A hero ingredient for breakout days, glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliant that helps increase cell turnover. The faster your cells replenish, the quicker you’ll heal from breakouts, fade blemish scars, and get rid of dirt and impurities. (While you’re dealing with breakouts, check out if any of these seven sneaky reasons for acne might be affecting you.) Glycolic acid should be part of a daily skin care regimen for blemish-prone skin. As glycolic acid can be difficult to tolerate at first, work it in to your routine once or twice weekly in a serum or toner. Eventually—trust me!—you’ll be able to use glycolic acid daily, and your skin will be all the brighter, clearer, and healthier for it. We love Glo Skin Beauty’s Renew Serum, which combines glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and retinol for an all-in-one glowing skin cocktail.
One of the most popular ingredients for troubled skin, salicylic acid is found in everything from cleaners to spot treatments to BB creams. “Salicylic acid fights the breakout within the pore by helping to normalize excessive shedding of cells and excess oil production—the primary contributors to blocked pores and breakouts,” says Howard Murad, MD, dermatologist and founder of Murad Skin Care. “Salicylic acid is known to be a gentle exfoliator to the upper layer of the skin and a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that helps to calm swollen, stressed skin.” If you suffer from red bumps and irritation, you’re going to want a Rapid Relief Spot Treatment in your purse at all times to help calm skin ASAP. (Here’s what your acne breakout says about you.)
According to Ashish Bhatia, MD, dermatologist at The Dermatology Institute, salicylic acid is ideal for “mild acne, blackheads and whiteheads.” He recommends ClarityMD Deep Pore Cleanser to gently lift away the dirt and excess oil that eventually erupt on your face in the form of clogged pores.
Check out some surefire ways to amp up your treatment—and then give benzoyl peroxide a try. The ingredient is available both in over-the-counter favorites and in prescription-strength spot treatments. BP is an antibacterial agent that works best on those with oily skin, says dermatologist Arash Akhavan, MD, of The Dermatology and Laser Group. Opt for BP if you have more resilient skin, advises Elyse Blakey, corporate educator at IMAGE Skincare. It can be used to treat mild to moderately troubled skin, so if you experience some initial redness, it can be worth it to power through. One important BP hack: Use it before you’ve dressed for work. In higher concentrations, it can leave bleach stains on colored clothes.
We love IMAGE’s Clear Cell Medicated Acne Lotion, an aesthetican favorite for treating blackheads and whiteheads. If you prefer your treatment in a cleanser, talk to a dermatologist about the strength that’s right for your skin.