A Guide To Finding The Best Product For Acne

Jeff Hautala
By Jeff Hautala, Co-Founder of Exposed Skincare

The best product for acne will differ from person to person because we all have unique skin needs. However, there are some products that are more likely to help than others. If your current skincare routine just isn’t working for you, check this handy guide of a few popular products.

The best product for acne differs from person to person. That’s why we’ve created a guide to some of the best brands and products out there.

What to Look For In Products

Before we introduce you to some top acne brands and products, we have a few tips for what you should be looking for.

The best acne treatment is gentleness. Many things can affect acne, like stress, diet, and genetics, but at the skin-level, the three main causes are

  • inflammation 🔥,
  • excess oil production, and
  • infection with acne-causing bacteria called P. acnes 🦠.

So, our advice is simple – get to know especially the natural ingredients that best suit your skin type. Those that are great against inflammatory acne, for instance, include green tea (which contains antioxidants and is a demonstrated anti-inflammatory acne fighter), soothing, acne-busting passiflora, and anti-allergenic licorice root. Also look out for helpful and safe quantities of chemicals such as benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, salicylic acid, and its relative, glycolic acid.

Prevent breakouts and reduce the appearance of redness with gentle treatments, such as our Exposed Skin Care acne range.

Exposed Skin Care Acne Products

 Rating: 5/5

Exposed Kit laid on white background with rose petals
At Exposed Skin Care, we offer a wide variety of products to ensure that everyone can benefit from our carefully crafted formulas and gentle products.

The Good:

Our number one recommendation is our own line of products and acne treatments  because they are gentle but also powerful, combining scientific actives and soothing natural extracts. Too-high concentrations of certain chemicals such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and so forth, can cause inflammation and excess oil production in acne-prone skin. In turn, this will cause clogged pores and more breakouts. That’s why Exposed products have lower levels of these ingredients, making them much more gentle but still extremely effective.

For an easy, one-step process, we recommend starting with our Facial Cleanser – you’ll be amazed at the difference just washing your face with a good product can make. For a full skincare routine, we suggest checking out our various kits, from Basic to Ultimate 🏆.

The Bad:

If you’re looking for cheap drugstore prices, you won’t find them here. Exposed Skin Care’s products range from $9.95 to $34.95 because they are made with the highest quality ingredients and are always formulated without parabens, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfate, formaldehyde and other chemicals, plus they are fragrance- and dye-free. You can guarantee that your skin is cared for properly with gentle yet high-performing products. (Looking for a discount? Our skincare kit bundles are the economical way to purchase, and we always have special offers and freebies!

The Murad Acne Line

Rating: 3/5

Murad acne products
The Murad Acne line is ideal for people with mild acne primarily made up of blackheads or whiteheads.

The Good:

Developed by Dr. Murad 👨‍⚕️, this company’s long product list includes an Acne & Blemish range with approximately 20 individual items and nearly as many bundles and kits, so there are a number of products you can choose from. These are paraben-free (paraben is a preservative), contain natural ingredients, and have a low concentration of salicylic acid. See a full comparison of top acne treatments.

The Bad:

This is an excellent line but many of these products contain fragrances and dyes that might irritate sensitive, acne-prone skin, and their cost is considerable 💸. If you’re looking for a cost-effective acne solution, this isn’t the choice for you.

X Out Acne Treatment

Rating: 2/5

The X Out acne treatment may seem convenient, but it’s far too strong and might end up causing more acne than it cures.

The Good:

The X Out acne treatment is designed for teenagers, but it’s marketed toward anyone who struggles with routine or doesn’t think they have the time for multi-step acne treatments. It is a 3-in-1, so use it as a facial cleanser, apply it to dry or slightly damp skin and leave it on for 10 minutes to make it a face mask, or use a small amount as a spot treatment. It contains bactericidal benzoyl peroxide, also glycerin and linoleic acid for moisturizing and protecting acne-prone skin.

The Bad:

This product also contains polyethylene beads to remove dead skin cells, which can irritate sensitive and acne-prone skin, and it sometimes clogs pores. Also, these beads are not environmentally-friendly. X Out’s benzoyl peroxide content is also just too high. At 8.5% it renders the cleanser far too strong to be used twice a day as a wash, and unless your skin is extremely oily, it should definitely not sit on your face for 10 minutes as a mask 👎. Irritated and dried-out skin will be more acne-prone, so this is not one of the best or safest acne treatments on the market.

Clean and Clear Acne Products

Rating: 3/5

Clean and Clear Dual Action Moisturizer
Clean and Clear is a classic acne skin care brand and they offer many products, like their Dual Action Moisturizer.

The Good:

Clean and Clear is a popular drugstore brand that has been around forever, and the products are among the gentlest available. After all, the line was originally developed specifically for acne-prone sensitive skin. Clean and Clear offers many choices, from face washes to spot treatments to acne pads and wipes. These you can mix and match to your preference.

The Bad:

Unfortunately, some products contain all kinds of harmful ingredients. For instance, the lemon-themed line contains sodium laureth sulfate, a known skin irritant. Also, nearly all of their benzoyl peroxide products are at 10% concentration, which is unsuitable for sensitive skin ❌. Finally, there are so many choices that it can be difficult to develop a simple and effective routine. Without bundles or kits, you could get confused in the drugstore aisle over which products you need and what order to use them.

Clean and Clear’s Acne Triple Clear

Rating: 3/5

Acne Triple Clear is a product line from Clean and Clear dedicated specifically to acne

The Good:

Clean and Clear’s Acne Triple Clear range includes a cleanser, a clay mask, and a scrub, meant to remove dead skin cells and treat blackheads and whiteheads. The products claim to help in three ways: removing oil, soothing skin, and preventing new breakouts. All of them contain salicylic acid, which may be too harsh for excessively sensitive skin but should work to remove excess oil in normal skin. The products also contain aloe vera and peppermint extract, both of which can help soothe the skin and prevent inflammation, which, in turn, could prevent new acne from forming.

The Bad:

The downside is that none of them contain benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, or other ingredients to help kill the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes, meaning this line is not the best for treating pimples or cystic acne on their own.

Dr. Bronner’s for Acne

Rating: 3/5

Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Tea Tree Pure-Castile Soap could be a suitable cleanser for those with cystic acne.

The Good:

Dr. Bronner’s is probably the most popular all-natural skin hygiene product brand on the market right now, and many try it for acne. What we like most about this brand is its ingredient lists. Dr. Bronner’s contains as few ingredients as possible, and the ingredients they do use are all-natural.

The list includes oils like hemp seed oil, jojoba oil, and saponified coconut oil 🥥, which might seem counterintuitive for use on acne. However, the right oils can regulate oil on the skin and help protect it – without clogging pores.

Coconut oil is typically very pore-clogging, but Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil is saponified, meaning it’s been turned into soap. Coconut is also a known anti-inflammatory.

Dr. Bronner’s tea tree and eucalyptus cleansers can work for acne and spot treatment, and their lotions contain ingredients that make good moisturizers as well.

The Bad:

Dr. Bronner’s cleansers aren’t acne treatments specifically, therefore they don’t include any of the classic acne-fighting chemicals like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. The cleansers may also be too harsh for very delicate skin, so you’ll need a good moisturizer for protection.

Cetaphil for Acne

Rating: 3/5

Many Cetaphil products include zinc, a great ingredient for reducing inflammation.

The Good:

Cetaphil is a popular skincare brand made for all skin types and they primarily make cleansers and moisturizers, which contain all kinds of great ingredients, including glycerin and citric acid, and zinc. Some research indicates that zinc is a powerful anti-inflammatory, so it can help reduce the primary cause of acne.

Cetaphil’s makeup remover is specifically for delicate skin, so it will clean away makeup without affecting the skin’s natural oils. It contains excellent ingredients like aloe vera, green tea extract, and cucumber extract 🥒 for protection.

The Bad:

The biggest downside to using Cetaphil for acne is that it is designed for regular skin, so it’s not the best treatment for acne-prone skin. While Cetaphil has a few products for oily skin, not everyone with acne has oily skin, and none of their skincare products contain acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Several contain sodium laureth sulfate, which can be contaminated with a carcinogen called 1,4 dioxane; also sodium lauryl sulfate, which can clog pores and irritate the skin.

CeraVe Products

Rating: 3/5

Cerave acne products are okay for people with dry skin, but they aren’t overly effective in treating pimples.

The Good

CeraVe is one of the few brands that also cater to people with acne-prone dry skin instead of acne-prone oily skin. In fact, many products are specifically for various kinds of drier skin.

The best cleansers for acne specifically are the ones that include small amounts of salicylic acid. If those are still too harsh, CeraVe has other, gentler cleansers, and you can get the salicylic acid through a moisturizer instead.

We also like their vitamin C serum. It is not an acne product specifically, but vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can fight inflammation. It may not work well on excessively dry or delicate skin but it is known to be skin clearing. Vitamin C is also a mild exfoliant that can increase cell turnover and regeneration.

The Bad:

The biggest downside to CeraVe is that it won’t help reduce pimples or cysts at all because none of their products contain ingredients that kill the P. acnes bacteria. Even when treating blackheads or whiteheads, more intense treatment products might be needed to supplement CeraVe’s very gentle products 🍃. It’s great to have such a non-irritating option, but it may not do the trick if you have anything other than mild acne. They don’t have any spot treatments either, so you can’t target pimples.

Aczone Acne Gel

Rating: 3/5

Aczone acne gel is a prescription that treats acne using a totally different ingredient called dapsone.

The Good:

Aczone acne gel is a unique spot treatment (especially for adult acne) that uses an active ingredient we haven’t mentioned so far – dapsone. Dapsone is bacteriostatic, which means that instead of killing P. acnes bacteria 🦠 like benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil do, it renders the microbes ineffective and unable to reproduce.

Studies also show dapsone to be an effective inflammation fighter, which means Aczone could be a solution for people with pimples or even cysts. One of the reasons we like it is because, unlike many products with potency against P. acnes, it doesn’t have serious side effects that might cause it to do more harm than good. Some users noted mild dryness, but this can easily be solved with a good moisturizer.

The Bad:

The biggest downside to Aczone acne gel is that it requires a prescription 👩‍⚕️. So far, all of the products and brands we’ve discussed have been over-the-counter, meaning you can get them in most drugstores or online. To get Aczone, though, you need a prescription from your dermatologist or family doctor. The costs involved in obtaining this may be too high for some.

Then there’s the price of the product itself. Without insurance, 60 grams costs anywhere from $300 to $700 dollars 💰, depending on where you get it and whether you get Aczone or the generic brand. If you have the means, Aczone can be a good choice, but it definitely isn’t within everyone’s reach financially.

Acne Free Terminator 10

Rating: 2/5

Acne Terminator 10 product
With a benzoyl peroxide concentration of 10%, the Acne Free Terminator 10 is far too strong for even the oiliest of skins.

The Good:

For a low price on Amazon, the Acne Free Terminator 10 is an extremely affordable spot treatment serum. As the name implies, it contains 10% benzoyl peroxide, so it’s used to treat spots, pimples, or potentially cysts. Other helpful ingredients include glycerin, also chamomile, and ginger extract, which help hydrate and protect the skin 🛡️.

The Bad:

The 10% benzoyl peroxide concentration is just too high. No matter how great the price or the other ingredients, this spot treatment will almost definitely irritate your skin, could easily increase skin problems, and doesn’t include salicylic acid.

Benzoyl oxide works by transporting oxygen molecules below the skin’s surface to create an oxygenated environment. P. acnes bacteria are anaerobic 🦠, meaning they can’t survive around oxygen for very long, which is how benzoyl peroxide kills them. Unfortunately, this process can strip the skin of its natural oil barrier and cause irritation, especially at such a high concentration. Benzoyl peroxide is a great ingredient for fighting acne but look for products with a concentration closer to 2-4%.

Hopefully, you’ve learned something and now know what to look for in your products for acne-prone skin. Still need guidance? Take this quiz to find out what skincare products will work for you.