Over The Counter Acne Treatment & How To Choose One That Works For You

Over The Counter Acne Treatment

You must have realized by now that the problem these days is that there are way too many over the counter acne treatment products out there in the market. This problem makes it really difficult to choose or decide what to pick and what not to pick.

Just going for any product or ‘hurriedly’ settling on whatever acne medicine you see first, may not be your best bet either. So I guess a little knowledge would be invaluable in helping you make a ‘wiser’ decision when shopping for a cure to your acne.

To start with, it will be useful for you to know exactly how some of these products work.over the counter acne treatment

Also, knowing what particular ingredients to look for in your treatment product should be of great help in guiding you to make an informed decision – to not only treat your acne but to also prevent any future recurrences.

How Over The Counter Acne Treatment Products Work

There are four basic ways in which most acne treatments work and it all boils down to the composition of the particular acne medicine. Most acne treatments or medication work…

  • [list style=”bullet-blue”]
    • By removing excess oils from the skin
    • By killing bacteria that causes inflammation of the skin – that triggers an acne break out
    • By provoking the rapid growth of new skin cells while removing dead cells from the surface of the skin.
    • By combining the above methods of treatment.


After we know that, and after we have consulted a doctor or skin specialist (this is best advice though many decide for themselves what’s best for their condition), we can more or less know what ingredients may work best for us. So we can start off with hopefully ‘the right foot’.

Otherwise, when do skin tests, we at least have an idea of what ingredients or substances our skin may be allergic or sensitive to.

Acne treatments or medication are mostly made of a combination of substances. But there are ‘common’ active ingredients found in many over the counter acne treatment or medication.

Shall we look at several common active ingredients?

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is one of the common active ingredients found in acne drugs. It is used in varying concentrations (percentages) so do look at product labels.

Salicylic acid usually causes a little stinging and works to cut down on the speed at which cells inside the hair follicles are shed. In a simple picture, it sort of works like benzoyl peroxide but it’s gentler on the skin. This brings me to the next ingredient…

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide on the other hand works at killing the bacteria that instigates acne as well as removing surplus oil from the surface of the skin. It also works to unclog the pores of dead skin cells.

Do take note though that this ingredient can cause certain side effects like scaling, redness and too much dryness in the skin. People who have very sensitive skin should try and avoid acne products that contain benzoyl peroxide.

Anybody using it on their acne should be extremely cautious because it is capable of bleaching your hair and also ruining clothing that it comes into contact with.

I have actually a whole post about benzoyl peroxide. So to know more here’s the link.


Sulfur is something that you will usually recognize from its’ strong pungent smell. Sulfur is an ingredient that works in tandem with other stuff like salicyclic acid, resorcinol and benzoyl peroxide. Sulfur’s main ‘jobs’ are to get rid of surplus oil on the skin as well clearing dead cells from the pores.

Choosing the right ingredients for an over the counter acne treatment

The decision on what ingredients to look for in your acne treatment will be based on a number of considerations. For instance the seriousness of your acne attack and also the type of skin you have (is it generally dry or oily?).

It will usually be a good idea to start with acne products that are less potent and not particularly strong. Or start with small amounts and less frequencies.

The reason here is to reduce the possibility of the most common side effects of acne medicine which include extreme dryness of the skin and redness. In this way you will also be giving your skin a little time to adjust to the severity of the treatment rather than risk giving it a shock treatment.

Another idea worth considering is to use two different products at the same time but with different ingredients. The way to do this is to use one in the morning and the other at the end of your day. This can be especially useful when you are dealing with persistent acne.

That said, some acne sufferers shared that their skin does not take too well with using 2 different products in a day. So this depends. In fact, in most situations, there really is no ‘one definite size that can definitely fit all’.

Please monitor how your skin responds to a certain acne medication. If things do not look too good and your skin seems to be getting worse – stop whatever you are using and see your doctor or skin specialist.

Additional tips to take note of…

  • [list style=”arrow”]
    • You will need to use a non-medicated soap to wash your skin where the acne has attacked. Too much washing will only aggravate the situation and so you should only do this twice daily.
    • To treat dry peeling skin use a water-based oil free moisturizer and apply it on affected areas of your skin
    • And one important thing – Be patient okay. You will need to be patient and give the medicine time to work. Do not make the common mistake of switching treatment too quickly before you have even given it time to react. Well, not unless you get adverse or awful skin reaction.


But do remember that you may have to experiment with a variety of different over the counter acne treatment before you finally find what works best for you.

There are no comments yet, add one below.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *