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Best Acne Treatments

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Everyone is always looking for acne treatments. But have you wondered what really helps clear your skin? Here is a very comprehensive list of ingredients you should bear in mind when shopping for acne treatment cosmetics.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl Peroxide is an antiseptic which helps kill bacteria.

How does benzoyl peroxide work?

The antiseptic kills bacteria under the skin, helps shed dead skin and removes excess sebum.

In other words, it unclogs your pores.

Why you should use benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is good for cystic acne, as cystic acne is mainly caused by P. acnes, which are killed by the antiseptic.

It is easily available and affordable.

Why benzoyl peroxide may not be right for you

Benzoyl peroxide is not suitable for noninflammatory acne (white and black heads).

There is no research suggesting that benzoyl peroxide could be effective for acne scaring treatment.

Benzoyl peroxide can bleach fabrics and sometimes even hair. Make sure that you are sleeping on a less precious pillow case and tie your hair back if you do use this product.

You will need to wait around four weeks for the treatment to see visible results.

May cause hypersensitivity for some users.

It can also dry out the skin if the concentration used is too high, or used too frequently.

Where can I get benzoyl peroxide?

This ingredient can be found in many cosmetic formulations in lower concentrations.

Benzoyl peroxide is an over-the-counter drug. It comes in a gel or wash.

The maximum percentage is 10% without a prescription, so you can get it online, at your local pharmacy or beauty store.

Benzoyl peroxide advice:

Use benzoyl peroxide if you suspect your acne is linked with p.acnes.

Be patient, benzoyl peroxide doesn't work over night, so you will need to be persistent. Give it at least four weeks to see any effects.


Sulphur in cosmetic products acts as a drying agent.

How does Sulphur work?

Sulphur dries out the top layer of the skin, which helps your skin absorb excess sebum.

It's drying effect also helps get rid of dead skin cells from the skin's surface.

This allows the pores to become unclogged, and treats acne.

Why you should use sulphur containing products

This treatment is best for breakouts caused by excess sebum and dead skin cells clogging your pores.

It's ideal for white heads and blackheads.

This is a more gentle solution than salicylic acid, and is less likely to cause any irritation.

In theory, sulphur should help with mild acne scarring, but the research is not yet significant enough.

Why sulphur based products may not be right for you

Sulphur is not a strong enough treatment for people struggling with papules and pustules and cystic acne.

If you have tried benzoyl peroxide and you didn't see results, this ingredient is unlikely to have any greater effects.

Where can I get sulphur containing products?

This is an over-the-counter product, so once again - you can get this product at any pharmacy or beauty store.

The highest percentage of sulfur in products is 10%, without a prescription.

It is most common form is a paste, however you can find powdered forms, lotions and gels.

Sulphur product advice:

Try these products out if you know you have sensitive or easily irritable skin.

If you do not see any results after constant use, consider moving up to a mild salicylic acid product.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a keratolytic medication, a beta hydroxy acid, which is soluble in oils.

How does Salicylic acid work?

Salicylic acid dissolves dead skin cells, sebum and dirt which unclogs pores.

It penetrates through the top later of the epidermis to break apart skin cells and promote cell turn over, and works as an exfoliant.

Why you should use Salicylic acid

If you struggle with blackheads and whiteheads, this is the perfect treatment for you.

It also may help a little with cystic acne, as it does have some antibacterial properties, but it's not its primary purpose.

Why salicylic acid may not be right for you

Salicylic acid can be very drying to the skin, and cause irritation to sensitive skin.

It is not suitable for pregnant women, or people taking medications with a blood-thinning effect.

The over-use of salicylic acid products can lead to salicylate poisoning if used too frequently and on larger portions of the body. It is not recommended to layer salicylic acid products.

Some people have also complained that their skin has experienced a 'salicylic acid dependancy', where if they stop using salicylic acid products, their skin breaks out.

Where can I get salicylic acid?

You can purchase salicylic acid from any beauty/skincare store as well as online.

It comes in many different forms, so you can see what works for you.

The highest concentration you are able to purchase is 2%, without a prescription.

Salicylic acid advice:

It may seem like the miracle product for your skin, however be wary.

If this product is over used - it can cause your skin to develop a dependency for the product.

Leave-on products can be too potent for sensitive skin, so it's a good idea to start with a cleanser containing salicylic acid.

Use this product sparingly, and focus it on white and blackheads.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid, soluble in water.

How does glycolic acid work?

It breaks weak bonds between skin cells on the outermost layer of the skin. This removes the top layer of dead skin cells, leaving a more even skin tone.

By removing dead skin cells, it means that they are less likely to enter pores, preventing them from being blocked.

Why you should use glycolic acid

Unlike other ingredients, glycolic can help the skin retain its natural moisture.

Glycolic acid also has antibacterial and antioxidant properties, which helps with ageing and overall appliance of the skin.

Why glycolic acid may not be right for you

Glycolic acid is not suitable for people with sensitive skin.

It can cause a burning sensation, make your skin feel itchy and swell your skin.

Some users have also experienced a greater sensitivity to the sun after using glycolic acid.

People with deeper skin tones may choose to stay away from this ingredient as they are more susceptible to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or dark spots.

Where can I get glycolic acid?

You can get it over the counter at concentrations up to 10%, however if you are looking for higher concentrations - consult a dermatologist.

You should be able to get them online, or at a pharmacy or beauty store.

These products are usually exfoliates, coming in many different forms - including: lotions, peels and serums.

Glycolic acid advice:

This ingredient is very strong, and I was always suggest to start at lower concentrations and work up if your skin can handle it.

Irritation is more common with this ingredient, therefore take precautions when using it.

Do not use them daily if your skin is more sensitive.

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