over the counter acne products

What are the Best Over The Counter (OTC) Acne Products and Solutions?

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Unlike other skin diseases, facial acne affects almost everyone at some point in life. Although not life-threatening, acne might lead to social anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. These consequences motivate patients to seek treatment.

The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that up to 50 million Americans yearly suffer from acne.

It’s always recommended to see a medical professional specializing in dermatology to find an effective treatment for acne. However, you can treat mild acne using simple OTC products.

Acne treatment is not a simple cult-fave product, expert tip, or a 5-second hack. Keep reading to learn some of the best acne treatment options that do not require a prescription.

What Causes Acne?

over the counter acne products
Acne mostly occurs when dead skin and oil clog hair follicles

Acne is a tricky condition and a nuance that is influenced by a number of factors. These include genetics, diet, and hormone. These factors make it tough for you to find the best acne solution. As we age and evolve, our skin also undergoes changes that are difficult to treat.

When dead skin mixes with sebum and bacteria, it creates clogged pores. This interferes with the process of sebum production and use. As a result, acne may develop.

Hormone changes, especially during the teenage years, lead to overproduction of sebum. The sebum clogs hair follicles leading to the formation of a pimple. Other factors that might contribute to acne breakouts include;

  • Family background
  • Smoking
  • Changes in climate conditions
  • Irritation or friction from wearing tight clothes
  • Using oil-based hair and skin products
  • Too much sweating
  • Emotional issues
  • Specific medications

What To Do To Prevent Acne

If you have acne-prone skin or are currently experiencing moderate acne, here are a few things you can do to prevent and manage the acne:

  1. Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser. Avoid scrubbing your face.
  2. Always change your face towel and pillow cases and regularly clean your makeup brushes.
  3. Use oil-free makeup, sunscreen, and moisturizer.
  4. Do not pick or squeeze the pimples. This will prevent acne scars from forming.

Read also: Four commonly prescribed drug types in dermatology medication.

How To Choose The Right Acne Treatments

Acne vulgaris appears in the form of three lesions:

  • Mild non-inflammatory acne, which includes blackheads and whiteheads.
  • Mild to stubborn acne that appears as pustules and papules.
  • Severe inflammatory lesions, which include cystic acne and nodules.

Deciding the best acne treatments for acne patients depends on skin type, skin tone, the severity of acne, underlying health conditions, and the type of acne. You should also consider recommendations, ingredients, and reviews.

If pregnant, you should consult your doctor for advice before purchasing OTC acne treatment products. Many of the products are safe for pregnant women. However, some are not, as they can lead to severe congenital disabilities.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, OTC acne products containing the following ingredients can be used when pregnant:

  • Topical benzoyl peroxide
  • Topical salicylic acid
  • Azelaic acid
  • Glycolic acid

Active Ingredients in Acne Products

The Food and Drug Administration provides warnings on some products that are used in treating acne. These products might have serious side effects like swelling of the face and throat tightness. Apart from mild skin irritation, such severe reactions are pretty rare.

The active ingredient in OTC acne products works by speeding up the removal of dead cells and the growth of new skin cells. Here are some of the common active ingredients in OTC acne products.

Salicylic Acid. This ingredient prevents clogging of pores. The recommended percent ranges between 0.5 to 5. Salicylic acid might cause some skin irritation and mild stinging.

Benzoyl Peroxide. This kills bacteria that cause severe acne. It also removes excess oil and dead skin, which can clog pores. OTC acne products should have benzoyl peroxide quantities of 2.5 to 10 percent. Be careful when using products with benzoyl peroxide. They might cause redness, dry skin, or burning and stinging.

Sulfur. Sulfur also removes excess oil and dead skin cells.It’soften combined with the above-mentioned ingredients. Products containing sulfur may also cause dry skin.

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids. The main types of alpha hydroxy acids that are used to treat acne are lactic acid and glycolic acid. AHAs reduce inflammation and remove dead skin cells. These acids stimulate the growth of smooth skin. This reduces the appearance of pores and acne scars.

Retinoids. Research shows that topical retinoids are the holy grail treatment for acne. They prevent acne and improve inflammatory acne. They also balance the production of pigment hence recommended for spot treatment. An example of a gentle retinoid is adapalene gel. Retinoids are best used at night because they make the skin more sensitive to the sun.

Azelaic Acid. This ingredient is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial and can unclog pores. It also improves dark marks.

Retinols. Topical retinol is a type of retinoid. They mainly consist of vitamin A. They regulate oily skin and prevent pore-clogging.

The Best OTC Acne Medication

Oral Antibiotics


This can either be gel or cream. It is a retinoid that works by speeding up the formation of new cells. It prevents acne lesions from forming.

Tretinoin exfoliates the skin by pushing the clog to the surface. It treats uneven skin tone. Oral antibiotics like tablets, capsules, and liquids treat moderate acne vulgaris.

Oral Contraceptives

Compoundedbirth control pills can treat adult acne, especially for people with sensitive skin. These oral medications contain hormones that decrease androgen circulation, decreasing sebum production. This helps prevent future breakouts and achieve even skin tone.

Oral Isotretinoin

This is highly effective, specifically for people with severe acne or in cases where other treatments tend to worsen acne. Also known as Accutane, it also appears among prescription medications because it treats all types of acne.

Topical Treatments

Essential oils

Cosmetic and clinical research has proven that mild to moderate acne can be treated using oils such a tea tree oil. This oil has antibacterial properties to help kill bacteria that causes acne. It also improves skin cell turnover.

Differin Gel

This is a topical antibiotic with adapalene as the main ingredient. This product is recommended by board-certified dermatologists. Retinoids are effective treatment regimens that help in exfoliation. They work better on the skin compared to topical retinol.


Niacinamide is suitable for oily skin because it minimizes the appearance of pores. Plus, it helps to soothe redness and swelling.

You should use this serum carefully because some people are sensitive to it, and it is hard to layer with other products.

Vitamin C Serum

This belongs to the topical agents’ group. It acts as an antioxidant serum that combats the effect of free radicals. Additionally, Vitamin C helps to brighten the skin by fading dark marks.

Glycolic Acid

This organic acid removes dead skin and combats oils and debris that carry bacteria. It might cause mild irritation to the skin. Just like azelaic acid, this acid leaves you with a balanced skin without bacterial intrusion.

Other Treatment Options

Clay Masks

These are ideal quick fixes. They are affordable, and they help to draw out impurities. Their non-drying formula helps to minimize breakouts.

A good Cleanser, Moisturizer, and SPF

A good cleanser with salicylic acid, helps unclog pores and remove dead skin. Moisturizers help to reduce irritation from some drying products such as benzoyl peroxide. An SPF 30 and above is a must above to protect your skin from sun damage.

Pimple Patches

These are spot treatment patches that fight inflammatory acne. They also help to prevent pimple picking. They contain medical hydrocolloid, which is a type of wound dressing. They promote healing by absorbing moisture.

What To Expect From Compound Acne Treatment Options Offered At FW Pharmacy

over the counter acne products
OTC acne treatments can help restore your self confidence

One of our objectives is to offer the best compound medicine to solve all your skincare woes. Our compounded drugs are safe and designed according to individual needs. This ensures that you do not have to suffer from severe side effects.

At Fort Worth Pharmacy, we offer acne treatment products that will leave your skin glowing and resistant to acne-causing bacteria. Reach out to our pharmacists today to learn more about the possible solutions available for treating your acne.

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