5 Best Acne Treatments That Help To Get Rid Of Spots And Scars For Good

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Acne can be painful, confidence-destroying, and frustrating. The right skincare is a crucial step toward treating and preventing acne.

We have researched the best acne treatments on the market so you don’t have to.

Keep reading for multi-step routines to take you from morning to night with safe and effective acne-fighting ingredients.

TOP 5: Best Acne Treatments 2019

1. Exposed Skin Care

Exposed Skin Care

The first product on our list is the Expanded Kit by Exposed Skin Care, a six-piece package designed to clear existing acne and prevent future breakouts.

In the pack, you receive a Facial Cleanser, Clearing Tonic, Moisture Complex, Clear Pore Serum, Acne Treatment Serum, and Derm-X cloth.

This is great for people who want to overhaul their entire skincare routine and ensure that each step is geared toward clearing up acne.

The active ingredients are salicylic acid1 (Facial Cleanser, Clearing Tonic, Clear Pore Serum) and benzoyl peroxide2 (Acne Treatment Serum).

You will also find green tea extract which helps to keep sebum production at a healthy level.

Azelaic acid3 helps to soothe redness and keeps bacteria from creating further acne.

Tea tree oil4 is a powerful yet gentle disinfectant that kills bacteria and helps to shrink existing pimples.

Licorice root extract5 is found in the Clear Pore Serum, a great addition that helps to fade acne scars.

We really like that these formulas are focused on hydration as well as treating acne, as proper moisture levels are very important in the prevention of pimples.

What’s more, sage leaf extract and passionflower are included to soothe irritated, sore skin and reduce redness.

This would be an ideal starter pack for people struggling with an onset of acne and need a full routine to combat the symptoms and causes all day long.

However, note that it contains propylene glycol which is a known irritant.

While hundreds of people have experienced great results, others have experienced reactions and further breakouts.

This could be due to a hormonal issue (topical skincare treatments can’t treat all acne), or they could be allergic to some of the ingredients.

How it works?
  • Facial Cleanser and Clearing Tonic are used each morning, followed by Acne Treatment Serum and Moisture Complex. In the evening, the Clear Pore Serum replaces the Acne Treatment Serum.
  • Bacteria is killed, pores are cleared, and existing pimples are dried and minimized.
  • The skin’s natural moisture barrier is preserved, the skin is softened and soothed, and redness is reduced.
Pros & cons
Pros
  • 1-year money-back guarantee.
  • A complete skincare routine.
  • Promotes hydration.
  • Helps to soothe irritated or sore skin.
  • Great value for money.
Cons
  • Contains propylene glycol (an irritant).
  • Reports of painful reactions.

2. Proactiv MD

Proactiv MD

Next, the Proactiv MD 3-Step System.

The MD range is a newer addition to the Proactiv set of products and contains different active ingredients than the original formulas.

This pack features a Deep Cleansing Face Wash, Daily Oil Control Moisturizer, and Adapalene Gel 0.1%.

The idea behind this range is that it gives you medical-grade acne treatment without the need for a doctor’s appointment.

The Deep Cleansing Face Wash gently removes dead skin and oils with exfoliating beads.

The Daily Oil Control Moisturizer’s active ingredients are avobenzone (3%), octisalate (5%), and octocrylene (78%).

These ingredients are added for sun protection (SPF30), but they are questionable.

Octocrylene6 is considered an undesirable sunscreen ingredient because it can cause premature aging and cell damage.

Note that this formula does not include salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide found in most other acne treatments.

The moisturizing step seems to be purely for sun protection, oil-free moisture, and gentle shine control as opposed to actively fighting acne.

The final step, Adapalene Gel 0.1% is the real acne-fighting ingredient.

This is a topical treatment to be applied directly to affected skin.

Adapalene is a retinoid, which means it is a similar substance to vitamin A and acts similarly.

Adapalene reduces acne by unclogging pores so pimples and blackheads can be cleared.

What’s more, it does so without inflaming or irritating the skin.

It is often used as an alternative to salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

This would be a good option for you if you have mild acne, and require gentle treatment, and daily sun protection.

However, we recommend trying a patch test of the moisturizing step, to ensure the SPF ingredients do not irritate your skin.

How it works?
  • The Deep Cleansing Face Wash is used morning and night. It removes excess dirt and oil, sloughs off dead skin cells to prevent pores from clogging.
  • Daily Oil Control Moisturizer is used each morning and protects the skin from sun damage while reducing shine and controlling oil levels.
  • Adapalene Gel is used at night, with a moisturizer underneath and on top. It penetrates and clears out blocked pores.
Pros & cons
Pros
  • Protects the skin from sun damage.
  • Controls oil.
  • Provides AM to PM care.
  • 60-day money-back guarantee.
Cons
  • Questionable ingredients (octocrylene).
  • No salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
  • Contains fragrance.

3. Paula’s Choice Clear Regular

Paula's Choice Regular Strength

At number three, we have the Paula’s Choice Regular Strength 3-Step Routine.

This set includes the Pore Normalizing Cleanser, Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution, and Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment.

The cleansing step contains salicylic acid as the active, acne-clearing ingredient.

However, it also contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate which is a known irritant.

The exfoliating solution (used as a toner after cleansing) also contains salicylic acid, which means it further penetrates the pores after the cleansing step.

The skin-clearing treatment step contains benzoyl peroxide as the active ingredient, which dries out existing pimples, removes the top layer of skin, and kills the bacteria beneath.

It also contains Allantoin7and bisabolol8 to soothe and calm the skin.

While this trio of acne-fighting products has a few questionable ingredients, it has a great track-record for effectiveness.

It is intended for people with mild to moderate acne, and a reasonably robust skin type (certain ingredients may be irritating for sensitive skin).

How it works?
  • The cleansing step is used in the morning and evening. Salicylic acid penetrates the skin and clears out clogged pores and blemishes.
  • The exfoliation solution and skin-clearing treatment can be used once or twice daily, depending on the severity of the acne and if they cause a lot of dryness.
  • The benzoyl peroxide in the second two steps dry out and peel away the outer layer of skin to help clear and kill the acne-causing bacteria underneath.
  • An oil-free moisturizer of your choosing should be used after the three steps.
Pros & cons
Pros
  • Contains salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
  • Not as drying (compared to other acne treatments).
  • Brightens complexion overall.
  • Great track record of acne-clearing effectiveness.
  • 60-day money-back guarantee.
Cons
  • Contains sodium laureth sulfate (an irritant).
  • Contains propylene glycol (an irritant).

4. Neutrogena Complete Acne Therapy System

Neutrogena Complete Acne Therapy System

At number four, we have the very affordable Neutrogena Complete Acne Therapy System.

This set includes the Skin Polishing Acne Cleanser, Oil-Free Moisture, and Acne Control Lotion.

This takes you from morning to night, with acne-fighting ingredients in the cleanser and lotion.

The oil-free moisturizer does not contain acne-controlling ingredients, but it does control SPF 15 to protect the skin from the sun.

SPF 15 is rather low, and it would be greatly improved if it had a higher SPF.

The Skin Polishing Cleanser includes salicylic acid (2%) as the active ingredient which reaches into the pores and clears out bacteria and clogged material.

It also includes AHA (alpha hydroxy acid)9 which helps to exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells which can contribute to breakouts.

Note that any skincare product containing AHA needs to be used with caution when it comes to sun exposure.

Avoid sunburn, acne scars, and discomfort by using the SPF 15 moisturizer in the pack, plus a hat, and even an extra layer of a higher SPF cream.

The Acne Control Lotion is intended to go directly onto clean skin after the cleanser has been used.

It contains benzoyl peroxide (2.5%) which dries out the skin so the bacteria beneath can be unclogged and destroyed.

It offers treatment of existing breakouts as well as helping to prevent new ones from forming.

This could be a good choice for you if you require something affordable, potent, and comprehensive.

Be mindful that this routine requires you to take extra care with sun exposure, and the active ingredients can cause drying and flaking.

How it works?
  • The cleanser is used morning, to remove excess oil and dead skin cells by way of salicylic acid.
  • The oil-free moisturizing lotion is applied each morning to protect the skin from the sun (marginally).
  • At night, the cleanser can be used again, but if it causes excess drying it’s recommended to be used every second day. The Acne Control Lotion is applied to clean skin at night, directly to the affected areas. Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria and gently peels away at dead skin. Follow this step with a moisturizer to combat the drying effect of benzoyl peroxide.
Pros & cons
Pros
  • Great value for money.
  • Contains salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
  • Provides a morning-to-night routine for all-day acne treatment.
Cons
  • Contains octocrylene (can be irritating to the skin).
  • Contains fragrance.
  • Contains microbeads which can be harmful to the environment.

5. ClearPores

ClearPores

Last but not least, ClearPores 3-Step Acne Recovery System.

What stands out as the key difference between this option and the previous ones, is that it contains a dietary supplement.

The daily herbal supplement contains dandelion root, aloe vera10, licorice root, echinacea, and other herbal ingredients.

This supplement is designed to naturally balance hormones, flush toxins from the body, boost blood circulation, and promote healthy digestion.

This is an impressive step, as it helps to prevent acne by treating the source as opposed to simply managing symptoms.

However, it’s smart to check with your doctor (or run it past a chemist) to ensure the ingredients will not interfere with any existing medications you are taking.

The second step is the Deep Facial Wash which uses salicylic acid to kill and remove acne-causing bacteria.

It also helps to control sebum production, balance the skin’s pH, and remove excess skin to prevent blockages.

It aims to preserve the skin’s natural moisture barrier with ingredients such as glycerin and linseed extract.

The third step is the Protection Cream, which is essentially a moisturizer.

It contains glycolic acid and salicylic acid, both of which gently exfoliate the skin to avoid blockages and build-up of oil and dead skin.

Note that this does not contain SPF, so you must remember to include sun protection in your daily skincare routine.

This will protect the skin from sunburn and peeling as increased by the presence of salicylic acid and glycolic acid.

How it works?
  • The herbal supplement is taking daily, using herbal ingredients to balance hormones and flush toxins.
  • The cleanser is used morning and night, with salicylic acid penetrating the skin and removing built-up oils, bacteria, and dead skin.
  • The Protection Cream restores moisture and adds an extra layer of salicylic acid to keep the pores clear and clean.
Pros & cons
Pros
  • Contains a supplement to treat acne symptoms from the inside.
  • Contains salicylic acid and glycolic acid.
  • Promotes healthy moisture levels.
  • 60-day money-back guarantee.
Cons
  • Contains parabens.
  • No SPF.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is an acne treatment?

acne before after treatment

An acne treatment is a topical skincare product that has been designed to treat and prevent acne.

Acne is a distressing skin condition that can affect anyone, not just teenagers.

It is characterized by red, bumpy pimples on the skin. It is caused by many things including hormone imbalances and lifestyle.

Acne forms when the hair follicles become clogged with oil, bacteria and dead skin.

Topical (applied to the skin as opposed to ingested like a medicine) treatments can come in the form of cleansers, moisturizers, and spot-treatments.

The aim is to clear the skin of excess oil, kill bacteria, and clean out clogged pores.

Who should buy an acne treatment?

acne skincare

Anyone can buy an acne treatment, especially if the issue is mild to moderate.

For severe acne, you must visit your doctor or skin specialist as you may need to be prescribed with a medication to treat the problem.

If your skin is normal (i.e. not sensitive) and you don’t have any other skin problems, you could try one of the products on our list.

Note that a few pimples here and there is not acne, and such problems can be treated with a simple spot-treatment as opposed to an entire acne-treatment routine.

Talk to your doctor or skin specialist before using an acne treatment if you:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Have other skin issues such as eczema or psoriasis.
  • Are on medications which affect the skin.
  • Have very sensitive skin.
  • Have very dry skin.

What ingredients Sshould I look for?

  • Salicylic acid: penetrates deep into the pores to target blackheads and pimples. It breaks down the content of the blemishes, helping the blemishes to be cleaned easily.
  • Benzoyl peroxide: dries out the top layer of the skin so bacteria and oils can be released and removed, kills the bacteria which forms acne and dries out existing acne.
  • Tea tree oil: a natural antibacterial which kills acne-causing bacteria while soothing inflammation and providing moisture.
  • Glycolic acid: breaks down clogged pores and gently exfoliates the skin so bacteria, oils, and dead skin can be released and removed
  • Green tea extract: helps to reduce inflammation and regulates sebum production.

Are there any side effects?

Ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and AHA can cause the skin to dry out and even peel a little.

This is a normal side-effect of such ingredients and isn’t a cause of major concern.

However, if this does happen, it’s a good idea to reduce your usage of the active products, and use extra moisturizing products.

Common side-effects are:

  • Redness (a little redness is normal, but if it is tender or raw, stop using the products).
  • Rashes (stop using the products if a rash appears).
  • Dryness and peeling (this is normal to a degree, but if it’s severe, seek advice).
  • Discomfort (if you experience burning or pain, stop using immediately).
  • More pimples (this can be a normal phase in which the skin is purging, but if it continues, stop using the products and seek further advice).

As with all topical skin treatments, it’s a great idea to try a patch test before using the product on a large area of skin.

This will reveal if you are allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients, and can save you from a painful reaction.

When using acne treatments that contain salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, you should avoid the sun, and wear an SPF when you can.

Acne-fighting ingredients may cause your skin to be more sensitive to the sun, resulting in redness and tenderness.

What’s more, sun exposure can increase the chances of acne scars.

Recap

acne treatment products

Acne treatments can make a huge difference in your skin’s appearance, quality, and comfort.

By using a multi-step routine containing active ingredients such as salicylic acid, AHA, and benzoyl peroxide, you can treat existing acne and help to prevent more outbreaks.

Check with your doctor or skin specialist if you feel as though your acne is severe or worsening, as it might be a hormonal imbalance that needs to be corrected via medications.

Make the most of the money-back guarantee many brands offer, and give an acne treatment a try!

References

  1. Lee, Ho‐Sup, and Il‐Hwan Kim. “Salicylic acid peels for the treatment of acne vulgaris in Asian patients.” Dermatologic surgery 29.12 (2003): 1196-1199. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1524-4725.2003.29384.x
  2. Thiboutot, Diane M., et al. “Adapalene-benzoyl peroxide, a fixed-dose combination for the treatment of acne vulgaris: results of a multicenter, randomized double-blind, controlled study.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 57.5 (2007): 791-799. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962207010249
  3. Baliña, Luis M., and Klaus Graupe. “The treatment of melasma 20% azelaic acid versus 4% hydroquinone cream.” International journal of dermatology 30.12 (1991): 893-895. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-4362.1991.tb04362.x
  4. Koh, K. J., et al. “Tea tree oil reduces histamine‐induced skin inflammation.” British Journal of Dermatology 147.6 (2002): 1212-1217. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.05034.x
  5. Nerya, Ohad, et al. “Glabrene and isoliquiritigenin as tyrosinase inhibitors from licorice roots.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 51.5 (2003): 1201-1207. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf020935u
  6. Avenel-Audran, Martine, et al. “Octocrylene, an emerging photoallergen.” Archives of dermatology 146.7 (2010): 753-757. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/article-abstract/421621
  7. Farber, Elliott. “Allantoin-containing skin cream.” U.S. Patent No. 6,329,413. 11 Dec. 2001. https://patents.google.com/patent/US6329413B1/en
  8. Kamatou, Guy PP, and Alvaro M. Viljoen. “A review of the application and pharmacological properties of α‐Bisabolol and α‐Bisabolol‐rich oils.” Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society 87.1 (2010): 1-7. https://aocs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1007/s11746-009-1483-3
  9. Yamamoto, Yuki, et al. “Effects of alpha‐hydroxy acids on the human skin of Japanese subjects: The rationale for chemical peeling.” The Journal of dermatology 33.1 (2006): 16-22. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1346-8138.2006.00003.x
  10. Hu, Yun, Juan Xu, and Qiuhui Hu. “Evaluation of antioxidant potential of Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis Miller) extracts.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 51.26 (2003): 7788-7791. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf034255i

About the author

Shelley Lewis RD, LD, CDE
Shelley Lewis RD, LD, CDE

Shelley is a registered dietician. She loves to help people to explore and improve all aspects of wellness to live a healthy, nutritious life. In spare she shares her knowledge with ThinkMelon's readers.

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