From Salicylic Acid to Sulfur: Discover 5 Common Acne-Fighting Ingredients
When a pimple pops up on your otherwise clear complexion, you need to break out the big guns—and by that we mean an effective acne-fighting skin care product. And sure, you can choose from creams, gels, or even spot treatments—let's face it, acne-fighting formulas come in many shapes, sizes, and textures—but which ones are best? With so many products out there promising to zap that zit seemingly overnight, it can be tough to keep track of what, exactly, you are putting on your face. Allow us to clear things up for you. Below, we break down the five most common (and best) acne-fighting ingredients to help you clear that breakout fast!
1. Salicylic Acid
Found in scrub, gel, and cleanser formulas—to name a few—salicylic acid is a common topical ingredient used to reduce the appearance of acne. Available in strengths up to 2 percent, this beta hydroxy acid works by exfoliating the skin, unclogging pores, and reducing the swelling and redness associated with pimples. Salicylic acid can dry out and irritate the skin, so it’s important to use it as directed.
Want to learn more about salicylic acid? Check out what one of our consulting dermatologist had to share when asked about some of the surprising benefits of salicylic acid.
2. Benzoyl Peroxide
Available in strengths up to 10 percent, benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria and removes excess oil and built-up dead skin cells that can clog pores. Side effects include dryness, redness, and stinging, and it may take up to four to six weeks before seeing its effects.
3. Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Like salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin cells. The types most often found in acne-fighting formulas are glycolic acid and lactic acid. The FDA warns that using AHAs can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, so try to use products containing these acids before bedtime and apply a broad-spectrum SPF in the morning.
Used often in targeted, leave-on formulas, sulfur reduces bacteria and unclogs pores. This ingredient can remove breakout-causing built up dead skin cells and excess amounts of oil on the skin’s surface.
5. Tea Tree Oil
There are a number of products on the market with tea tree oil. While this ingredient is not approved by FDA for acne claims, it has long been used in naturally based skin care products for caring for acne-prone skin. Learn more about one of our favorite tea tree oil-formulated product collections for blemished-prone skin.
Whatever acne-fighting ingredient you chose, be sure to start with lower concentrations. Starting low and building up the strength over time will help you minimize the drying side effects associated with many of the acne fighters above.
Looking for some spot treatments formulated with one of the best acne-fighting ingredients? We share some of our picks of the best spot treatments for acne here!