According to The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), adult acne is increasing, affecting up to 15 percent of women. With this number comes too many treatments to count, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription. While dermatologists recommend scheduling a consultation before you choose a method, they also understand that an in-person visit to the office might not be in the cards right now.
If you’re more comfortable tackling your acne at home for the time being, here are seven expert-recommended OTC products to add to your skin-care lineup.
“The long-standing staples for treatment of acne are salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids. I have my patients use PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Maximum Strength ($10), especially if they have back acne. They can also use Neutrogena Rapid Clear Daily Leave-On Mask ($10) for the face. Benzoyl peroxide is not well-tolerated for those without acne or sensitive-skinned individuals.” —Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby
“I like the SkinFix Resurface+ AHA/BHA Niacinamide Exfoliating Pads ($67) because they’re gentle and take the concept of naturally-sourced and make it plausible. I hear the word ‘natural’ and it often makes me uneasy, but SkinFix has built their product line around its version of natural, and it makes sense to me—I think it’s authentic and I think they do it really well. I also really like SLMD Resurfacing Acne Swipes ($35) and Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash ($8), which has salicylic acid. You wouldn’t use all of these together, but I would recommend these products alongside prescription treatments. Lastly, I like the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Cream ($24).” —New York dermatologist Doris Day, MD
“My favorite over-the-counter product for acne is Avène Clearance Concentrate Blemish Control Serum ($28). This product helps reduce the appearance of blemishes and tightens pores. It also contains comedoclastin, a plant-based extract from milk thistle that reduces oil production and blemishes, as well as Avène thermal spring water to soothe and calm acne-prone skin. It is an excellent product for adults and adolescents with blemish-prone skin who want a product that is safe, soothing, and effective without harsh ingredients.” —Monroe, LA dermatologist Janine Hopkins, MD
“Noxzema Ultimate Clear Anti-Blemish Pads ($4) would be my first OTC choice for treating acne. Salicylic acid is great for a gentle exfoliation, chemical exfoliation and for helping to dry up the oil that contributes to acne. I also like Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash ($7), which has effective ingredients and is gentle and refreshing.” — New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD
“As a dermatologist, I see severe and significant cases of acne that typically require medical intervention with prescriptions. However, I do recommend products that are noncomedogenic—which means they won’t make acne worse—as part of a treatment plan. To that end, I recommend Vanicream Cleansing Bar ($5) for face-washing and CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion ($12).” —Eagan, MN dermatologist Charles Crutchfield, MD
“My favorite product for combating acne is Dr. Zenovia Skincare Advanced Retinol Night Repair Treatment ($72). Retinol is one of the most researched and proven actives in dermatology and almost all dermatologists believe in the science of retinoic acid as a key player for acne and anti-aging. Retinol helps regulate sebum production and increases cell turnover, preventing the formation of blackheads, whiteheads and cysts. In addition, retinol is an infamous collagen protector.” — Newport Beach, CA dermatologist Zenovia H. Gabriel, MD