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Over-the-counter Treatments

When it comes to over-the-counter acne medications, there is one clear winner: benzoyl peroxide. When it is applied properly it can reliably and completely clear the skin. The only other FDA-approved over-the-counter treatments are salicylic acid, sulfur, and resorcinol, all of which come with drawbacks, not the least of which being that none of them completely clear the skin. 

A helper: alpha-hydroxy-acids: Alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid, are not officially FDA-approved acne medications. However, glycolic acid is available over-the-counter in up to 10% strength, and can powerfully exfoliate the skin, increasing the power of benzoyl peroxide.

Latest in Over-the-counter Treatments

Devices Why Spinning Face Brushes Are Not a Good Idea for Acne-Prone Skin Spinning brushes physically irritate the skin. To avoid acne, it is best to avoid any form of physical irritation, so it is safest to forgo these brushes, even if they are advertised as "gentle." Instead, use only your bare hands and a gentle facial cleanser and wash gently for 10 seconds or less. December 09, 2020
Benzoyl Peroxide What is Benzoic Acid and Can it Help Clear Acne? After you apply benzoyl peroxide to the skin it breaks down into (1) hydrogen peroxide, and (2) benzoic acid. Hydrogen peroxide kills acne bacteria. But what does benzoic acid do? It is hypothesized that it helps exfoliate the skin, reduce inflammation, clear clogged pores, and reduce bacteria. October 20, 2020
Sulfur Sulfur for Acne Sulfur has been used for thousands of years for its ability to shed the top layer of skin cells and limit bacterial growth. Both of these things help reduce acne. Its effectiveness is increased when combined with benzoyl peroxide or sodium sulfacetamide. September 09, 2020
Salicylic acid (BHAs) Salicylic Acid Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in over-the-counter anti-acne medications, washes, spot treatments, and makeup. It penetrates into the skin where it helps unclog pores... July 29, 2020
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