Best Over the Counter Acne Products

If you have mild to moderate acne, then over the counter acne products can significantly improve your skin. Here are the top 4 picks for the best acne products available without a prescription.

These picks are based off of consumer reviews, dermatologist research, and personal experience.

I am not affiliated with any of these brands or products, these are purely independent and objective recommendations.


Best Over the Counter Acne Products with
BENZOYL PEROXIDE:

Benzoyl Peroxide is one of the most common and effective acne treatment options available. It works by killing the acne-causing bacteria in the skin. In terms of concentration, clinical studies have shown that 2.5% benzoyl peroxide is just as effective in treating and preventing breakouts as its 5% and 10% counterparts. And because of the lower concentration of benzoyl peroxide, 2.5% gets rid of acne with much less irritation than the stronger formulations.

  • Top Pick: Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment, Vanishing Formula

    This product also works well and is available at almost all local drugstores. The only cons to this product are that it’s cream-based instead of gel-based (which can leave a white residue when you perspire) and it comes in a really small tube (so you don’t get much for the price). BUT a little can go a long way depending on your needs.

  • 2nd Choice: Paula’s Choice CLEAR Acne Fighting Treatment

    Best over the counter acne products
    I would recommend the Regular Strength formulation because it has a 2.5% concentration of benzoyl peroxide, but there is also an Extra Strength formulation with a 5% concentration. Personally I use the prescription product Duac for my skin, but I have used this product in the past and I would definitely recommend it for anyone with mild to moderate acne. It leaves an invisible matte finish and is 100% fragrance-free.

Best Over the Counter Acne Products with
SALICYLIC ACID:

Salicylic acid is often used as an alternative to benzoyl peroxide because some people find benzoyl peroxide too aggravating to their skin (and it’s important to note that about 3% of people are allergic to benzoyl peroxide).Salicylic acid works by unclogging pores and sloughing off dead skin cells, which makes it an especially great option for people mainly concerned with getting rid of blackheads.

  • Top Pick: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control, 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment

    This product also contains 2% salicylic acid along with aloe, cucumber, and other moisturizing ingredients. A lot of people love the light texture and pleasant fragrance BUT you should be aware that products containing fragrance can sometimes aggravate sensitive and acne prone skin. But a lot of people swear by this for getting rid of blackheads and mild acne.

  • 2nd Choice: Paula’s Choice Exfoliating 2% BHA Gel

    Best Over the Counter Acne Products with Salicylic Acid
    This product is water-based and contains the maximum-strength 2% salicylic acid. It’s also offered in a lotion and liquid consistency (if you prefer those over gel) and it comes in a milder 1% concentration. It’s 100% fragrance-free and has a lot of research to back up its beneficial ingredients.


I just want to point out that I’m fully aware that I’m recommending two Paula’s Choice products and two Neutrogena products so it probably looks like I’m associated with these two brands or being paid to promote them in some way.

I just want to assure you that’s not the case and it is purely coincidence. These are really just the best over the counter acne products currently available based on consumer reviews, ingredient research, dermatologist recommendations, and personal experience.

Hope this info helps!


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