Do These Acne-Fighting Ingredients Actually Work?

Updated on September 28, 2022

When you wake up with a new spot of acne, it can make you feel like your day is ruined. And while it would be great if acne were only a problem for pre-teens and teens, many people deal with blemishes and breakouts throughout their lifetimes. It’s no wonder that there are many skincare products out there meant to prevent and remove acne.

But, with so many ingredients and products claiming to reduce and fight acne, trying to find options that work can feel overwhelming. To some extent, what works for one person might not work for another, so it can be an exercise of trial and error. 

But, there are also some proven ingredients that will fight acne for most people and reduce breakouts. 

Here’s what you need to know when looking for acne-fighting ingredients that work.

A Note On Ingredients

When looking for skincare products that remove acne and keep new breakouts from forming, remember to look for products that don’t contain a bunch of extra things. 

Products with a lot of fragrance or chemicals may harm your skin or not work well. So, it’s often better to look for options with simple, effective ingredients. If you do have questions, look up the ingredient list online. 

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is one of the top ingredients you’ll see when shopping for acne-fighting skin care options. This ingredient works by removing bacteria and dead skin from your pores. And the good news is there is a lot of evidence that it does help with acne for many individuals. 

When looking for a product with benzoyl peroxide, the strength of the ingredient matters. Most over-the-counter options will range from around 2% to 10%. Keep in mind that the stronger the concentration, the more likely the product will irritate your skin, so you should slowly work up to using it daily.

Salicylic Acid

While benzoyl peroxide might be extremely common, you’ll see salicylic acid even more often in products meant to remove acne. There’s a good reason for this, too. Salycic acid comes from plants like willow bark and helps the skin in several ways. 

It removes clogged pores by cleaning out dirt and oils, which can keep acne from forming. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that salicylic acid can help with blackheads and whiteheads, so it’s a good choice for minor acne issues. 

Just like with benzoyl peroxide, some products have more potent concentrations of salicylic acid than others, so if you have questions, ask a dermatologist for their recommendations. 

Adapalene and Other Retinoids

For many people, adapalene gel or another retinoid is the best option for fighting acne. These products are derived from Vitamin-A. While you might think of retinoids as an anti-aging ingredient, they also treat breakouts. 

These days, you can find some retinoids over the counter, but you can also seek a prescription-strength option from a doctor. Depending on how severe your acne is, a stronger formula might be the best option. However, stronger concentrations can also dry out your skin, so listen to any recommendations about using the product and stop using it if you notice a rash or other strong reaction. 

When you buy acne-fighting products, looking for options containing one of the three above ingredients is a good bet. These options do have clinical backing to show they help with acne. But remember that it can take time for any new product to start working, and being consistent will bring the best results. 

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