These are the ingredients you need to fight acne and get clear skin
Check out the acne-fighting ingredients dermatologists recommend most—and how to use them.
The essential acne-fighting ingredients you need for clear skin
Effective treatment starts with effective acne treatment products, and a select few ingredients are consistently among the top dermatologist recommendations for acne. Benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur are mainstays in any anti-acne routine because they all work in different ways to target the main causes of acne breakouts and help you achieve clear skin. Our acne advice: Read this, check the ingredient lists on the acne treatment products you’re using and go shopping to fill in the gaps.
Benzoyl peroxide products help clear and prevent acne blemishes in a few ways. First, this ingredient penetrates the pores to kill the P. acnes bacteria that are responsible for acne. At the same time, benzoyl peroxide helps thin the skin on and surrounding acne breakouts, which also enhances its penetration and helps it get rid of acne fast. Finally, using benzoyl peroxide for acne helps decrease the redness and discomfort associated with acne blemishes.
How to use benzoyl peroxide for acne
Benzoyl peroxide products include cleansers, lotions, spot treatments and more. Those with blemish-prone skin should incorporate benzoyl peroxide into this skincare routine with an acne wash and a treatment lotion. For occasional breakouts or particularly stubborn pimples, an acne spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide can help speed up skin clearing. Benzoyl peroxide can also be used with other acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and sulfur. Since these ingredients work in different ways to control acne, using benzoyl peroxide products in conjunction with other anti-acne ingredients helps minimize all of the factors that lead to acne breakouts.
Face products with salicylic acid are an effective acne treatment because they help promote the shedding of dead skin cells that can clog the pores and lead to acne breakouts. This gentle exfoliation makes salicylic acid a worthwhile addition to any skincare routine, but it’s especially beneficial for oily skin and skin prone to acne. Salicylic acid skincare also helps minimize acne because it is oil-soluble, which means it can penetrate the pores and help dissolve the excess sebum (oil) that causes blackheads. Yet another benefit of salicylic acid treatment is that it has also been shown to reduce the redness and inflammation associated with active breakouts.
The good news is, “Skincare products and other measures that maintain the pH of the acid mantle can be helpful in the prevention and treatment of acne,” according to Dr. King. AcneFree’s Oil Free Acne Cleanser features benzoyl peroxide to minimize P. acnes bacteria in a sulfate-free formulation that won’t disrupt the skin’s protective acid mantle, and this acne face wash also contains ceramides to help further reinforce the skin’s barrier. Our Witch Hazel Mattifying Toner is the ideal follow-up because it helps rebalance the skin’s pH after cleansing as it provides gentle pore-purifying benefits along with hydrating aloe vera and an exfoliating boost with glycolic acid. (You can get the ideal acne face cleanser, pH-restoring toner and acne treatment lotion in our skincare kits, which are available for all skin types as well as severe acne and sensitive skin.)
How to use face products with salicylic acid
You can find salicylic acid in many forms, including acne cleanser, lotions, sprays and more. This ingredient is a great acne treatment for sensitive skin, and a simple routine that includes a salicylic acid acne wash, acne toner and salicylic acid acne lotion helps treat breakouts and prevent new pimples from forming. Salicylic acid can also be used with benzoyl peroxide and sulfur for optimal clear skin results. Because all of these ingredients help control acne in different ways, a combination is ideal to minimize blemishes.
Salicylic acid treatment for body acne
Salicylic acid is an effective ingredient for body acne treatment because it helps prevent pores on the back and chest (or anywhere else affected by body acne) from becoming clogged with dead skin cells and oil. One of the best products for body acne is a spray because it’s able to treat areas that be hard to reach with creams or lotions.
How sulfur acne treatment works
Sulfur is a wonderful ingredient for oily and acne-prone skin. Known to have antimicrobial benefits that make it effective for fighting the bacteria that lead to breakouts, sulfur acne treatment also provides mild exfoliation, helps clear the pores of clogging oil and debris, and decreases the redness and discomfort associated with acne blemishes. This multi-action approach helps clear existing acne breakouts as it helps prevent the formation of new blemishes—and gets you closer to your goal of healthy-looking skin!
How to add sulfur acne treatment to your skincare regimen
Using sulfur for acne is actually quite easy. Most commonly found in the form of a sulfur mask, this product can be used as often as needed (or whenever you have time!) to help clear active acne breakouts, unclog the pores, reduce excess oil and minimize the appearance of pores. Sulfur acne treatment products “play nicely” with other acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, and they are perfect for when your skin needs a little extra help getting (and staying) on track.
This ingredient’s natural properties make a witch hazel face toner a no-brainer, especially for oily and acne-prone skin. Often formulated with other ingredients like aloe vera or glycolic acid to enhance its skincare benefits, witch hazel does more than merely remove any dirt, oil and debris your cleanser leaves behind.
Witch hazel is a natural astringent, which means it is an agent that causes temporary constriction of body tissues, and this is a major plus for our pores. As anyone with oily skin knows, enlarged pores are often a side effect of excess oil production—and witch hazel helps shrink the appearance of pores on contact. A toner that offers astringent affects is a good thing, but it’s best to use an alcohol free witch hazel toner to remove excess oil (which may help prevent future breakouts) without stripping the skin of its natural moisture.
Witch hazel also contains a high concentration of antioxidants that are key for shielding the skin from damage caused by both internal and external factors. Rich in a particular type of polyphenol antioxidant called tannins that are known to attract the free radicals that damage your skin, witch hazel face toner helps you whisk them away more easily, and perhaps prevent the visible signs of aging they can cause. Witch hazel’s antioxidants also give it anti-inflammatory properties due to the tannin’s ability to neutralize free radicals. By soothing inflammation, witch hazel face toner reduces itching, redness and irritation—which is why it is one of the top dermatologist recommendations for acne and eczema.
For even more benefits, witch hazel offers oil-absorbing properties and leaves the skin with a matte finish, and anyone with oily skin wants that. Just a few swipes help balance the skin’s pH after cleansing, and witch hazel provides much-needed moisture without leaving any greasy residue. The beauty of witch hazel face toner is that it nourishes and moisturizes the skin as it effectively removes excess oil, dirt and debris. However, witch hazel will not over-dry the skin like other astringents, and it can even help seal in moisture. If you use benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or sulfur to treat your acne, a witch hazel face toner can help care for your skin while using these ingredients—and it won’t make breakouts worse. In fact, witch hazel may actually make your skin better thanks to its soothing and moisturizing benefits.
Known for its ability to draw impurities from the skin, charcoal adds an extra detoxifying element to any skin care routine for acne. Charcoal basically acts like a sponge that attracts oil and debris on the skin’s surface and makes it easier to wash them away. A charcoal scrub is a wonderful way to work this ingredient into your anti-acne regimen, and you can get even better results with a product that also contains an acne-fighting ingredient like salicylic acid.
Kaolin is a soft, white, natural mineral clay that is known to have oil-absorbing capabilities. Kaolin clay also provides gentle exfoliation and is appropriate for all skin types, especially oily and sensitive. When a mixture of kaolin and water is applied to the skin, the clay absorbs excess oil on the skin’s surface and within the pores. In addition to oil, kaolin clay also traps dirt and debris, making it easier to wash away. Usually found in skincare masks, kaolin clay is a useful ingredient for keeping the pores clear of impurities—and AcneFree’s Kaolin Clay Detox Mask also doubles as a gentle yet effective daily cleanser.
Must-know info about anti-acne ingredients
These ingredients are among the top dermatologist recommendations for acne because they help clear up acne breakouts fast. But If you experience skin redness or dryness, you can reduce these side effects by reducing how often you use them. Start by cutting back benzoyl peroxide products to once a day. If that doesn’t help, only use face products with salicylic acid once a day and avoid using a sulfur acne treatment on irritated skin. (Witch hazel and charcoal are unlikely to cause side effects so you can keep using those as usual.) Also remember that every skincare regimen should include a daily sunscreen that is applied every morning, rain or shine, and reapplied at least every two hours during periods of sun exposure.