Salicylic acid is a widely-used active ingredient in various acne treatment products, including cleansers, toners, and anti-acne gels. Typically found in concentrations ranging from 1-2%, this compound plays a crucial role in promoting the healthy shedding of skin cells. It acts as a preventative agent, stopping dead skin cells from sticking together and clogging pores, which is a common cause of acne.
The American Academy of Dermatology recognizes salicylic acid as one of the most effective compounds for treating non-inflammatory types of acne, such as blackheads and whiteheads. However, it’s worth noting that salicylic acid is not effective in tackling issues like excessive oil production or bacterial infections, which are often the root causes of inflammatory or cystic acne.
Sulfur is an age-old remedy for various skin conditions, including acne. Known for its antibacterial and exfoliating properties, sulfur has been making a comeback in modern skincare products designed to combat acne.
Sulfur works by drying out the skin and absorbing excess oil, which in turn helps to unclog pores. It also has antibacterial properties that help kill acne-causing bacteria. This dual action makes it effective in treating both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne.
Like other acne treatments, the benefits of sulfur are most noticeable with continuous use. Discontinuing the treatment may result in the return of acne symptoms.
Sulfur is generally available in concentrations ranging from 3% to 10% in over-the-counter products. It’s often found in various forms such as soaps, creams, and masks. For severe cystic acne, dermatologists may recommend prescription-strength sulfur treatments.
Sulfur is a key ingredient in many over-the-counter acne treatments, including well-known brands like Proactiv and Murad. The cost can vary widely depending on the brand and formulation, ranging from approximately $10 to $60.
Benzoyl Peroxide, often abbreviated as “BPO,” is an over-the-counter medication known for its antibacterial properties. It targets the bacteria that contribute to the formation of cystic acne within skin pores.
When cystic acne develops, bacteria mix with the skin’s natural oils (sebum) and enter the pores. Inside the pore, sebum combines with dead skin cells, forming a sticky plug. This environment allows bacteria to grow until the pore bursts, leading to an acne outbreak. Benzoyl Peroxide works by reducing sebum production and combating acne-causing bacteria like P. acnes.
Benzoyl Peroxide is available over-the-counter in various concentrations, ranging from 2.5% to 10%. These concentrations are tailored for different stages of acne—mild, moderate, and severe. Dermatologists often prescribe it in combination with antimicrobial gels for moderate to severe acne.
Benzoyl Peroxide is a key ingredient in popular OTC acne treatments like Clearasil and Stridex, as well as prescription treatments like Benoxyl, PanOxyl, and Persagel. The cost varies depending on the formulation and container size, ranging from approximately $10 to $40.
Similar to salicylic acid, acne often returns when Benzoyl Peroxide treatment is discontinued, necessitating ongoing use for sustained results.