This article will help you determine which type of over the
conuter products work best to treat acne. This common skin
condition effects people of all ages and is not just limited
Over the Counter Acne Treatment Products That
by: Yvette Chau
Over the counter acne treatment products typically include acne
or spot treatments, cleansers and washes, moisturizers, lotions,
pads and wipes, masks and strips, shaving creams, and toners and
So how do you know what over the counter acne treatment you
should use? Here’s some simple, yet powerful information that most
folks unfortunately don’t take the time to find out.
Benzoyl Peroxide the Bacteria Slayer
Benzoyl Peroxide (BP) in over the counter acne treatment
-works best for moderate to moderately severe acne,
-deeply penetrates into the skin to kill tough bacteria,
-is best used preventatively,
-dries and exfoliating the skin,
-works faster than prescription antibiotics, and
-doesn’t allow bacteria to build resistance like prescription
However, BP is a very harsh chemical. It causes redness, dryness,
and scaling. BP can also lighten fabric colors.
You can find a cheap tube of BP in any drugstore at 2.5% which
will work wonders over a few weeks time.
Salicylic Acid – the Surface Slougher
Salicylic Acid or “beta hydroxyl acid” (BHA) works best for mild
acne and sensitive skin, as a cleanser ingredient to slough surface
skin cells, and as an agent that prepares the skin for other acne
treatments. It breaks down a protein that holds the skin cells
together. Over time, it exfoliates old skin and allows new healthy
skin to surface. It loosens whiteheads and blackheads and helps
Salicylic acid is fairly mild. It does not reach down deep into
the skin follicles like benzoyl peroxide. It can take up to 3 months
to loosen smaller whiteheads and blackheads.
However salicylic acid works well if you use it over a consistent
and long period of time.
Some side effects of salicylic acid include some skin peeling,
dryness, and irritation when used at concentrations of 2% or
greater. Possible adverse effects include salicylate toxicity, toxic
inner ear damage, and hypersensitivity. Also risk of increases in
skin sensitivity to sunlight.
Look for an over the counter acne treatment cleanser with
concentrations of 2% salicylic acid, in an acid base with a pH of
between 3 and 4.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)
Alpha Hydroxy Acids work best for all types of skin, as a mild or
strong cleanser, and for healing and preventing acne.
AHAs are natural acids which come from fruits, milk sugars, and
plants. Glycolic and lactic acids are the most frequently used in
over the counter acne treatment products, and are the most well
researched AHAs to date.
AHA's gently peel away the uppermost layer of dead skin cells.
They make way for the newer skin beneath.
Look for a product with a glycolic acid concentration between 8
and 10% and no other active ingredients. You should see results in
the texture of your skin within a few weeks.
Side effects include more susceptibility to sunlight and minor
skin irritation or blisters and burns. Fewer AHA products have FDA
Retinol is the chemical name for vitamin A – which is the active
ingredient in the prescription drug Retin-A, the favored topical
prescription acne treatment.
Retinol works best in high concentrations and when packaged
stably. It hasn’t really proven its effectiveness for acne.
Sulfur and Resorcinol
Basically, sulfur kills acne bacteria. Resorcinol helps shed the
outer layer of skin, and increases the effect of sulfur. However,
experts aren’t entirely sure how it works in combination with
Resorcinol alone is not an effective acne treatment. It can be
very irritating to some patients. For those who can’t use BP or
Retin-A, sulfur may be a good alternative.
The side effects are minor: dryness and unpleasant odour. It’s
not recommended for pregnant women unless their doctor prescribes
resorcinol. There are no major known adverse effects in resorcinol’s
combination with sulfur.
Everyone is different
For maximum effectiveness, find a cleanser containing salicylic
acid or glycolic acid, a leave-on benzoyl product, and a moisturizer
you wear overtop.
As a general rule of thumb, OTC drugs should work within 6 to 8
weeks. If they don’t work within 10 weeks and even promote
breakouts, see a dermatologist.
Now you have enough knowledge to look for effective skin
products, as well as how to use them to use them the right way.
About The Author
Yvette Chau is a freelance writer based in Edmonton, Canada
specializing in the area of skincare and acne treatment. Undergoing
failed treatments herself before finding a solution for her own skin
problems, she offers information and advice to others on .