Topical Over-the-Counter Treatments for Acne

Salicylic Acid

This article was Medically reviewed by

Salicylic acid is utilized as an active ingredient in acne management cleansing products, toners, astringent wet cleansing pads as well as anti-acne gels in concentrations of around 1-2%. Salicylic acid helps in repairing uneven as well as rough sloughing of skin cells as it generally acts as an obstructive factor that does not allow dead skin cells to stick together and clog the pores.
As stated by the American Academy of Dermatology, salicylic acid is one of the most
efficient compounds for tackling and removing non-inflammation related acne pimples like blackheads as well as whiteheads. However, salicylic acid does not help to decrease excessive oiliness or problems caused by microbes that are crucial underlying causes in the development of inflammation based cystic acne.
What are the benefits and disadvantages of using salicylic acid products?
Above are some popular and commonly used salicylic acid based acne treatment and management products.
Salicylic acid has been found to have a mild impact on the skin. The only side effects usually seen in acne patients using it is a bit of stinging or very minor irritating sensations. In all likelihood, the acne breakouts usually come back when a person stops using the product. Therefore, continuous usage is necessary for this treatment approach.
Another benefit of using salicylic acid is that it shows a moderate effect against severe outbreaks of acne. This compound has been an integral part of many OTC products used in acne treatment for more than 2 decades. Despite such good results in treating acne, there are not many published studies in which salicylic acid has been tested for effectiveness, as well as safety factors in treating cystic acne with detailed and properly done clinical trials.
Salicylic acid serves as a good treatment option for moderate acne in people that are unable to tolerate the use of prescribed topical retinoids due to their skins showing sensitivity and skin irritation to these. Salicylic acid is also a very useful component of many skin peeling products that are of use in the treatment and management of moderate to severe acne outbreaks.
Estimated costs for commonly available products containing salicylic acid: Approximate cost of 1 bottle of salicylic acid lotion: $40 to $100 (GoodRx_Salicylic).

Sodium Sulfacetamide

Sodium Sulfacetamide is a topical antibiotic that eradicates P. acnes. It is available in a form of lotions, creams, foams, and washes.
This treatment option is generally not used alone due to its unpleasant smell, and is generally given in combination with other treatment options (such as alcohol and salicylic acid). More research and studies are needed to measure the effectiveness of Sodium Sulfacetamide for the treatment of severe acne.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide, also called “BPO”, refers to a non-prescription medication which acts by destroying the bacteria that cause cystic acne within the pores.
When cystic acne develops, all bacteria get mixed together with the sebum produced by the skin and are able to move into the skin pores. Within these pores, when sebum gets mixed with dead skin cells, it transforms into
a sticky plug on the surface of the pore and the bacteria that moved in here get trapped. These bacteria then grow and multiply within this pore until the follicle bursts and this causes an outbreak of cystic or inflammation based acne. Benzoyl peroxide acts by decreasing the excessive sebum production on the skin, but larger concentrations of this compound give more of this desired effect and at the same time put up a fight against the acne-causing skin organisms such as P. acnes.
Similar to salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide is available in concentrations ranging from 2.5%, 5% to higher ones of 10%, all of which are useful for various stages of acne such as mild, moderate and the more severe kinds. Dermatologists usually give out prescriptions of benzoyl peroxide combined with prescription antimicrobial acne gels in cases of moderate and some types of severe cystic acne.
Benzoyl peroxide has proven to be a very efficient and active ingredient that acts for every type of acne lesions, including blackheads, whiteheads, as well as inflamed, large red pimples. This compound is bactericidal in nature, which means that it is able to kill the acne causing bacteria, instead of just reducing its spread or slowing down their growth. Benzoyl peroxide also has the valuable effect of working rather fast and bringing visible improvement in acne outbreaks within 4 to 5 days after you begin using it.
Not only does this compound seves as a first-line treatment for most kinds of acne outbreaks, it also increases the effectiveness of acne treatment and management protocols when administered or used together with prescription antibiotics. As a matter of fact, benzoyl peroxide has the capability of preventing the potential incidence of antibiotic resistance over long-term use in the treatment of stubborn acne outbreaks in people.
One particular issue many people face is that Benzoyl peroxide has the ability of bleaching dark-colored clothes and as such, one must be sure that it is applied when you are wearing light colored clothes. The best policy, however, is to avoid contact with clothes all together so as to prevent any soiling and bleaching incidents.
Benzoyl peroxide is usually an ingredient of many of the presently popularly used OTC acne treatments. Good examples are products like Clearasil and Stridex. This compound is also the main active ingredient in several prescription cystic acne treatments such as Benoxyl, PanOxyl, and Persagel.
Similar to salicylic acid, acne usually comes back when a person stops using benzoyl peroxide and as such continuous treatment is needed when using this as the treatment option of choice.
What are the benefits and disadvantages of using benzoyl peroxide products?
There are various advantages which the use of benzoyl peroxide as an acne treatment offers, which include the following:
As with any OTC medication, the use of benzoyl peroxide products does have some certain drawbacks and unwanted side effects. These include the following:
Above are some popular and commonly used benzoyl peroxide based acne treatment and management products
Estimated costs for commonly available products containing benzoyl peroxide: Approximate cost of benzoyl peroxide (varies depending on formulation and size of container): $5 to $40 (GoodRx_Benzoyl).

Latest articles