When breakouts first appear, the first place most people turn is to the skin care aisle at the local drug store. There are plenty of over-the-counter acne products to choose from. Maybe even too many.
With all those choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But when you know what to look for, it’s not too difficult to find the right OTC product.
First, look for an acne treatment cleanser. The brand name isn’t important, as long as it contains either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Both of these are proven acne-fighting ingredients that help keep pores clear and stop breakouts before they start. Check the active ingredients on the product’s label.
As long as the cleanser isn’t making the skin too dry, you can build an OTC acne treatment routine by adding medicated pads, toners or an acne treatment lotion. Again, make sure these products contain either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
What about body acne? Breakouts on the body can be treated with a body wash or medicated soap bar containing (you guessed it) benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
No matter what OTC product you choose, make sure to use it for 12 weeks continuously before deciding it’s not working, or trying something else. Remember, over-the-counter products only work for mild acne and not for more serious breakouts.
Prescription Treatments for Teen Acne
For more persistent acne, or deep, inflamed nodules or painful cysts, a prescription acne medication is in order. Don’t bounce from one OTC product to another looking for a solution.
- Topical retinoids
- Topical antibiotics
- Combination medications
Sometimes oral medications are needed to get stubborn acne under control. They are often used along with topical treatments. Systemic medications for acne include isotretinoin and oral antibiotics. Unlike topical medications, oral medications are generally used short-term. Once acne is significantly cleared, it can be kept in check with topical treatments alone.
Clear Skin Takes Time
It may take a few tries to find the right treatment, or combination of treatments, that is most effective. This can be frustrating, but try not to let it be discouraging. Each medication tried is ultimately one step closer to clear skin.
Also, expect that new breakouts will continue to form, even after treatment has begun. Pimples won’t immediately stop appearing and acne may get a little bit worse before the medicine starts to take full effect.
Over time, breakouts will become smaller, less red, and will heal more quickly. It is a gradual process, not overnight clearing.