What causes acne?
Acne is usually caused by a mix of sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells being trapped in a hair follicle which leads to clogged pores.
Each pore on the surface of the skin is the opening to a hair follicle–which is made up of a hair and an oil gland. The oil gland’s primary function is to release sebum that travels up the hair and out of the pore. The sebum then reaches the skin to keep it lubricated. If any part of this process goes awry, it may cause acne to develop.
Excessive sebum produced by the oil gland, a buildup of dead skin cells, or the accumulation of bacteria can all affect this process and lead to clogged pores that contribute to the formulation of acne.
Active ingredients in acne products
The active ingredients in acne products determine the efficacy and mode in which they work on the skin. Some work by killing acne-causing bacteria, while others work by removing excess oil from the skin or by changing the speed of growth of new skin cells and the removal of dead skin cells. Some acne products have all of the aforementioned properties.
Here are common active ingredients found in acne products used on the skin and how they work.
10 Best ingredients for Acne prone skin
1. Azelaic acid
Azelaic ingredient is mildly antibacterial which helps prevent pores from becoming clogged. It also aids in correcting dark spots that can linger after acne clears (postinflammatory hyperpigmentation).
Nonprescription Azelaic acid products are available in 10% strength.
When used on its own, niacinamide won’t clear up acne, but when combined with other treatments, it works wonders owing to its great anti-inflammatory powers. Inflammation is a main trigger for acne outbreaks.
Niacinamide has oil-regulating properties and aids in fading dark marks as well.
3. Linoleic acid
Studies show that people who tend to have low levels of linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid, in their sebum—tend to have acne. This lack in linoleic acid may be the contributing factor to having clogged pores and inflammation. A topical leave-on with linoleic acid, such as face serums and creams should be tried to see if it makes a difference to your skin.
4. Salicylic acid
Salicylic acid is an ingredient which may help unclog pores and also prevent new breakouts. Salicylic acid products that are available to be purchased without a prescription are available in strengths from 0.5% to 2% as both leave-on and wash-off products.
Possible side effects include mild stinging, skin discoloration and minor skin irritation.
5. Benzoyl peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is an ingredient best known for its ability to kill bacteria that cause acne. It also helps remove excess oil from the skin and removes dead skin cells, which can clog pores.
Benzoyl peroxide products that you can buy without a prescription are available in strengths from 2.5% to 10%.
Studies show that lower strength products are as effective as higher strength preparations. Consider starting with a lower strength (2.5%) water-based product to lower the risk of side effects.
Possible side effects include dry skin, scaling, irritation, burning and stinging, especially if you have sensitive skin. Be careful when applying benzoyl peroxide, as it can bleach hair and clothing. It has no bleaching effect on the dark patches that can linger after acne clears (postinflammatory hyperpigmentation).
This ingredient is a retinoid that helps unclog pores and prevent new breakouts. Adapalene gel (Differin) is available without a prescription at a strength of 0.1%. Don't apply this product to skin that has a cut, sunburn or eczema rash. You might feel a slight stinging when the gel is applied, but it soon goes away. Other possible side effects include dry skin, scaling and inflamed skin. Use a non oily (non comedogenic) moisturiser to ease these symptoms.
7. Alpha hydroxy acids
Alpha hydroxy acids are synthetic versions of acids derived from sugar-containing fruits, sugar cane or milk. Two types of alpha hydroxy acids that are used in nonprescription acne products are glycolic acid and lactic acid. They treat acne by removing dead skin cells and calming inflamed skin. Alpha hydroxy acids also spur the growth of new, smoother skin. This helps improve the look of acne scars and pores.
8. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil contains a number of compounds, including terpinen-4-ol, that have been shown to kill certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi
These germ-fighting properties make tea tree oil a valued natural remedy for treating bacterial and fungal skin conditions, preventing infection, and promoting healing.
Tea tree oil can be a powerful weapon against acne. Several studies have shown that it helps reduce the amount and overall severity of acne
Some acne is caused by bacteria that are becoming resistant to traditional antibiotics. Scientific examination of tea tree oil found that application not only reduced the activity of bacteria but also killed them in the lab after 4 to 6 hours.
In another study, tea tree oil was found to be as effective against acne as benzoyl peroxide, the most common anti-acne medication
Tea tree oil-based acne gels can be purchased at natural grocery stores or from online retailers.
Alternatively, you can make your own acne treatment by mixing one part tea tree oil with nine parts water and applying the mixture to affected areas with a cotton swab once or twice a day, as needed.
Retinol is a natural vitamin A derivative commonly found in pro-aging creams.
It is also used as an effective ingredient for treating acne and reducing the appearance of acne scars.
On the skin’s outermost layer (epidermis), retinol exfoliates to remove dirt, dead skin cells, and oil from pores. This can help prevent pimples from forming.
Unlike many other acne treatments, retinol also works by getting under your skin. Tiny molecules penetrate the middle layer of your skin (dermis) and stimulate the production of collagen and elastin.
Both of these compounds reduce the appearance of pores and acne scarring over time.
Excess oil (sebum) which contributes to acne breakouts can be absorbed by sulfur which aids in drying out the surface of the skin.
Some products contain sulfur along with other acne-fighting ingredients, such as resorcinol.
- Choosing your acne product
Acne products that are best suited to your needs will always depend on your skin type and also will depend upon the advice of a professional.
However, here are some guidelines when using non-prescription acne products.
- Begin with benzoyl peroxide and adapalene..
- Start with lower strength acne products.
- Choose the form that works for you.
- Be patient.
Treating acne with topical products that are available without a prescription takes time and patience. It may take 2 to 3 months of daily use before you see results. And acne may worsen before it gets better.
Skin care tips when using acne products
Acne products are just one step in your skin care routine. When using acne products:
- Wash acne-prone skin twice daily.
- Try cleansing cloths or towels.
- Use just the right amount.
- Use non oily, water-based facial products.
- Avoid irritants.
- Don't pick or squeeze blemishes.
- Watch what touches your face.
- Protect your skin from the sun.
- Shower after strenuous activities.
Best products for acne-prone skin in 2022
The products listed below have been voted to be some of the best up and coming non-prescription acne treatments:
- CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser
- La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Face WashThe Ordinary Azelaic Acid Serum
- And other products sold by essential relating to acne
- Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Wash
Consult a dermatologist if you believe your skin condition is more than just acne, and if it doesn't clear up within 2-3 months of treatment.
Prescription lotion or medication might be needed in certain instances.