10 OTC Acne Treatments Dermatologists Use On Their Own Zits
Your friends swear they can’t see that zit, but to you, it’s the size of a baseball. (I feel your pain, girl.)
Fret no more: These dermatologist-backed OTC acne treatments work wonders against pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads so you can finally forego layers on layers of concealer.
Ready to put your best face forward? Thought so.
Best exfoliator: Cane + Austin Miracle Pad 20% Glycolic Facial Treatment
Cand + Austin
BUY IT $78, sephora.com
“This is an all-in-one user-friendly pad that we recommend our patients use twice a day,” says Lily Talakoub, M.D., of McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center. First, the glycolic acid removes dead surface skin, and lifts away debris and oils carrying nasty bacteria. The pad also has antioxidants like green tea to smooth skin and witch hazel to tone. What you’re left with is balanced skin that can operate normally without bacterial intrusion, she says.
Best natural acne product: Lush Grease Lightning Tea Tree Cleanser
BUY IT $16, lushusa.com
For the ultimate all-natural acne-fighting potion that works double duty to spot-treat zits and combat oily skin, look no further. “This product contains multiple antioxidants like [organic] aloe vera, grape juice and witch hazel, and natural lavender oil,” says dermatologist Gary Goldenberg, M.D., of Goldenberg Dermatology in NYC. He says its tea tree and thyme component help fight signs of aging, too. (Just spot-test first, since tea tree oil can be irritating to some skin types.)
Best drugstore acne treatment: Clearasil Daily Clear Vanishing Acne Treatment Cream
The best over-the-counter product for acne is benzoyl peroxide cream, says Marisa Potter, M.D., a dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in Aventura, Florida. The active ingredient (which fights the bacteria that can cause painful pimples) is more important than the brand, but Clearasil is a tried-and-true product. Potter recommends using a small amount once per day for acne (though, be warned: it can bleach your clothes and pillowcase).
Best spot treatment: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion
BUY IT $17, amazon.com
“This product has found a permanent home in my medicine cabinet,” says New York City dermatologist Lian Mack, M.D. “Containing sulfur, salicylic acid, and calamine, it easily eliminates my random breakouts,” she adds.
Learn everything you could ever want to know about adult acne:
Best acne treatment tool: Clarisonic Skin Care Brush
BUY IT $129, amazon.com
“This is a great tool for exfoliating the face to effectively remove pore-clogging dead skin cells,” says New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, M.D. You also get the bonus benefit of reducing the excess sweat and oil that may lead to acne. “Using the Clarisonic will also help increase the efficacy of the skincare products you apply,” he adds. Score.
Best all-in-one kit: La Roche Posay Effaclar Dermatological Acne System
BUY IT $30, laroche-posay.us
With a medicated gel cleanser, clarifying solution, and acne treatment, this takes care of acne from all angles. “This is the best system,” says Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and associate clinical professor at the George Washington University Medical Center. “Just like the other popular acne systems, it has salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, but the ‘secret’ ingredient that makes this a winner is the LHA micro-exfoliator. It helps to gently clean pores without irritation,” she says.
Best prescription dupe: Differin Acne Treatment Gel
BUY IT $11, amazon.com
This is a common derm favorite, and New Orleans dermatologist Deirdre Hooper, M.D., of Audubon Dermatology, is just one of the dermatologists who swears by it. “I love Differin for acne and off-label for brown spots and texture,” she says. Thanks to the retinoid adapalene, it unclogs pores and calms inflammation. Since it can be drying, she recommends using a pea-sized amount and blending it with a moisturizer before applying.
Best acne face wash: SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel
BUY IT $40, skinceuticals.com
This is one product derm Jennifer MacGregor, M.D. regularly uses in the morning. This gentle glycolic acid-based cleanser is ideal if you have oily skin and are susceptible to getting blocked pores, she says. Use it in the morning, and follow up with a light oil-free sunscreen moisturizer, she recommends.
Best for aging skin: Hydropeptide Redefining Serum
BUY IT $132, dermstore.com
Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, resorts to this uber-gentle serum because acne-prone skin “doesn’t like to be overly scrubbed,” she says. Its salicylic and azeliac acid content treats blackheads and whiteheads by promoting healthy skin turnover and dissolving clogged pores. It also contains plumping moisturizer hyaluronic acid and anti-aging peptides, to attack signs of aging, too.
Best serum: LaFlore Probiotic Serum Concentrate
BUY IT $140, amazon.com
You know probiotics are great for your gut, but Whitney Bowe, M.D., celebrity dermatologist and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin, makes a case for using probiotics for acne, too. She loves this serum because it combines skin-balancing probiotics with prebiotics (to feed the good bacteria and help them do their job) and postbiotics (byproducts of probiotics) “in order to help strengthen skin’s immune system and restore its healthy balance.”
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