Over the Counter Acne Treatment Products

There are many different over the counter acne treatment options available on the market today. But with so many choices, it can be difficult to decide which product will work best for you.

Everyone's skin is different, however, there are some key, proven ingredients that generally separate the best over the counter acne products from the rest.

So before you go to your local pharmacy or store to buy the so called "best over the counter acne treatment product", it's important to learn about these ingredients so that you know exactly what to look for in selecting the best products for your specific type of acne.

Here is an overview of the most effective over the counter acne treatment ingredients, including some of the common brand names of popular products.

Benzoyl Peroxide :

Benzoyl Peroxide is one of the most common and effective acne treatment options available. It is effective against both non-inflammatory and inflammatory acne and works by killing P. Acnes in the skin, the bacteria that causes acne.

Studies show benzoyl peroxide killing over 99% of acne bacteria in a quick fashion.

Additionally, benzoyl peroxide is thought to help prevent the pores from getting plugged up in the first place due to it's mild drying and peeling effect.

So what concentration of benzoyl peroxide should you use?

In my opinion, 2.5% is best, and using a benzoyl peroxide gel is advised over a cream-based product.

Multiple studies show that 2.5% benzoyl peroxide helps get rid of blemishes and helps prevent pimples just as well as 10% solutions. And because of the lower concentration of benzoyl peroxide, 2.5% gets rid of acne with much less irritation.

In a nutshell, a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide gel provides maximum bacteria killing ability with less irritation.

*Things to note*: About 3% of people are allergic to benzoyl peroxide and experience an inflammation of the skin. And Benzoyl peroxide may bleach hair or fabric.

Salicylic Acid :

There are many benefits of salicylic acid. Not only does it help your skin exfoliate, but it is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory as well.

Salicylic acid is particularly good for non-inflammatory acne (whiteheads and blackheads). It is often used as an alternative therapy to topical retinoid or benzoyl peroxide because some patients can’t tolerate retinoids and benzoyl peroxide due to skin irritation.

How does salicylic acid work?

Acne is formed when skin cells inside hair follicles shed too fast and clump together, plugging up the follicle and causing a pimple. Salicylic acid helps by slowing down the shedding of the cells inside the follicles, thus preventing clogging.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) :

AHAs are natural acids that come from fruits, milk sugars, and plants. The following are the major categories of AHAs:
- Glycolic acid : sugar cane
- Lactic acid : milk
- Malic acid : apples and pears
- Citric acid : oranges and lemons
- Tartaric acid : grapes

Glycolic and lactic acids are the most frequently used in over the counter acne treatment products.

There are many beneficial effects of glycolic acid in particular. Not only does it reduce blemishes, glycolic acid also targets wrinkles and discoloration.

So how exactly do AHAs work?

They dissolve the "intercellular glue" that holds dry dead skin cells together. AHA's gently peel away the uppermost layer of dead skin cells and make way for the smoother, newer skin beneath.

They also possess ability to break basal layer melanin and increase collagen synthesis within the dermis. This is thought to be a important role in acne prevention as well as in the treatment of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.

AHAs are usually available in over the counter products in concentrations up to 10%. They are generally found in the form of creams, lotions, cleansers and “peel kits”.

Tea Tree Oil :

One of the main uses of tea tree oil is as a natural acne treatment alternative to benzoyl peroxide.

Research suggests tea tree oil can help reduce breakouts by killing acne causing bacteria and preventing inflammation. One study reported that a solution with 5% tea tree oil was just as effective in treating acne as a treatment with 5% benzoyl peroxide.

But it's important to be aware of the potential tea tree oil side effects.

Sulfur and Resorcinol :

These two ingredients are most often used in combination in order to kill acne bacteria and shed the outer layer of dead skin cells.

Sulfur provides peeling and drying of the skin and Resorcinol helps breakdown hard, rough skin.

Sulfur and Resorcinol are effective in breaking down existing blackheads and whiteheads; however, they are not the best products for actual prevention of acne blemishes.

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