If you suffer from persistent acne, you know the struggle of trying to manage it. The search for the perfect product usually leads to hundreds of dollars down the drain and no results to show for it.
Even though we are #skinpositive and believe all skin is good skin, acne can definitely be a painful nuisance that you don’t want to have to deal with.
While there is no technical cure for acne, here are some of the best drugstore acne products we’ve found. Plus, I’ll share some tips and tricks that can help you manage those irritating blemishes.
(Side note: if you’re experiencing severe, cystic acne, it might be best to talk to a dermatologist to get a professional opinion.)
Best Drugstore Acne Products
As someone who has struggled with hormonal acne as a teen and adult, I’ve tried a lot of acne products. Before I share what has worked best for me, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone has unique skin with different needs.
With that in mind, here are 14 of the best drugstore acne products that have benefited my skin, along with some other products that should be on your radar.
When it comes to over-the-counter acne treatments, there are two main ingredients most products use: benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.
Usually, one will work better than the other for most people, but it depends on how your skin reacts. There’s no tried-and-true method to determine which one will work best for you except trial and error.
This acne spot treatment uses 2.5% benzoyl peroxide to minimize the size of pimples and keep new ones from appearing. It helps fight acne by killing bacteria deep inside your pores. Plus, it’s gentle enough to be used on all skin types.
This “zip zapping” treatment is packed with charcoal, sulfur, and witch hazel to knock out any pesky pimples. It’s comparable to Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion, but this one has a more affordable price tag and different ingredients.
For best use, DO NOT shake the bottle, as this will dilute the solution and make it less effective. Take one of the charcoal swabs provided, dip it into the bottom of the bottle, then apply to your pimples to work overnight!
Even though my skin reacts better to benzoyl peroxide, many people who benefit from salicylic acid love this spot treatment from Clean & Clear. Another main ingredient they use is witch hazel, a natural remedy for acne.
Apply this spot treatment to blemishes up to three times a day to reduce the size and redness of your breakout.
When choosing a facial cleanser for acne-prone skin, it’s always best to look for a product that provides gentle yet effective cleansing without harsh chemicals.
If you’re applying a topical cream or spot treatment, adding a cleanser with the same active ingredients can cause dryness and irritation, and therefore more breakouts. Look for keywords such as gentle, soothing, and non-comedogenic (won’t clog your pores) when choosing a product.
This facial bar by Neutrogena is one of my cleansing staples. It’s made from glycerin, fragrance-free, dye-free, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic.
It rinses clear without over drying your skin for a smooth, clean finish. Not to mention, it’s super affordable!
Tea tree oil is known to be a natural acne remedy and is the key ingredient in this daily facial wash.
Although it does contain an oil product, this face wash removes dirt and excess oil while leaving a clean, matte finish. Rather than feeling greasy, this cleanser creates a nice lather that easily rinses off to leave your skin feeling fresh.
This gentle foaming cleanser is super gentle and perfect for all skin types. It’s fragrance free, non-comedogenic, and removes dirt and impurities without drying out your face.
Plus, it creates a protective barrier on your skin to keep more dirt and oil from clogging your pores.
Neutrogena makes great products when it comes to acne, so it’s no surprise two of their cleansers made the cut. This oil-free face wash contains 2% salicylic acid to effectively unclog pores and remove dirt, oil, and makeup.
Since it does contain the active ingredient salicylic acid, be mindful of what treatments you put on your face after you use this cleanser. You don’t want to slather your face with too many harsh ingredients.
Topical Creams and Gels
Similar to spot treatments, topical solutions for acne usually contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Unlike spot treatments though, these products are meant to be applied as a thin layer over your entire face, or the entire affected area.
This benzoyl peroxide acne treatment actually fights acne while soothing and moisturizing your skin- it’s a win-win.
The skin clearing treatment works by fighting existing breakouts and preventing future ones. It’s fragrance free and gentle enough to be used daily.
The key to this acne product is its use of adapalene gel, which is a retinoid medication that promotes quick healing by affecting cell growth. Retinoids are highly recommended by dermatologists, and were once only available through a prescription.
Even though retinoids are extremely effective against acne, it takes consistent use and patience. After stating a retinoid treatment, it can take weeks, sometimes months to see results. If you have the patience and persistence to use a retinoid product, this gel will do wonders for your skin.
Even though this product is a little pricier than the others listed, it is highly concentrated for optimal results.
With 5.5% benzoyl peroxide, this treatment is sure to knock out your breakouts in no time. It also contains something called Lipo-Hydroxy Acid which exfoliates the skin to lift dirt and impurities from your pores.
Even if you have oily, acne-prone skin, moisturizing your face daily is key. Providing moisture to your skin will keep it from overproducing oil and causing more acne.
Plus, many acne treatments can cause dryness and flakiness, so you’ll want to keep your skin hydrated.
Anything made by Simple is free from dyes, artificial perfumes, and harsh chemicals.
This moisturizer is light, non-greasy, and hydrating with vitamins B5 and E. It’s super gentle and perfect for all skin types.
This moisturizer by Olay is ideal for sensitive skin. It’s fragrance free, non-comedogenic, and contains SPF 15 to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
It’s hydrating without feeling greasy, and contains vitamin E and aloe to soothe and soften your skin.
CeraVe’s facial moisturizer has a ton of benefits, including protection from the sun with SPF 30.
This product also contains niacinamide, which helps calm skin and reduce redness. Plus, all CeraVe products contain ceramides to restore your skin’s protective barrier against dirt, oil, and grime.
Besides being lightweight, fragrance free, and non-comedogenic, this moisturizer is also made with glycerin and vitamin E to help keep your skin hydrated.
It’s ideal for all skin types and can be used on your face and body.
Other Tips + Tricks to Help Clear Acne
Along with choosing the best drugstore acne products that are best for your skin, there are several tips and tricks to help keep your skin free from acne. Here are some of the most effective acne hacks
Ice is a great tool to help reduce the size and redness of a pimple by constricting blood flow to that area. All you need to do is grab an ice cube, wrap it in a paper towel, and apply it to your blemish for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.
Although there are some exceptions, many makeup remover wipes contain fragrances and other chemicals that can clog your pores. If you suffer from acne, try investing in some reusable makeup removing wipes.
All you need is the reusable cloth and some water to completely remove your makeup without worrying about unknown ingredients. You can find a lot of different options on Amazon, like this 10-pack. You can also invest in the well-loved makeup eraser (check out our review of this product).
Applying sunscreen is an essential step in every beauty routine whether or not you suffer from acne. Those with acne, however, can especially benefit from sunscreen since many acne treatments can make your skin more vulnerable to sunburn.
Plus, if you have acne marks or hyperpigmentation, sun exposure can deepen that discoloration, making it more noticeable and harder to get rid of. Layer on that SPF!
You’ve likely heard this tip a million times before, but that’s because it’s super important when it comes to healing acne.
Picking at existing blemishes can spread bacteria or push pus deeper into your skin, making it much worse. Picking can also cause your pimple to take longer to heal, and can even cause permanent scarring. It’s not worth it!
We hope this list of the best drugstore acne products helps you find a solution that works for you! The key to clearing up acne is patience. It might take some time to find the right combination of products that benefits your skin the most.
Trying to clear up acne can definitely be discouraging, but don’t give up. And remember, we all have imperfections, but that doesn’t make us any less beautiful!