Over the Counter Acne Treatment Products That Work

Over the counter acne treatment products typically include acne or spot treatments, cleansers and washes, moisturizers, lotions, pads and wipes, masks and strips, shaving creams, and toners and astringents.

They are found in any convenience store. They are advertised on TV, in newspapers, magazines, on the internet, and in flyers. They are probably the most common way that people battle acne.

So how do you know what over the counter acne treatment you should use?

If you are on a budget, you should know that some of the best over the counter acne products cost less than $20 per month.

Do these sound familiar?

  • salicylic acid
  • glycolic acid
  • AHAs
  • retinol
  • Sufur and resorcinol

If you have, that’s great. You’re one step closer to understanding how these ingredients can work in products to eliminate your acne.

These are the most common ingredients that make up your most popular over the counter treatments.

Let’s start with one of the milder ingredients.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic Acid is also known as “beta hydroxyl acid” (BHA). It is great for mild acne and sensitive skin, and acts as a cleanser ingredient to slough away surface skin cells. It also prepares the skin for other acne treatments if you are planning on using any.

If you have blackheads and whiteheads, it works great by expelling them through the exfoliation process.

Salicylic acid is fairly mild. It can take a few months to work, and might not show results as quickly as you’d like. Also, it’s not that effective against larger comedones. However, it’s a great exfoliant. It can also reduce any redness of pimples on your skin.

You can usually find these non-prescriptive over the counter acne treatment products for less than $20.

Benzyl Peroxide

Benzoyl Peroxide (BP) in over the counter acne treatment products works by deeply penetrating into the skin to kill bacteria. This way it reduces inflammation very quickly. It also helps to loosen whiteheads and blackheads.

While it may appear to work quickly, it is a much harsher chemical. It is very drying as it exfoliates the skin and is actually a bleach. That is why you may notice some parts of your pillow case turn white after awhile, if the BP has rubbed off on them.

Other side effects can include redness and scaling, also blistering and burning, if you are allergic or sensitive. Many bad reactions occur from over use.

When used correctly in a system, BP controls common forms of acne. There are many systems that use benzoyl peroxide. Some better known names include:

  • Proactiv (contains BP at 2.5% concentration in its cleanser and treatment lotion).
  • Exposed, and
  • DDF Acne Problem Kit, (5% BP and 2.5% salicylic acid), among a few.

If you are interested in a low-cost alternative system to the ones above, stay tuned for my new ebook Over the Counter Acne Treatment Secrets coming soon! I will share with you exactly what concentration of BP you should be looking for in any OTC product.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)

AHAs are natural acids which come from fruits, milk sugars, and plants. AHAs can work for all types of skin.

Some AHAs include glycolic acid - found in pears, lactic acid – milk, malic acid – found in apples and pears, citric acid – found in oranges and lemons, or tartaric acid – found in grapes.

Glycolic and lactic acids are extremely popular in the use of over the counter acne treatment products, and are the most well researched AHAs to date.

AHAs work by peeling away the surface layer of skin. There is also evidence that AHA's may have a role to play in elasticity of your skin, keeping it tight and firm.

Which type of AHA is the most effective? Not all AHAs are made equal. My ebook talks about the most effective AHA that should be included in your acne treatment system, as well as the concentration you should be looking for and which other ingredients you should be using it with for maximum effect.

The cost is typically between a few dollars to more than $60US depending on the product.


Retinol is the chemical name for vitamin A – which is the active ingredient in the prescription drug Retin-A, which a lot of dermatologists like to suggest for a topical prescription acne treatment.

Enzymes in the skin transform retinol into a chemical called retinaldehyde, which then transforms into trace amounts of retinoic acid. Theoretically, retinol should have similar effects to Retin-A. But this is still unclear.

There are hundreds of products out there with only a splash of retinol, and most of them don’t work.

Sulfur and Resorcinol

Since Resorcinol on its own isn’t a very effective acne treatment, it is often paired with sulfur. Resorcinol has a shedding effect on the outer layer of skin and when combined with sulfur, makes sulfur more effective.

Sulfur works by killing acne bacteria and a good alternative for those who are too sensitive to use harsher ingredients like BP or Retin-A.

Sulfur is also suitable for other skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and scabies. These types of skin problems often result in flakiness or redness, which sulfur helps to control.

Products containing sulfur are great for spot treatments. It can have a less than pleasant odour though and should be avoided by pregnant women unless prescribed by a doctor along with resorcinol.

Each Person is Unique

As you can see, there are many different products and combinations of products you can use to fight acne. Depending on your unique skin type and severity of acne, certain ingredients will be more effective than others.

If you have tried products with these ingredients (and without success), you are likely wondering why they don’t work.

The reason they don’t work is because they aren’t used in the right combinations, concentrations or applied correctly!

In my upcoming ebook Over the Counter Acne Treatment Secrets, you'll learn which products are the most effective over the counter acne treatment products. You’ll also find out what ingredients to be sure to include when looking for products suitable for your skin type.

In this ebook I’ll share with you some simple, yet powerful information that most folks unfortunately don’t take the time to find out.

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