Acne treatment Acne treatment

Different Kinds of Acne Products

Different Kinds of Acne Products Different Kinds of Acne Products Different Kinds of Acne Products

With nearly endless options available for both over-the-counter and prescription acne treatment products, it's difficult to know which ones to use for what purposes, not to mention which ones actually work. The Mayo Clinic explains the four ways in which acne products treat the condition, and any product you use should do one or more of them. Acne medications can slow production of sebum, the skin's natural oil, accelerate skin cell turnover, combat infection and soothe inflammation. Patience is key with any acne product, as results can take a month or two to show.

Benzoyl Peroxide

The Mayo Clinic describes benzoyl peroxide as the most effective active ingredient in an acne product. Used for mild to moderate acne, over-the-counter products with benzoyl peroxide kill the bacteria that causes acne inflammation, take sebum out of the skin and exfoliate dead skin cells that can clog pores. The major side effect of benzoyl peroxide is overly dry skin.

Salicylic Acid

Over-the-counter acne products with salicylic acid work by reducing the shedding of dead skin cells that clog pores. They can help unclog pores, too, and work for treating noninflamed acne. Salicylic acid products require continuous use and may cause some skin irritation.

Alcohol and Acetone

The combination of alcohol and acetone is found in over-the-counter acne products that kill bacteria and cleanse the skin of oil and dirt. These products are for mild acne and can cause some burning sensations.

Sulfur and Resorcinol

The combination of sulfur and resorcinol is used in over-the-counter acne products that extract dead skin cells that clog pores, remove excess oil and help break down clogs. The Skin Care Physicians site of the American Academy of Dermatology points out that it's unclear exactly how sulfur contributes to acne treatment, but that it's been considered effective for over half a century. The main side effects of these products, which may not manifest until several days after use, are redness and peeling of the skin.

Topical Antimicrobials

These prescription acne products are often the next step after over-the-counter treatments prove ineffective. The Mayo Clinic points out that they usually work best for moderate to severe cases in conjunction with other courses of treatment. Topical antimicrobials kill the bacteria that causes acne (known as P. acnes). Azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, clindamycin, erythromycin and sodium sulfacetamide are the types of topical antimicrobials used for acne treatment. Skin dryness and irritation are typical side effects of these products.


Isotretinoin is an oral prescription acne medication used to unclog pores for the treatment of severe acne cysts. The Mayo Clinic explains that isotretinoin is used only as a last resort for the most severe cases because of its long list of side effects, some very serious.

Oral Antibiotics

Oral antibiotics may be prescribed for moderate to heavy acne. A regimen of these products can kill the bacteria that causes acne, as well as reduce inflammation. Erythromycin and tetracycline and their derivatives are most often used and are considered the most effective wide-spectrum oral antibiotics, according to Skin Care Physicians.

Topical Retinoids

These acne products treat mild to moderately severe cases. Adapalene, tazarotene and tretinoin are the three prescribed in the U.S. These medications break down clogs in pores and stifle the formation of whiteheads and blackheads. Topical retinoids can result in irritated skin and increased sensitivity to sunlight.

Oral Contraceptives

Prescription oral contraceptives made from a combination of norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol can effectively treat mild to moderate acne in women by reducing the production of sebum. They can, however, cause a variety of side effects and increase the risk of certain health problems like heart disease, stroke and hypertension.

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