However, the most commonly used acne treatments in the United States are over the counter acne medications. They are generally inexpensive when compared to prescription medications, and some work very well.
Benzoyl peroxide is the most commonly used over the counter acne medication, and for good reason; Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most effective acne treatments available.
A 5% solution is usually all that is needed to treat acne, and it has almost no side effects for most people who use it. Unlike antibiotics and other prescription medications, Benzoyl peroxide can be used for months, even years at a time, and there are really no long term side effects (including a tolerance) that can be associated with it.
Furthermore, benzoyl peroxide has been compared to some of the prescription medications for acne, and it is nearly as effective as many acne antibiotics. Over all, benzoyl peroxide is the most successful over the counter acne medication.
However, there are others that can be very beneficial as well, including salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, and it works as an astringent to remove dead skin cells. By removing the dead cells, this helps eliminate clogged pores, as well as help the skin renew itself faster.
Since acne is caused by p.bacteria that builds up in sebum in the pores of the skin, it is very important for the sebum to have a way of draining out of the pores before it becomes infected. Once salicylic acid is used to eliminate the dead skin cells, then the sebum is much less likely to become trapped under the skin and infected.
Salicylic acid is often sold as a makeup remover, but it is most commonly used in acne treatment via stridex pads or oxy pads.
Sulfur is also used in some over the counter acne medications. Sulfur is one of the oldest acne treatments, and reacts with the skin in such a way that it makes it dry, and peel. This works on acne by drying out the Sebum, and therefore, stopping the bacterial growth.
Many soaps and facial cleansers have sulfur in them. Sulfur is effective in getting rid of whiteheads and blackheads. It doesn’t work well against the more inflamed cystic acne. One of the drawbacks is that it can increase skin cell adhesion to the skin, and therefore help cause more pimples in the future. It is best to use a gentle exfoliator when using sulfur to treat acne.
Sulfur also has a strong odor, and some people have skin that reacts harshly to sulfur, causing excessive redness and peeling.
Resorcinol is another over-the-counter chemical that is used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including acne. It works by breaking down hard skin. For acne, this means less clogged pores, and faster skin growth. Resorcinol is commonly used with sulfur to treat acne. It is also good for eczema and dandruff.
Because it is a strong chemical, don’t use resorcinol with other astringents or cleansers unless advised by a dermatologist to do so.