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Best Over The Counter Acne Treatment Products

Many Over The Counter acne products are available in the market today that can treat mild to moderate acne or breakouts. They can be in the forms of cleansing lotions, gels, towelettes, masks, foams, treatments or kits. The question is: how do we know the acne product that is best for us?

OTC skin care products
credit: fifty shades of beauty blog

First, we have to understand and learn how these OTC acne products work and the ingredients that we have to look for. Then, we can now choose and develop a gentle skin care regimen to treat and prevent acne.

The Food and Drug Administration or FDA warns us that some OTC acne products can cause severe reactions like throat tightness and swelling of the face, tongue or lips. Although this type of reaction is rare, we should know it so that we do not confuse it with the redness, itchiness, or irritation that we may experience when we apply skin care products.

What are the common active ingredients in acne products?

Depending on the active ingredients, acne products work differently. There are OTC acne products that help kill the bacteria that cause inflammation. Some products help remove excess oil from the skin or increase the growth of new skin cells to replace dead skin cells.

Here is a list of common and proven active ingredients in OTC acne products and how they work to treat and prevent acne:

Benzoyl Peroxide

Kills the bacteria that cause acne. It helps remove excess oil and dead skin cells that can clog your skin pores. OTC benzoyl peroxide comes in 2.5% to 10% strength. Potential side effects include scaling, dry skin, redness, stinging and burning, especially if you have sensitive, dry skin. Just be careful when using benzoyl peroxide, as it can also bleach clothing and hair.

Salicylic acid

Helps prevent pores from becoming clogged. These OTC salicylic acid products come in 0.5% to 5% strengths. Potential side effects are skin irritation and mild stinging.

Alpha hydroxy acids

Come with two types used in nonprescription acne products: glycolic acid and lactic acid. Alpha hydroxy acids are synthetic forms of acids from sugar-containing fruits. These acids aid in treating acne by removing dead skin cells and minimize inflammation. Alpha hydroxy acids help stimulate the development of new and smoother skin. This will help improve the looks of acne scars.


Helps remove dead skin cells and excess oil that clog the pores. It is usually mixed with other ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or resorcinol. Potential side effects include dry skin. Some of these products with sulfur have an unpleasant smell.

How do we choose an effective acne product?

It will depend on many factors such as your skin type, the type, and severity of your acne, and of course your skin care preferences.

choosing the right skin care product for acne

Start with acne product that contains benzoyl peroxide

If you are not sure which acne product to get. It is proven effective and well-tolerated by most people. You have to wait several days before seeing some results. Read the product labels for the type and the amount of its active ingredient. Higher strengths are not always better. For some cases, the 2.5% strength works and those with stronger concentrations and with fewer side effects.

Begin with lower concentration acne products to reduce redness, dry skin, and other skin problems

If it is needed, you can increase the strength of the acne product – slowly over several weeks – and the frequency that you use it. This way will help your skin adjust to the treatment – gradually.

Get products with different active ingredients to treat stubborn acne

By this time, we know that active ingredients work in different ways, so it is helpful to get different products and ingredients to treat stubborn acne. You can use one product in the morning, while another product at night to prevent skin irritation.

It’s cool to be patient

It takes time and patience to treat acne. Sometimes it may take two to three months of daily use of a product to see some results. In some instances, acne may look worse before it gets better.

You may have to try and experiment with different OTC acne products with different active ingredients before finding what works for you.

When still in doubt and not sure, we recommend seeing a dermatologist.

Are there any skin care tips while using acne products?

Wash the problem areas twice every day

We recommend a gentle non-soap cleanser and avoid overdoing it. Excessive washing and scrubbing can make acne worse to worst. Scrubs that dissolve during washing are the less harsh to your skin, while scrubs with ground fruit pits and aluminum oxide may tend to be harsh.

Cleansing cloths or towelettes are gentle options over cleansers and washes

You can get clothes with open weave if you have dry, sensitive skin types. Cloths with tighter weave are better at getting rid of dead skin cells.

Try pore-clearing adhesive pads like the Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips

They are formulated to remove dirt and excess oil that clog the pores. You use the strip to wet skin, allow it to dry, and peel it off. However, further studies are needed to prove their use in treating and preventing acne from developing. Avoid using these strips for more than once every three days.

Avoid overusing a product

Just use enough to cover the problem areas and apply it after cleansing the skin. Get cloths and towelettes that contain benzoyl peroxide and other active ingredients, so you do not have to use more products that have these ingredients after cleansing.

Consider an oil-free, water-based moisturizer to help reduce dry and peeling skin.

Avoid using oily cosmetics, sunscreens and hair products. Choose those labeled water-based or non-comedogenic.

Avoid picking or squeezing blemishes because it can result in scarring or infection.

Be careful with what touches your face. Keep your hair clean and off your face. Avoid resting your hand or phone against the side of your face.

If acne does not improve after two or three months of home treatments, we recommend seeing your doctor or dermatologist for prescription acne products or medication.

Here are some over-the-counter acne products:

1. Proactiv 3-Step Acne Treatment System Starter Size (30-Day treatment)

Proactiv 3-Step Acne Treatment System (30-day) Starter Size

This Proactive 3-Step Acne Treatment System starter kit contains Renewing Cleanser, Revitalizing Toner, and Repairing Treatment. These products are formulated to work together to clear acne and prevent future breakouts. The system helps kill acne-causing bacteria with its proven acne-fighting ingredients including benzoyl peroxide.

The Renewing Cleanser contains tiny, smooth exfoliating beads to remove oil, dirt, and makeup. It also has prescription-grade benzoyl peroxide (2.5%)  to combat acne-causing bacteria.

Revitalizing Toner is alcohol-free toner with a soothing blend of ingredients including glycolic acid for even skin tone and texture.

The Repairing Treatment contains 2.5% benzoyl peroxide that absorbs quickly to fight against the source of your acne, clearing blemishes, and helps prevent new breakouts.

How to Apply

Step 1: Cleanse. Massage a generous amount of Renewing Cleanser and damp on the skin for about 1 to 2 minutes. Rinse off with warm water and pat dry. Apply in the morning and at night. Follow with Step 2.

Step 2: Tone. Apply a thin layer over of Revitalizing Toner your entire face with a cotton ball or pad. Do not rinse off and allow to dry. Apply this every day, morning and evening. Follow with Step 3.

Step 3. Treat. Apply a thin layer of Repairing Treatment over the whole face. Allow to dry and do not rinse off. Apply this daily, morning and evening.

Proactive 3-Step Acne Treatment System

2. Humane Acne Body & FaceWash 

Humane Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Treatment Body & Face Wash, 8 Ounce

This Humane Acne Body & Face Wash contains 10% benzoyl peroxide and is not recommended for those with sensitive skin types. It aims at killing bacteria that causes skin problem and helps prevent breakouts. It is an acne treatment for moderate to severe acne cases. This non-foaming wash absorbs quickly. This product guarantees clean ingredients, cruelty-free, and without parabens, fragrance, and SLS. This is manufactured in the USA in an FDA/cGMP compliant facility. The company ensures 100% satisfaction or your money refunded.

Test on a small affected area for about two to three days. Redness, peeling, irritation, and dry skin may be expected. If you experience severe of any of these effects, reduce use to once a day or every other day. Use this product with an oil-free moisturizer treatment to manage irritations. Treatment can take up to six weeks before seeing any result. Just be patient and consistent.

Take note that benzoyl peroxide can bleach fabrics. So we recommend using white or old towels and linens during the treatment period.

How to Use

Apply an even layer to damp skin and gently massage into the affected area. Leave it on the skin for about one minute ( 3-5 minutes if you can tolerate ) and then rinse thoroughly. Follow with an oil-free moisturizer.

For best results, apply 1-2 times daily. If peeling occurs, reduce application use.

Take note that this is for external use only. Avoid contact with your eyes and unnecessary exposure to the sun. Use a sunscreen if you are outdoors.

Humane Acne Body & Face Wash

3. Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture

Neutrogena Oil-Free Daily Facial Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin, Ultra-Gentle & Lightweight Moisturizers Free of Fragrances & Dyes, 4 fl. oz

This Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture is formulated for those with sensitive skin type. It is water-based, lightweight moisturizer that gives gentle but effective moisturization for even the most sensitive skin. The oil-free dermatologist-tested formula vanishes into your skin without leaving it greasy or shiny. Irritant-free and alcohol-free. Your skin is left feeling smooth, soft, and moisturized.

Other variants of this oil-free moisturizer are:

  • Ideal for Dry to Normal Skin
  • Ideal for Daily Sun Exposure
  • Can be used Combination Skin

Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture

4. Teddy Organics Organic Rosehip Oil

Teddie Organics Organic Rosehip Oil

Are you suffering from any of these skin problems:

  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Redness and uneven skin tone
  • Rosacea, dermatitis, psoriasis
  • Scars due to acne, cuts, or surgery
  • Age spots or damaged skin due to UV rays, and many more.

Teddy Organics have formulated this Organic Rosehip Oil to fight all of these skin problems with just a few drops. Rosehip oil is loaded with essential fatty acids like linoleic acid (Omega-6), linoleic acid (Omega-9), and linolenic acid (Omega-3). It is also rich in beta carotene, Vitamin C, and other antioxidants that help prevent free-radicals damage

How to Use

Apply 2 to 3 drops to a clean, damp or dry skin and massage gently.  Smooth over fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes and on the forehead. Or, apply directly to dry zones like elbows, heels, feet, and hands to help repair damaged skin.

Rosehip Oil is a dry oil, and it absorbs fast and does not leave any residue. You can also add few drops to your moisturizer, shampoo or conditioner to boost hydration.

This product is for external use only. If you experience irritation, discontinue. Avoid direct contact with the eyes. Never ingest.

Teddy Organics Organic Rosehip Oil

5. LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer

LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer

LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer has a Vitamin A formulation that promises noticeable results without irritation, redness, and dryness. Uses the highest concentration of plant-based and active ingredients for a healthier and more youthful look while hydrating without greasy residue. Helps promote clear skin and control breakouts. Comes with fresh scent from aloe vera and green tea ensuring you that there are no harmful chemicals used.

How to Apply

Use this retinol cream morning and night. Apply a small amount on your face, eyes, and neck after cleansing. If the cream causes initial dryness, alternate days with a facial moisturizer without retinol. Those with sensitive skin types may want to blend this retinol cream into their skincare regimen slowly. Start by using it every other day. Always wear sunscreen as retinol increases sensitivity to the sun.

LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer

6. Eva Naturals Vitamin C Serum Plus

Eva Naturals Vitamin C Serum Plus

This Skin Clearing Vitamin C Serum from Eva Naturals contains Vitamin C with other potent ingredients for anti-aging benefits such as UV protection. It helps repair sun-damaged skin. It also contains Hyaluronic acid that provides hydration for smoother and younger-looking skin. Niacinamide promotes healthy skin by naturally minimizing inflammation and soothing troubled skin for even skin tone. It has retinol that helps cleanse pores making them appear smaller. It has exfoliating effects of salicylic acid that fights blemishes — ideal for all skin types.

Eva Naturals Vitamin C Serum Plus

7. TruSkin Naturals Tea Tree Clear Skin Super Serum

TruSkin Naturals Tea Tree Clear Skin Super Serum

This Tea Tree Clear Skin Super Serum from TruSkin Naturals blends the power of Vitamin C, Retinol, Vitamin B3, Hyaluronic acid, Salicylic acid, MSM & Tea Tree essential oil for a synergistic formula that targets acne, acne scars, blemishes, dark spots, uneven skin tone, dull and dry skin for fresher and clearer skin complexion. You only have to apply this serum two to three times a week to get full benefits of the ingredients. The product was not tested on animals. It was manufactured in the USA in an FDA-Registered facility.

Take note that this serum is concentrated and strong. Just like any other skin care product, we recommend doing a patch test on a small area of the skin on your neck to make sure that the formula is a good fit for you. If it is compatible with your skin, begin applying 3 to 5 drops of this Tea Tree Clear Skin Serum followed by your moisturizer just 2 to 3 times a week. Avoid using this product near the eye area.

TruSkin Naturals Tea Tree Clear Skin Super Serum

8. Treatment Treatment

This 2.5% benzoyl peroxide is a pharmaceutical-grade gel-based, so it goes on clear and spreads easily. It is pH-balanced, fragrance-free, and dye-free. Will not “clump up” with moisturizers. and will not turn white when you sweat. This is formulated to treat acne, pimples, zits, and spots. Treatment





9. Nutricare Plus Micro Peel Facial Cloths (8”x8”)

Nutricare Plus Micro Peel Facial Cloths

This facial cloth is made from super soft microfibers for skin and body washings. There are no soaps, lotions, or other ingredients are needed. You just need warm water to clean your skin right down to the pores.  To remove makeup, you just need a mild cleanser. This facial cloth is also ideal for those who suffer from acne. Use this cloth daily. It pulls from the depth of the pores to remove impurities and bacteria within the skin.

The cloth is durable that it can be rinsed and reused over and over again. They can survive and thrive through hundreds of washes. It is made from a state-of-the-art matrix of polyester and polyamide weaved to create a magnetic that picks up dirt. Promises to rejuvenate and clean like no other washcloth or loofah.

This Nutricare Plus Micro Peel Facial Cloths come in 3-, 10-, and 50-piece pack.

Nutricare Plus Micro Peel Facial Cloths (8”x8”)

10. Loran Luxury Bamboo Facial Washcloths (Set of 6 White Cloths)

Luxury Bamboo Facial Washcloths, Set of 6, white

This bamboo facial washcloth from Loran Luxury is made of viscose from pure bamboo fiber. They feel softer and plusher than cotton. You can use them to cleanse and exfoliate without scratching or over-scrubbing. Each of these white washcloths measures 10” by 10” which is perfect for facial cleansing. This washcloth is ideal for acne-prone skin. Loran Luxury ensures that each washcloth does not have harsh dries or chemical or any harmful additives.

Care Instructions: Machine washes with a gentle cycle and then tumble dry low. Snags may occur because of the delicate, pure bamboo fiber. If you notice a snag, just cut it. Avoid pulling any loose threads.

Loran Luxury Bamboo Facial Washcloths (Set of 6 White Cloths)

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Have a happy feeling with acne-free skin!

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Written by Maria

My passion is helping other people overcome the pain and embarrassment of acne. I have dealt with acne since my teenage years and know first-hand how hard it is to suffer from this condition.

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