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Acne Treatment Products That Work

So how do you know what over the counter acne treatment you should use?

Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl Peroxide (BP)works best for moderate to moderately severe acne. It deeply penetrates into the skin to kill tough bacteria, and is best used preventatively. Benzoyl Peroxide dries and exfoliates the skin and doesn't allow bacteria to build resistance like prescription antibiotics. However, Benzoyl Peroxide is a very harsh chemical. It causes redness, dryness, and scaling. Benzoyl Peroxide can also lighten fabric colors.

Salicylic Acid
Salicylic Acid or "beta hydroxyl acid" (BHA) works best for mild acne and sensitive skin, as a cleanser ingredient to slough surface skin cells, and as an agent that prepares the skin for other acne treatments. It breaks down a protein that holds the skin cells together. Over time, it exfoliates old skin and allows new healthy skin to surface. It loosens whiteheads and blackheads and helps expel them.Salicylic acid is fairly mild. It does not reach down deep into the skin follicles like benzoyl peroxide. It can take up to 3 months to loosen smaller whiteheads and blackheads. However salicylic acid works well if you use it over a consistent and long period of time.

Some side effects of salicylic acid include some skin peeling, dryness, and irritation when used at concentrations of 2% or greater. Possible adverse effects include salicylate toxicity, toxic inner ear damage, and hypersensitivity. Also risk of increases in skin sensitivity to sunlight.
Look for an over the counter acne treatment cleanser with concentrations of 2% salicylic acid, in an acid base with a pH of between 3 and 4.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)
Alpha Hydroxy Acids work best for all types of skin, as a mild or strong cleanser, and for healing and preventing acne.
AHAs are natural acids which come from fruits, milk sugars, and plants. Glycolic and lactic acids are the most frequently used in over the counter acne treatment products, and are the most well researched AHAs to date.
AHA's gently peel away the uppermost layer of dead skin cells. They make way for the newer skin beneath. Look for a product with a glycolic acid concentration between 8 and 10% and no other active ingredients. You should see results in the texture of your skin within a few weeks.

Side effects include more susceptibility to sunlight and minor skin irritation or blisters and burns. Fewer AHA products have FDA approval.

Retinol is the chemical name for vitamin A - which is the active ingredient in the prescription drug Retin-A, the favored topical prescription acne treatment. Retinol works best in high concentrations.

Sulfur and Resorcinol
Basically, sulfur kills acne bacteria. Resorcinol helps shed the outer layer of skin, and increases the effect of sulfur. However, experts aren't entirely sure how it works in combination with sulfur. Resorcinol alone is not an effective acne treatment. It can be very irritating to some patients. For those who can't use BP or Retin-A, sulfur may be a good alternative.

The side effects are minor: dryness and unpleasant odour. It's not recommended for pregnant women unless their doctor prescribes resorcinol. There are no major known adverse effects in resorcinol's combination with sulfur.

For maximum effectiveness, find an acne cleanser containing salicylic acid or glycolic acid, a leave-on benzoyl product, and an anti-acne moisturizer with SPF.