult acne, you can find products to help clear your complexion. Some may be more effective than others, depending on what active ingredients they contain.
If you have no idea what to look for when shopping for acne treatments, this guide may help. It lists five of the top pimple-fighting ingredients that are most likely to help soothe and prevent breakouts. It also outlines how to incorporate these ingredients into your daily skincare routine for the best results.
Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that are commonly added to anti-aging products. In addition to smoothing wrinkled skin, they are also great for treating blemishes and reducing the appearance of acne scars. Tretinoin cream is a popular synthetic retinoid acne treatment. It helps combat acne by clearing blocked pores that might otherwise lead to blackheads or whiteheads. It’s important to use tretinoin cream only as recommended since excessive or prolonged use could irritate the skin.
Most dermatologists recommend slowly adding tretinoin or another retinoid cream into your routine to see how your skin reacts. You may wish to start by applying it once per day every other day for two weeks. If you tolerate the product fine, you can start to apply it every day after cleansing in the morning or evening. Follow it up with a quality moisturizer to keep your skin supple and hydrated. And if you’re going out, add sunscreen since retinoids can increase photosensitivity.
Clindamycin is a topical antibiotic medication commonly used to treat bacteria-based pimple breakouts. It takes time for it to work, so you’ll need to plan on using it for at least a few weeks before you begin to see noticeable results. Keep in mind that clindamycin is not a cure for acne. However, it can help keep bacteria at bay so you’re less likely to develop festering pimples.
To use clindamycin for acne, always follow the instructions. You should only apply enough product to the affected area to lightly cover it. Continue using the treatment as directed, even if you begin to notice your skin clearing up. If you discontinue use prematurely, your breakouts may return. Also, the alcohol content in this product may irritate freshly washed skin, so wait about 30 minutes after cleansing to apply it.
3. Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is one of the most popular ingredients found in over-the-counter acne products. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe irritated skin. Products with a higher concentration of salicylic acid also work as exfoliants to get rid of dead skin cells, which helps reduce clogged pores. Salicylic acid works best for mild blemishes and may help prevent future pimples from developing.
Salicylic acid has some potential side effects, including rare cases of salicylic acid toxicity. To avoid potential problems, only use products containing this ingredient as directed and do not apply to large portions of the body. Products containing up to 2% salicylic acid can be applied up to three times per day. Products with between 2% and 7% salicylic acid should only be used once per day as tolerated by your skin.
4. Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is yet another common blemish-fighting ingredient found in OTC products. It is often added to acne cleansers, gels, and spot treatments. It is most effective for mild to moderate acne and comes in different concentrations. It is also commonly used to calm cystic acne, which is the most painful and treatment-resistant form of acne. Benzoyl peroxide works by killing bacteria and cleansing the pores of excess sebum and dead skin cells.
As with all acne products, it’s important to follow the directions on the container when using benzoyl peroxide solutions. Creams and lotions are typically intended to be used up to twice per day to treat and prevent breakouts. Face washes and foams are usually designed for once- or twice-per-day use, as well. Spot treatment gels usually contain higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide and should only be used directly on pimples as needed.
So far, this guide has focused primarily on topical anti-blemish treatments. However, you can also treat breakouts internally. Minocycline is an oral antibiotic used for a variety of conditions, such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and acne. There are also topical minocycline foam products available for blemish-prone skin if you prefer that kind of treatment.
Minocycline should only be used for up to 12 weeks. The dosage you take depends on your weight and the instructions that come on your prescribed bottle. Never exceed the recommended dose or you could experience side effects such as fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth, and mood changes. Take minocycline tablets with food to reduce your likelihood of experiencing esophageal irritation or ulcers.
Trying to prevent acne breakouts can feel like a losing battle unless you start using products designed for this purpose. No acne product will contain all of the above pimple-fighting ingredients. Therefore, you may need to try several products that contain different ingredients from the above list. Once you discover what product works best for you, you’ll be able to enjoy your life with fewer embarrassing breakouts.