Shopping Guide for Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments

by on March 7th, 2015
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Shopping for acne treatments over the counter today can be a confusing process. With so many brands, products, and promises to choose from, how can you tell which products will truly work for you? How can you be sure you’re getting the best product at the best price? And what do all of those fancy ingredients actually do, anyway?

What Acne Treatments Do
Most over the counter acne products do similar things for your skin. They work by killing Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), which are a bacterium that cause the acne inflammation in a pimple. Often, acne products will also help absorb excess oils from the skin, speed up new skin cell growth, exfoliate dead skin cells and residue, or any combination of these treatments. Depending on what your specific problem is, or how often you breakout, the right products for you may not need to do all of these things.

Common Acne Treating Ingredients
When you’re looking for acne products, you’ll see a few of the same ingredients popping up over and over again. Each is a strong acne fighter in its own right, so you’ll want to look for the combination of ingredients or concentrations of these ingredients to find a good fit for your skin. The most common active ingredients are:

Benzoyl peroxide. Offered in strengths of 2.5 to 10 percent, benzoyl peroxide works to kill p. acne bacteria, remove excess oil, and remove dead skin cells from clogged pores. It can be a bit harsh for really sensitive skin types, so start with the lowest concentration if this is your first time using benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid. Available in 0.5 to 2 percent concentrations, salicylic acid slows the shedding of dead skin cells to prevent clogged pores. It also works to unclog whiteheads forming below the surface and blackheads on the surface. Some irritation can result from salicylic acid as well, so use the smallest concentrations first to be sure your skin tolerates it. Alpha-hydroxy acids. The two most common types, glycolic and lactic acids, are often found in acne products because they remove dead skin cells and reduce inflammation. They also work to stimulate healthy skin cell growth to reduce the appearance of acne scars over time.

Acne Treatment Shopping Tips

Armed with your new knowledge of acne treatments and their ingredients, you can navigate the aisles with confidence and a critical eye. Always read the ingredients of a product before you buy it, to see what effects it may have on your specific problem and skin type. For especially stubborn acne, you may need to team up active ingredients from a full acne-treating regimen. If the brand you like has a line, consider adding multiple products from that line into your daily routine. Skin care lines, especially for acne, are designed to work together for maximum effectiveness. Some brands offer introductory acne treatment kits so you can see how all the products work together at a lower cost.

You can also price comparison shop from a top-selling boutique brand to find the pharmacy alternative, if you’d prefer to cut costs on your acne regimen. The most expensive product is not always the best for your skin, so do your homework. Finally, be willing to experiment until you find something that works. Most new skin care products can take two weeks to two months of consistent use to show real changes and results, so be patient. If something turns out not to work, try a different active ingredient or concentration for a stronger approach.

References:
Acne Treatments. Top 5 Elements to Look for In Acne Treatments. Mayo Clinic. Over-the-Counter Acne Products: What works and why.

Related Content:
Eat Healthy for Clear Skin Home Remedies for Acne Products to Avoid for Acne-Prone Skin


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