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Over-The-Counter Acne Treatments

There are a variety of different over the counter treatments for acne available and the ingredients differ according to their use. Some treatments kill bacteria; bacteria get trapped into clogged pores and cause inflammation.

Other treatments are for ridding the face of the excess oils that contribute to clogged pores. Some treatments work by ridding the face of excess dead skin cells that can clog pores and by promoting growth of fresh skin cells. In the case of some products, a combination of ingredients helps in more than one way. Following are some of the best over the counter acne treatments:
  • Acneteneacnetene acne treatments
  • Neutrogena
  • Stridex
  • Clearasil
  • Noxema

Benzoyl Peroxide

This is one of the primary ingredients used in over the counter treatments, due to it working to clear up blemished skin in several ways. This ingredient rids the skin of excess oils that can clog pores, leading to pimples and acne. It also kills bacteria, which cause pimples to become inflamed. This product also rids the skin of excess dead skin cells that clog pores.

Some users of Benzoyl Peroxide notice visibly clearer skin in as few as five days. Products containing this common acne fighting ingredient include Obagi acne products, Clearasil, Benzaderm Gel, Oxy-10, and Neutrogena On-The-Spot.

Salicylic Acid

One ingredient in many acne medications is salicylic acid. With a concentration ranging from 0.5 through 2% salicylic acid, these products help rid the skin of acne by slowing down the shedding process of skin cells within hair follicles. This helps to prevent pores from becoming clogged with a combination of skin cells, dirt, and oil. Salicylic acid can be drying or irritating to the skin, although some products containing this ingredient are designed for sensitive skin.

The Oxy line of treatment products contains salicylic acid, as do Noxema anti-acne pads and gel and Stridex acne products.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Treatments that include these acids, such as lactic acid or glycolic acid, are synthetic acids. They work by helping to eliminate excess dead skin cells, which helps to prevent clogged pores.

The acids also help to minimize inflammation and irritation. Alpha Hydroxy acids promote the growth of new skin cells as well, which improves the appearance of the skin and helps to prevent or minimize scarring caused by acne. Over the counter products containing these acids include an oil free product called Alpha Hydrox and Neutrogena Advanced Solutions Complete Acne Therapy System.


Sebustop is one of the new(er) ingredients that has been shown very effective for blemishes, pimples and oily skin. Similar to Alpha Hydroxy it is excellent for irrigating clogged pores, killing infection and bacteria, reducing oiliness, and reducing the size of enlarged pores. Acnetene uses Sebustop in their acne face wash (AcneWash) and spot treatment and masque (PimplePaste).

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a natural antimicrobial product. It comes from a tree native to Australia, and is frequently used as an antiseptic for topical application. Tea tree oil does help acne by reducing inflammation and acting to kill certain bacteria and infection that causes pimples.

When used for acne treatment, tea tree oil reduces the amount of acne causing bacteria on the skin. This helps to prevent clogged pores from becoming irritated and inflamed. It has also been found to be beneficial for soothing skin that is already irritated and inflamed.
Tea tree oil products come in a variety of forms, and some over the counter products containing tea tree oil include Camella Acne Facial Foam Blemish Treatment Tea Tree oil and Doctor D. Schwab Controlling Mask with Tea Tree Oil.