Acne is one of the most common cosmetic concerns and it can be incredibly frustrating to treat, especially if you have naturally oily skin. Many of us struggle with acne throughout our teenage years, and there are also individuals that continue to get acne into adulthood. Regardless of your age, you probably find acne embarrassing and irritating, especially because it’s not easy to treat.

Some people resort to using prescription medication to tackle their acne. Fortunately, this isn’t necessary for most people. Some over-the-counter acne treatments are incredibly effective, as well as easy to find. The effectiveness of your acne treatment depends mainly on the ingredients that it contains. There are some compounds and chemicals that are fantastic ingredients for treating acne. You just need to know what to look for. Here are some examples:

Benzoyl Peroxide

One of the most effective ingredients for acne treatment is benzoyl peroxide. Many over-the-counter drugs and creams contain some amount of benzoyl peroxide because it effectively kills certain bacteria that causes acne. If you haven’t yet tried a cream that contains benzoyl peroxide, this should be one of the first things you look for. It’s a common ingredient in many creams.

When using benzoyl peroxide, you may find that it is harsh on your skin, especially if your skin is sensitive. The amount of benzoyl peroxide in over-the-counter acne treatments varies somewhat, so you should first try a treatment with a lower concentration to allow your skin to adjust. If you use the cream for a while and find that it is not effective, then you can try an acne remedy with a higher dosage of benzoyl peroxide. However, you should discontinue using it if you find that you consistently experience side effects such as irritated or dry skin.

Salicylic Acid

A common cause of acne is clogged pores. If this is something that you have experienced, then salicylic acid is likely to help. Salicylic acid is another commonly used and highly effective ingredient for treating acne, and it works by unblocking your pores. One advantage of salicylic acid is that it is less likely to cause skin irritation or side effects (like the benzoyl peroxide), though you may find that it makes your skin sting slightly when you apply it.

You can generally find over-the-counter acne treatments that contain salicylic acid with a concentration between 0.5-5%. Again, it is recommended that you first try a product with a weaker concentration, as it is less likely to irritate your skin. You can then purchase a different product with a higher concentration of salicylic acid if you find that the weaker mixture is not sufficient.


Sulfur is not as common as some other ingredients for acne treatment, but it is often very effective. It is rare to find a product that only contains sulfur- many over-the-counter acne treatments contain a combination of sulfur and other ingredients, like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

While sulfur does not often produce side effects, you may find that it makes your skin dry. Some people also find that sulfur has an unpleasant odor.

Where Should I Start My Acne Treatment?

If you don’t know what causes your acne, it can be challenging to know which treatment is right for you. Fortunately, many over-the-counter acne treatments contain a range of active ingredients which makes them more likely to be effective. If you aren’t sure where you should start, then it is generally recommended to try something with benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide has been proven to reduce acne, and most people do not experience any side effects when they use it.

In general, you should also start with a low dosage product to see if it works before trying something stronger. More diluted products are less likely to irritate your skin or cause side effects, and they may be strong enough to work for you anyway. Products with a lower concentration of ingredients for acne treatment generally are more affordable as well. If they don’t work, you can then try something more potent. However, it’s essential to be patient! These treatments can take some time before they work properly. You might need to use one treatment daily for a few months before it really works.