Medical science has achieved significant breakthroughs in the treatment of acne. However, gentle cleansing must precede topical treatment in order to prevent irritation, because irritation can lead to more breakouts.1

Look for the terms "oil-free" and "non-comedogenic" (non-pore clogging) when selecting a facial cleanser. You know you're on the right track when references to "mild", "non-irritating," and "non-overdrying" are mentioned as well. If you have inflammatory acne, the most common variety that comes with redness, you'll want to avoid any scrubbing cleansers as well. Simply choose a gentle liquid cleanser with no scrubbing agents, beads, or balls.

Many acne cleansers also include other medications. For instance, Neutrogena Acne Wash Oil-Free Cream Cleanser has 2% salicylic acid in it. Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser contains 10% benzoyl peroxide. You may unwittingly be layering medications this way, and over-medicating the skin can cause irritation and perpetuate the acne cycle.

1 Wash your face only twice per day, morning and evening. Excess washing can cause irritation.

2 Use only your bare hands to wash, and wash for 10 seconds or less. Washcloths and hand-held cleansing devices are unnecessarily irritating. Consider the act of washing as simply prepping your skin for medication, nothing more. Washing itself does not clear breakouts since dirt does not cause acne, so there is absolutely no need to scrub.

3 Pat dry. Do not rub dry. Rubbing the skin is irritating, and excess irritation can perpetuate the acne cycle. Gently pat dry.

Once your face is properly cleansed, you are ready to apply whichever medication you and your doctor have chosen. Click on the choices below to learn more about prescription or over-the-counter treatment options.

Prescription Acne Medications  
Over-the-Counter Acne Medications

  1. Jung J, and Hwang EJ. "Do patients with acne need cognitive behavioral therapy? An analysis of patient knowledge and behavior." International Journal of Dermatology. 2012; 51(11): 1319-24.