5 Common Acne-Fighting Ingredients That Really Work
Whether you have acne-prone skin, are trying to calm down maskne or have one pesky pimple that just won’t go away, incorporating acne-fighting ingredients into your skin-care routine is key. And incorporating these ingredients (think: benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and more) is pretty easy — you can find them in cleansers, moisturizers, spot treatments and more. Not sure what to look for? We’re sharing the top ingredients to help with pimples, below.
Found in everything from scrubs to spot treatments, salicylic acid is a common topical ingredient used to reduce the appearance of acne. It’s a beta hydroxy-acid, or BHA, that works by exfoliating the skin, removing pore-clogging debris and sloughing away dead skin cells. It’s a great option for people who are trying to get rid of blackheads, too.
Want to try salicylic acid? Pick up the Vichy Normaderm PhytoAction Daily Deep Cleansing Gel or the SkinCeuticals Age + Blemish Defense Serum. Note: Salicylic acid can dry out and irritate the skin, so it’s important to use it as directed.
Available in strengths up to 10 percent, benzoyl peroxide works by killing bacteria that causes pimples and inflammation. It’s ideal for addressing whiteheads or managing moderate acne. Try the CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser. With 4% benzoyl peroxide, it works to clear and prevent pimples, control oil and remove dirt from the pores.
Just be aware that benzoyl peroxide can cause dryness, redness and stinging, so you may have to gradually incorporate it into your routine. Another note? Don’t mix retinol with benzoyl peroxide as it can deactivate the ingredients. Instead, use benzoyl peroxide in the morning and retinol at night. Ask your dermatologist about whether the ingredient is right for you.
Alpha hydroxy-acids (AHAs) exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin cells. The types of AHAs most often found in acne-fighting formulas are glycolic acid (try the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum) and lactic acid (find it in the Lancôme Rénergie Lift Multi-Action Ultra Milk Peel). These chemical exfoliants are also recommended for those looking to address dark spots, hyperpigmentation, dry skin and uneven texture.
Sulfur, which is typically found in leave-on or spot treatments, works by softening and thinning the surface of the skin to prevent clogged pores. It’s a great ingredient to look for if you have oily skin, as it can help control the appearance of greasiness.
One product we love that’s formulated with sulfur is the Sunday Riley Saturn Sulfur Spot Treatment Mask. The 10% sulfur formula works to clear up blemishes, dry out excess sebum and get rid of dead skin cells.
A pretty buzzy ingredient right now, niacinamide is a gentler alternative to ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. It’s been shown to help regulate oil production and, as a result, help with breakouts. Not only is it good for use on dry or sensitive skin, but it also works to address post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, to improve moisture retention and smooth out the appearance of fine lines.
Photo: Chaunte Vaughn