Share on Facebook

The 9 Best Acne Products That Really Work

Is there a really a difference between treating your acne with high-end or prescription products versus over-the-counter ones? Top dermatologists spill the beans.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

Differin gel acne treatment.via

Differin .1 Gel

“The Differin .1 Gel is a wonderful, drugstore acne medication,” says Samer Jaber, MD, a dermatologist at Washington Square Dermatology in New York, NY. “It was available by prescription for over 20 years, and was approved in 2016 as an over-the-counter medication. It works differently than other OTC acne medications because it’s a retinoid, has anti-inflammatory properties, and clears clogged pores to prevent new acne. It should be the first OTC product that anyone struggling with facial acne uses,” says Dr. Jaber. However, if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant you should not use Differin or any product that contains retinoids. Find out what your acne breakout is secretly trying to tell you.

Buy now

Biore self-heating one minute mask acne treatment.via

Biore Self Heating One Minute Mask

“The Biore Self-Heating One Minute Mask is applied wet to the face for 1 minute and rinsed off with water. It self-heats and has a tingling, fresh sensation, leaving pores smaller, tighter, and cleaner,” says Patricia Wexler, MD, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York, NY. “It contains kaolin, zeolite, and charcoal powder. It’s the best acne product for oily skin types with large pores to get significant improvement in both oil production and pore size.” Please excuse us while we sprint to the nearest drugstore to pick up this wonder product! Here are 11 more facial masks that help clear acne.

Buy now

La Roche-Posay Effaclar duo dual action acne treatmentvia

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment

The La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment is non-drying, oil-free, and easily absorbed. However, the most important component of this drugstore acne treatment is the fact that it contains 5.5 percent micronized benzoyl peroxide, which makes it one of the best acne products on the market. “Benzoyl peroxide comes in many variations, from 2 to 10 percent, in a gel, liquid wash, or foam vehicle,” says Shari Sperling, DO, a dermatologist at Sperling Dermatology in Florham Park, NJ. “I generally suggest starting at a low or mid percentage and seeing how you tolerate it, then if it’s not too irritating (because it can be), increase in application and strength.”

Buy now

Panoxyl acne foaming wash for acne.via

Panoxyl 10% Acne Foaming Wash

“For acne on the chest and back, I always recommend Panoxyl Acne Foaming Wash. It is a benzoyl peroxide wash, which is a very effective acne treatment for both cystic and non-cystic acne,” says Dr. Jaber. “It comes in a bar or foaming cleanser, both of which can be used in the shower.” Be careful if you have sensitive skin, as some people find benzoyl peroxide very irritating. Also, make sure to use white towels as it will bleach your colored towels, he says. Read more about the facts and myths about adult acne that will help you on your way to clearer skin.

Buy now

Yes to Tomatoes acne daily pore scrub for acne.via

Yes to Tomatoes Acne Daily Pore Scrub

“The Yes to Tomatoes Acne Daily Pore Scrub is one of the best acne products for comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads), but gentle enough for daily use,” says Dr. Wexler. “It is a combination of tomatoes (lycopene), bisabolol, ginger, and salicylic acid. Bisabolol and ginger help control inflammation and irritation of acne flares. Ground mango seeds and bamboo exfoliate the skin and help cell turnover. Salicylic acid combats acne and blemishes by ridding the skin of excess cells that trap sebum and bacteria in the pores,” she says. You should also  know these home remedies for blackheads.

Buy now

Oil-free acne wash pink grapefruit facial cleanser acne treatment by Neutrogena.via

Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser

“The Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser is great as a daily face wash for those who have mild acne,” says Amanda Doyle, MD, a dermatologist at Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York, NY. This drugstore staple also helps control severe breakouts—even blackheads—because it’s formulated with maximum strength salicylic acid acne medicine. It effectively eliminates oil and dirt, and cleanses without over-drying. If you need a gentler alternative or prefer to cleanse with natural ingredients, consider these natural face cleansers you can make at home.

Buy now

Noxzema ultimate clear anti-blemish pad acne treatment.via

Noxzema Ultimate Clear Anti-Blemish Pads

The classic Noxzema Ultimate Clear Anti-Blemish Pads have withstood the test of time thanks to a formula including medicated salicylic acid. Dr. Sperling considers salicylic acid an excellent ingredient to look out for in OTC products as a first line option acne treatment prior to visiting your dermatologist. And don’t be put off by the fact that it costs less than $6—Dr. Sperling says it’s fine to look for the cheapest brand. You’ll also want to check out the foods that improve your acne (and a few that make it worse).

Buy now

Bye Bye Blemish acne treatmentvia

Bye Bye Blemish Acne Control Gel

“The Bye Bye Blemish Acne Treatment Drying Lotion is best used as a spot blemish treatment applied alone on the lesion,” says Dr. Wexler. “Do not shake when applying; apply sediment directly with a Q-Tip to the affected spot. It is both antiseptic and clarifying, and reduces the size and severity of blemishes,” she says. “It exfoliates the clogged pores with a beta hydroxy acid formula. The maximum-strength salicylic acid exfoliates dead cells from the pores and the overnight zinc oxide and sulfur rapidly reduces the size and severity of the lesions. It is also hypoallergenic and antimicrobial,” Dr. Wexler adds. Find out which acne treatments many dermatologists use on their own skin.

Buy now

Cerave moisturizing cream acne treatment.via

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

After you’ve applied any of the powerful treatments mentioned above, you may need to soothe your skin with a nourishing cream. Keeping irritation at bay is one of the keys to returning your skin to a healthier state. “Many acne regimens can be very harsh and drying for the skin,” says Dr. Doyle. “I always recommend that patients use a nice moisturizer to prevent them from getting too dry during treatment. I like CeraVe Moisturizing Cream.” On top of healing your skin with soothing creams, you should practice these equally important acne-fighting rules.

Buy now

  • Samer Jaber, MD, dermatologist at Washington Square Dermatology, New York, NY.
  • Patricia Wexler, MD, dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology, New York, NY.
  • Shari Sperling, DO, dermatologist at Sperling Dermatology, Florham Park, NJ.
  • Amanda Doyle, MD, dermatologist at Russak Dermatology Clinic, New York, NY.
Medically reviewed by Jessica Wu, MD, on August 08, 2019

Aubrey Almanza
Aubrey Almanza is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and King's College London. Her writing has appeared in Prevention, SHAPE, and Reader's Digest, among others. She specializes in data-driven content on topics of wellness, beauty, culture, art, and fashion.