People often ask the question, “What products does Dan use?” Here they are.
I’ve spent over 30 years experimenting with every conceivable topical and oral acne treatment, as well as different ways of reducing irritation. Here I’ll pass along what I think anyone with acne should have in their arsenal.”Dan Kern, Acne.org founder
Cleanser – Acne.org Cleanser
A cleanser that doesn’t overdry. I use my own cleanser because I made it to be extremely mild at a perfect pH. It’s also unscented which is important to me. You can use other cleansers as well, but just make sure you choose one that is ultra-gentle and non-medicated, and specifically made for the face.
Benzoyl peroxide – Acne.org Treatment (Benzoyl Peroxide – 2.5%)
A gel-based benzoyl peroxide is easier to apply and doesn’t turn white when you perspire like a cream-based one can. Lately I’ve been staying clear with diet and supplements, but before that, I used my own gel. It’s unscented, feels good going on, isn’t tacky afterward, and does an incredible job. You can use other brands of benzoyl peroxide as well, but make sure you choose one that is micronized and free of comedogenic ingredients.
Moisturizer – Acne.org Moisturizer
After years of trying everything out there and never being totally happy, I finally perfected a moisturizer myself. This is the one that I currently use. I think it is perfect. It goes on light and works incredibly well. You can use other moisturizers as well, but make sure you choose one that is free of comedogenic ingredients.
Jojoba oil – Acne.org Organic Jojoba Oil
I love jojoba oil because it’s non-comedogenic and completely friendly and inert, so I can use it without fear of any negative consequences. I’ll add a few drops to any product I want to be a little more moisturizing. If I ever get a massage, I also make sure to take a bottle of jojoba oil with me. I use Acne.org Organic Jojoba Oil, but you can use any brand of organic jojoba oil as long as it is reputable.
Sunflower oil – MakingCosmetics.com Organic Sunflower Oil
I also love sunflower oil because it’s got a ton of vitamin E in it, and it’s non-comedogenic and super moisturizing. I’ll use it instead of jojoba oil sometimes, except for when I’m getting a massage. In that case, jojoba is still the clear winner. I order my sunflower oil from makingcosmetics.com because it’s organic and unprocessed, which allows it to stay high in linoleic acid, but you can order from any supplier who offers unprocessed sunflower oil. When you buy sunflower oil at the supermarket, they process it to make it lower in linoleic acid and higher in oleic acid so it doesn’t burn when you cook with it. But high linoleic acid sunflower oil is best for acne-prone skin, so it’s important to order the unprocessed stuff. (Note: I am not associated with Making Cosmetics in any way.)
10% Alpha hydroxy acid – Acne.org AHA+ (Glycolic Acid – 10%)
Part of the reason I decided to make this page of Acne.org was to let people know some of my secrets. 10% alpha hydroxy is one of them. I love this stuff. If I see a zit forming, I will apply benzoyl peroxide as usual, but then once the benzoyl peroxide dries, I’ll glob on a little 10% alpha hydroxy acid as well. More often than not the combo of benzoyl peroxide and AHA will stop the spot in its tracks. Catching it early is key though. I am always very careful to apply the AHA as gently and carefully as I apply the benzoyl peroxide. You can use other brands of 10% glycolic acid, but it can get tricky because the manufacturers need to be careful with pH (acidity) so it’s working as well as it should. Also be sure to avoid comedogenic ingredients.
Concealer – Almay Smart Shade
I know I’m a guy and all, but I run Acne.org and it’s important to me that my skin look perfect when it absolutely needs to, such as when I need to be on camera or when I need to attend an important meeting. Luckily, I don’t have much of a problem because my skin is usually completely clear, but once in a blue moon I’ll get a little zit or have a lingering red mark at just the wrong time. That’s why I keep around an Almay Smart Shade concealer. Almay in particular is known for producing light feeling makeup that is safe for acne-prone skin. Their Smart Shade concealer works like a charm – now you see the red mark, now you don’t. I only have to use a minuscule amount each time, and I’m sure this one tiny 0.37 oz. tube will last for years. The light/medium shade tends to work best for me. You can use other brands of concealer as well, but choose one that specifically states that it is non-comedogenic. (Note: I am not associated with Almay or Almay, Inc. in any way.)
2 blade razor – Gillette Trac II
I have tried every razor imaginable. Single blade razors irritate and I tend to cut myself a lot with them. Triple or quadruple blade razors are also unnecessarily irritating. Electric razors seem like they should be smooth and non-irritating, but they are rough, irritating, and don’t do a good enough job on the neck area, no matter how much they are advertised to be specially designed for the neck. But there is a shining beacon in the two blade razor. My two favorite razors are the Gillette Trac II and the Gillette Sensor Excel, both of which are vastly superior to any of their competitors. Since the Trac II helps reduce razor bumps on my neck better than the Sensor Excel, this is the one I use most often. Two blade disposables would be my next choice. (Note: I am not associated with Gillette in any way.)
Zinc, cod liver oil, gamma linoleic acid. Zinc helps maintain the integrity of the skin and is essential to wound healing. Inadequate zinc intake has been linked to acne since the 1970s, and zinc supplementation has been shown in several studies to help with acne.1-5 I take one 30 – 50mg zinc tablet per day, always on a full stomach to prevent nausea. Zinc can be toxic in high doses (above 100mg/day)6, so I make sure that I do not take more than 50mg per day. Omega-3s, particularly the EPA component of fish oil, are fantastic at reducing inflammation, and acne is an inflammatory disease.7 I take 5 – 6 cod liver oil pills per day, usually 4 with breakfast and 1 or 2 later in the day. I take cod liver oil because it also has a daily supply of vitamin D in it. Humans only make vitamin D through sun exposure, and my sun exposure is limited. Lastly, I take 400 – 500mg of gamma linoleic acid per day in the form of borage oil. People prone to acne are deficient in linoleic acid in their skin, and there is some preliminary research showing that supplementing with gamma linoleic acid can significantly reduce acne.8
Do you have a medical condition?
If you have a medical condition consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
- Bae YS, et al. “Innovative uses for zinc in dermatology.” Clinics in Dermatology. 2010; 23(3); 587-597.
- Isard O, et al. “Propionibacterium acnes activates the IGF-1/IGF-1R system in the epidermis and induces keratinocyte proliferation.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2011; 131(1); 59-66.
- Brocard A and Dreno B. “Innate immunity: A crucial target for zinc in the treatment of inflammatory dermatosis.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 2011; 25; 1146-1152.
- Bowe WP and Shalita AR. “Effective over-the-counter acne treatments.” Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2008; 27(3): 170-176.
- Sardana K and Garg VK. “An observational study of methionine-bound zinc with antioxidants for mild to moderate acne vulgaris.” Dermatologic Therapy. 2010; 23(4): 411-418.
- “Zinc.” — Health Professional Fact Sheet. N.p., 05 June 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2014. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional
- Rubin MG, Kim K and Logan AC. “Acne vulgaris, mental health and omega-3 fatty acids: A report of cases.” Lipids in Health and Disease. 2008; 7; 36.
- Jung JY, Kwon HH, Hong JS, Yoon JY, Park MS, Jang MY, Suh DH. Effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid and gamma-linolenic acid on acne vulgaris: a randomised, double-blind, controlled trial. Acta Derm Venereol. 2014 Sep;94(5):521-5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24553997/