With hundreds of acne products lining drugstore shelves and department store counters, infomercials with celebs touting their cures, how do you know which one to use?
The Mayo Clinic recommends checking out the ingredient labels and choosing the appropriate ingredients from this key list of superstars.
Benzoyl peroxide: probably the most universally effective active ingredient for acne, benzoyl peroxide works to remove excess oil and dead skin cells that clog pores. While it is well tolerated by most people, it can cause excessive dryness, scaling, redness, burning and stinging, especially with sensitive skin. Marketed in strengths from 2.5 to 10 percent – choose the one appropriate for your degree of acne.
Salicylic acid: (called “sal acid” by skincare pros) prevents pores from clogging by slowing down the shedding process of cells inside the hair follicles. It may also get rid of whiteheads and blackheads. Another case of no pain, no gain, salicylic acid can cause mild stinging and skin irritation.
Alpha hydroxy acids: the most commonly used AHAs in acne products are glycolic acid and lactic acid. Benefits include removal of dead skin cells, reduction of inflammation and stimulation of new, smoother skin.
Sulfur: this notoriously smelly ingredient is usually combined with others actives like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Alone or in combination, it works to remove dead skin cells that clog pores and remove excess oil. Products with sulfur may cause dry skin.
When beginning an acne treatment program, start out with a lower strength concentration and gradually increase the strength. Most dermatologists recommend beginning with benzoyl peroxide, as it is well tolerated by most. You can experiment to see what works including trying out one treatment in the evening and another during the day. Here’s a look at the acne options provided by the beauty makers.
CLINIQUE: this mega brand posits a “zero tolerance program” for acne, targeted by its Acne Solutions line. Comprising three products, the Acne Solutions range includes Cleansing Foam ($18), Clarifying Lotion ($13.50) and Clearing Moisturizer Oil-Free ($16.50). www.clinique.com.
DDF: we love DDF for clearly listing the active ingredients on its cartons. Its eight acne fighters contain benzol peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid and sulfur – not all in one product but dispersed throughout the line. The collection includes Benzoyl Peroxide Gel ($28) in a 5% concentration, Glycolic 10% Exfoliating Oil Control Gel ($48) with 2% salicylic acid and Sulfur Therapeutic Mask ($38) with a 10% concentration of sulfur. www.ddfskincare.com
MURAD: not only does Murad offer its Acne Complex Kit ($60) featuring salicylic acid in a 1.5% concentration and sulfur in a 3% concentration, the doctor-created brand also sells an Anti-Aging Acne Regimen ($119), a more gentle option for women with multiple concerns. The regimen features a cleanser, acne and wrinkle reducer and anti-aging moisturizer with salicylic acid reaching no higher than 0.5%. www.murad.com.
MAXCLARITY: this online only acne fighting brand harnesses the power of micronized ingredients in its signature foam technology, which is said to help the formulations be absorbed quickly and penetrate deeply into the skin where they can help most. Featuring benzoyl peroxide at a 2.5% concentration and salicylic acid at 0.5%, the system includes, MaxClarity Foam Deep Cleanser, MaxClarity Foam Advance Acne Treatment and MaxClarity Foam Rejuvenating Toner. The system is available at a special price of $19.99 at www.maxclarity.com.
NEUTROGENA: this well known drugstore brand claims to offer “the #1 Dermatologist recommended acne kit,” in addition to many other acne specific products for face and body. The Complete Acne Therapy System ($24.99) features Skin Polishing Acne Cleanser, Acne Control Lotion and Oil-Free SPF Lotion. The cleanser contains salicylic acid in a 0.5% concentration, while the Acne Control Lotion features a 2.5% concentration of benzoyl peroxide. www.neutrogena.com
PAYOT: the Les purificantes line from this Paris-based brand features a total of 10 products for oily/combination skin. In addition to salicylic acide, many of the cleansers and tonics contain green coffee extract for its detoxifying and anti-oxidizing benefits. Key acne fighting items include Purement Nettoyant, detoxifying foam with green coffee extract ($46), and Tonique Purifiant, alcohol-free stimulating toner with green coffee extract ($34). Available at www.3graces.com.
PHILOSOPHY: leave it to this playful brand to put the ultimate positive spin on acne treatment. It’s On a Clear Day Skin System features active ingredient salicylic acid in a 0.5% concentration. The system comprises On a Clear day Oil-Free Foaming Acne Cleanser ($25), On a Clear Day Oil-Free, All-Over Acne Treatment ($22), On a Clear Day Oil-Free Acne Spot Treatment ($18) and On a Clear Day Retinol Clarifying Lotion ($40). All four also are available in a kit for $65.00. www.philosophy.com.
REZAMID ACNE LOTION: targeting pustular acne, more notoriously known as whiteheads, Rezamid Acne Lotion ($21.70) works to heal and conceal blemishes on face, back and chest. According to New York City Dermatologist Dr Judith Hellman, “This medicated formula fights pimples with a combination of 5% sulfur and 2% resorcinol and it can quickly dry up acne and prevent new whiteheads from forming. This little white bottle doesn’t look like much, but my patients swear by it and we cannot keep it in stock.” Available at www.bigappleskin.com
SAMPAR: this Paris-based treatment brand directly targets unsightly spots with its Prodigal Pen ($21). Targeting pimples naturally, this spot blemish corrector is composed solely of eight essential oils such as lavender, sage, savory, and thyme for detoxifying, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits. Reportedly, sage oil can inhibit secretions from over active sebaceous glands. Available at www.3graces.com.
VICHY:claiming to be the #1 acne brand in Europe, Vichy boasts Zincadone+ as its active ingredient in Normaderm Anti-Imperfection Hydrating Care ($21). Zincadone+ is an oil-regulating and antibacterial ingredient that contains salicylic acid and Eperulin, a new organic ingredient that soothes and regulates inflammation. www.vichyusa.com.