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Common Acne Ingredients and How They Work

Your Guide to Over-the-Counter Acne Ingredients

Figuring out the cause of your acne is only half the battle. It's important to also know what to look for in an effective acne treatment, whether it's from the drugstore or from the department store counter. Find out all the effective over-the-counter acne ingredients and how they work, when you read more.

Ingredient: How It Works: Try:
Salicylic Acid This is one of the most common ingredients found in acne products. This gentle exfoliant helps acne-prone complexions to shed dry, dead skin cells that are clogging pores and causing breakouts. Yes To Tomatoes Spot Stick ($10)
Benzoyl Peroxide Another common ingredient, benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria that leads to breakouts. It can also unclog pores and quell oil production. Be careful with use, as it may bleach hair, skin, and clothing. Clean & Clear Acne Cleanser ($6)
Glycolic Acid This natural exfoliant is stronger than salicylic acid. It works to prevent acne by helping your skin shed dead layers that can block pores and create infections and breakouts. Plus, it also aids in lightening postacne scars. Because of its stronger exfoliant powers, be wary of use on open infections or for complexions that are easily irritated. Peter Thomas Roth Gentle Complexion Correction Pads ($36)
Clay Often found in treatment masks, clay helps to absorb excess sebum, dirt, debris, and infection in swollen, clogged pores. This is great as a treatment, but can also be beneficial after extractions to help detoxify pores. Omorovicza Deep Cleansing Mask ($120)
Sulfur This mineral helps to calm inflammation for acne sufferers. It is often combined with other common blemish-fighting ingredients, like salicylic acid to aid in the exfoliation process to unblock clogged pores. It's also perfect for absorbing excess oil. Mario Badescu Drying Mask ($18)
Tea Tree Oil This essential oil has been used in traditional Australian medicine for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it wonderful for healing acne. Tea tree oil is frequently used with other acne-fighting ingredients to boost efficacy. ExfoliKate Acne Clearing Exfoliating Treatment ($65)
Witch Hazel The bark and leaves of the witch hazel plant produce a natural antioxidant-rich astringent that is effective in absorbing and controlling excess sebum. Plus, it has soothing properties that can help calm swelling and inflammation. Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Towelettes ($9)
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