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.
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Latest in Over-the-counter Treatments
Over-the-Counter Treatment Ingredients
Alpha hydroxy acid (glycolic acid), benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salycylic acid, and sulfur. What they are, what they do, and considerations of using each are considered.
July 20, 2020
Heat Therapy for Acne
Heat therapy does little to clear pimples and has scant research to back it up. It can also be expensive.
June 08, 2020
Does Ice Help to Heal Acne?
The application of cold temperatures reduces inflammation, as seen in soft tissue injuries such as sprained ankles. The same is true of the skin. Icing...
April 14, 2020
Everything You Need to Know About Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is available both over-the-counter and as a prescription in 2.5% - 10% strength. It kills bacteria, exfoliates the skin, and may reduce inflammation, all of which can help clear acne. It comes with side effects, especially during the first month.
April 08, 2021
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
How Glycolic Acid Helps with Acne
Glycolic acid is the most-used alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) for acne treatment. It exfoliates the skin, helping to unclog pores. It is available over-the-counter in...
June 09, 2020
Does Benzoyl Peroxide Cause the Skin to Age Faster?
Benzoyl peroxide produces free radicals, and therefore some concern exists that this might lead to skin aging. However, benzoyl radicals may also reduce inflammation, which could reduce skin aging. To be safe, apply an antioxidant-containing moisturizer after treating with benzoyl peroxide.
April 25, 2020