4 Popular Over The Counter Acne Treatments

Counter Acne Treatments

There seem to be as many acne treatments out there as there are people with acne. The possibilities can be overwhelming. But if you’re struggling with cysts, pimples, blackheads, and rough skin because of it, you’ll try anything once.

In order to save yourself some time and money, take a look at some of these proven OTC (over the counter) acne treatments that can really work. A study on effective OTC treatments of acne can be found at National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

There are four main ingredients in OTC acne treatments that have been studied closely and have been proven to work. However, like any medication, there are side effects that will need to be understood so that you can help your skin cope and not exacerbate your symptoms. Redness and dryness of the skin are two of the most common side effects of acne treatments. Finding a good lotion for sensitive skin that is non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) is a must for people who experience over-drying from their OTC treatments.

4 Popular Over The Counter Acne Treatments

Benzoyl Peroxide

This is the first and most common defense against acne and the treatment of blemishes. Mainly used in spot treatments, the active ingredient of benzoyl peroxide comes in an assortment of creams and gels. The strongest amount that can be purchased over the counter is 10%. If you have sensitive skin, start out with a low dose of about 2.5-5%, and work your way up until your acne is gone.

Salicylic Acid

This is a treatment that is not only seen in acne medications, but in wart removers (at a much higher concentration). For removing acne, no more than 2% is used. Anything more will cause severe complications and scarring (in other words, don’t ever use a wart or callus remover to treat pimples!). Salicylic acid can be found in acne washes, soaps, and creams. Be very careful when using this treatment with other acne treatments, as it can become irritating to your skin and make breakouts worse when not used properly.


Sulfur peels and dries the skin. If your acne is caused by over-production of oil, this might be the right treatment for you. Sulfur alone, however, is not a common OTC acne medication. Instead, it is used in creams along with Resorcinol and others in order to help control oily skin and dry out pimples. You will find this active ingredient most commonly in spot treatments, and not as an overall facial treatment. Some users complain that the smell of sulfur containing creams is almost too much to handle, and that it discolors their skin. If you have blemishes already, drawing attention to them with discoloration is likely the last thing you want to do.


This is a perfect active ingredient for problem whiteheads and blackheads, because it breaks down hard skin and clogged pores. Resorcinol is not used on its own, but in conjunction with sulfur, salicylic acid, and even benzoyl peroxide in creams and washes. If you choose to use an OTC acne treatment containing resorcinol, make sure that you avoid using other acne treatments at the same time, to prevent over drying of the skin (unless instructed to do so by your doctor or dermatologist). Side effects from this treatment can include redness and irritated skin.


When using any of these four OTC products, be sure that you limit your exposure to the sun and use a good facial sunblock with an SPF of 15 or higher in order to avoid irritating your skin and doing serious damage to it.

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Other precautions you can take to prevent over-drying the skin is to find a good lotion specifically designed for acne prone skin. Typically, these lotions already have a good SPF in them, so you can solve two problems at once.

Because there are different underlying causes of acne, not every single one of these OTC acne treatments will work for you. Essentially, trial and error is the only way to figure out what will get rid of your acne problem and help you keep your skin clear.


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