While you may have fallen in love with emotional music in high school, acne isn’t always something you can say goodbye to so easily. Acne is becoming more common in adults, with 15% of women affected – and dry or oily skin can have the same effects on your skin.

So what exactly causes acne? “When skin pores become blocked, usually due to dead skin cells, oil cannot secrete and accumulate,” explains Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD, Kansas City dermatologist and DermBoard.org editor. accumulate in pores and under the skin, creating whiteheads or blackheads. . “This is a perfect environment for [the bacteria] Propionibacterium acnes, then proliferates and causes inflammation, creating a boil.”

IN THIS ARTICLE The best ingredients | The best product

Alison Tam, a board-certified dermatologist in Las Vegas, says hormonal changes such as perimenopause or menopause, or the use of hormones like testosterone, can cause age acne mature. “Adult-onset acne can also have no cause, which is extremely common and progresses from a few small pimples to full cystic acne over months to years,” she says. speak.

The best ingredients for acne-prone skin

Controlling acne can be difficult, depending on the severity of your condition, but not impossible. Derms has a few ingredients, including salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and Adapalene. While they differ in their chemical compounds, each can help you achieve your acne-free skin care goals.

Salicylic Acid

“Salicylic acid exfoliates the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin) and penetrates pores to remove sebum,” says Hadley King, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. This helps prevent pores from becoming clogged and can help clear up blockages that have formed. “

  • Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, which means it’s a chemical exfoliant.
  • According to King, salicylic acid is gentle enough for sensitive skin types to use.

“It dissolves the bonds holding dull dead skin cells to the surface of the skin, so the skin gently sloughs off, revealing smoother, brighter skin underneath,” says King. Salicylic acid isn’t just limited to the face – it’s a beneficial ingredient found in shampoos for dry scalps and dandruff.

Benzoyl peroxide

“Benzoyl peroxide is useful for treating acne not only because it kills the bacteria that cause acne, but also because it helps prevent and clear clogged pores,” explains King.

  • King recommends looking for micro-formulas because they are less irritating and have a longer shelf life.
  • Benzoyl peroxide can bleach your clothes and towels, so it’s best to use a cleanser with this ingredient in your shower.


According to King, an over-the-counter retinoid can also help control acne.

  • Retinoids regulate skin cell turnover to keep pores oil-free and free of inflammation.
  • Adapalene was the first OTC retinoid and it is available in 0.1% and 0.3% levels.

When shopping for skin care products for acne-prone skin, King recommends buying non-comedogenic products because they won’t clog pores. Tam adds that you should cleanse by gently washing your face twice a day. “Strong cleansers can remove too much oil and can backfire, overstimulating your oil glands. ‘, Tam said. “This may feel good right away but makes you greasy over time.” Following Tam’s advice, clean your skin with a non-comedogenic moisturizer and sunscreen (in the morning).

When using an acne treatment like benzoyl peroxide or a retinoid, you only need a small amount, about the size of a grain, says Nancy Samolitis, dermatologist, co-founder and medical director of Facile Dermatology + Boutique. bean. Because these treatments are so potent, you should limit them to just once per day, advises Samolitis.

If over-the-counter products don’t work for you, consider seeing a dermatologist or general practitioner, who can help you explore other treatment options, including prescription medications. For adult women, birth control pills with low doses of estrogen and progesterone are often helpful, says Melanie Palm, MD, a dermatologist in San Diego.

Best product for acne prone skin

Ready to take the first step toward controlling acne? Below, top dermatologists share their favorite skin care products for acne-prone skin. Here’s how to get cleaner skin in the days to come!

1. Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Fighting Cleanser

“This (non-comedogenic) cleanser contains salicylic acid to unclog pores and calm breakouts,” says Palm. There’s also glycolic acid, a popular Alpha Hydroxy Acid, which helps even out skin tone, and Lipo Hydroxy Acid, which removes excess oil, leaving your skin greasy. It’s suitable for most skin types – acne-prone, oily, combination and sensitive skin – as it’s free of oils, fragrances, and parabens. People with dry or normal skin may find this gel cleanser too hydrating for regular use.

2. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Cleanser

“This is a great benzoyl peroxide product,” says King. With 2.5% benzoyl peroxide micronized, it’s effective yet gentle. The cleanser also contains glycerin, a moisturizing ingredient. “This is a great cleanser option if you have a combination of certain types of congested acne with whiteheads and blackheads and some inflammatory acne with pink or red breakouts,” she says. bigger”.

3. Free Oil-Free Acne Cleanser With Benzoyl Peroxide

Cleanse your face twice daily with Samolitis’s option. MicroClear Technology combines 2% salicylic acid with oil-soluble ingredients, unclogs pores and prevents acne-causing buildup. Neutrogena says people with mild to moderate acne will see results within 24 hours as the proprietary technology pushes ingredients deep into pores.

4. Clarisonic Mia Sonic 3-in-1 smart facial beauty device

Palm says the device will help you wash your face more effectively. The timer tells you when to move on to the next area of ​​your face. It’s also waterproof, so you can use it in the shower. Since Clarisonic will be shutting down on September 30, PMD’s Smart Facial Cleansing Device is a similar option to consider. The brush is made of silicone, which means it’s waterproof, antibacterial, and odor-resistant. It also vibrates 7,000 times per minute to help remove oil and dirt from your skin, helping to prevent future breakouts.

5. Free Blackhead Exfoliation with Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment

Charcoal and 2% salicylic acid pack a two-punch against pimples, plus the smooth texture provides physical exfoliation to unclog pores. “This is an ideal cleanser choice if you have oily skin and clogged pores with whiteheads and blackheads, without a lot of inflammatory breakouts,” says King. It’s also a good substitute for benzoyl peroxide if that’s something your skin can’t tolerate well, she adds.

6. Neutrogena Clear Pore Facial Cleanser / Mask

Emmy M. Graber, MD, a dermatologist and president of the Boston Academy of Dermatology, explains that most benzoyl peroxide products contain 10% of the ingredient, but higher strength has never been shown to be effective. better for acne. “The higher strength just irritates the skin more, so you should look for the lower strength one,” says Graber, a fan of the product. It contains 3.5% benzoyl peroxide and can be used as a daily cleanser or weekly mask to kill bacteria and prevent future breakouts.

7. PCA Skin Smoothing Toner

Toning isn’t a necessary skincare step, but it can help get rid of pore-clogging residue from your skin. Samolitis likes this toner because it’s alcohol-free, meaning it won’t strip the skin of much-needed moisture. Lactic acid and citric acid remove dead skin cells, while aloe soothes.

8. Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Pore Perfecting Toner

Graber recommends this toner because witch hazel helps control oil production, reduce inflammation, and shrink pores. The all-natural, fragrance-free formula is gentle enough for sensitive skin types, although those with oily, combination, and acne-prone skin will also find it beneficial. The brand says it acts as a makeup remover, though you may want to avoid using it to remove eye makeup.

9. PCA SKIN Clearskin Soothing and Balancing Moisturizer

Don’t think you can skip moisturizer if you have acne. It’s all about finding one that’s right for your skin type. This one, a Samolitis favorite, is formulated with niacinamide to lock in moisture and prevent excess oil production while cucumber soothes irritation. The moisturizer in the bottle looks thick but feels light and sinks into the skin easily.

10. Elta MD UV Clear Sunscreen with SPF 46

Sunscreen is an essential step, no matter what skin type you have, the weather, or whether you’re working indoors. Palm recommends a non-comedogenic formula that doesn’t contain heavy moisturizers that can clog pores. “Zinc oxide and niacinamide have anti-inflammatory effects and don’t promote oil production,” she says. Elta MD sunscreens provide broad spectrum protection against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, which are responsible for signs of aging and sun damage.

11. Herbivore Lapis Balancing Facial Oil

It may seem counterintuitive to apply oil to your face if you have acne, but this oil, which Samolitis likes, is specially formulated to treat acne. Blue tansy is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, minimizing redness caused by acne, while azulene calms the skin and kukui nut oil balances sebum production. Dark blue oil is best suited for people with oily, combination and acne-prone skin types than dry and normal skin types.

12. Mario Badescu’s Drying Mask

“This mask contains sulfur, the oldest known ingredient to help with skin inflammation,” says Graber. The combination of sulfur and zinc oxide in this mask helps to remove impurities and remove excess oil, while cucumber extract and calamine cool the skin and ensure you don’t feel irritated afterwards. Apply the mask two or three times a week and let it dry on your face for about 15 to 20 minutes. You can also use it as a spot treatment on stubborn pimples.

13. Aveeno Clear Complexion Exfoliating Mask

Palm says this no-rinse mask is gentle but effective, with ingredients including lactic and glycolic acids (AHAs) to help clear breakouts and heal post-inflammatory redness and blemishes. Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital, previously told NBC News Shopping that this mask also contains a “soy and kiwi complex to exfoliate and brighten skin.” .”

14. Avene Tricaneal Night Smoothing Lotion

Formulated with 0.1% retinaldehyde (an over-the-counter retinoid) and soothing thermal spring water, Samolitis loves this acne-fighting lotion without irritation. The enzyme Propionyl-CoA carboxylase (PCC) removes dirt and oil, unclogs pores and prevents breakouts. After cleansing and toning at night, you can apply lotion to your skin.

15. Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment

Samolitis and King recommend this OTC retinoid, which promotes skin cell turnover and limits inflammation to deep clean pores and prevent new breakouts from forming. After you cleanse, tone, and moisturize, apply a thin layer of the treatment gel to the affected areas.


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