acne treatments over the counter

Erica Jennings

Erica Jennings

“Over The Counter Acne Treatments: Can They Work For You?”

Contributer: Erica Jennings

All those acne products: creams, gels, pads, lotions, washes, etc that you see lining the shelves of your local drug store or supermarket are called over the counter acne treatments. You don’t need a doctor’s prescription and they are often “watered down” versions of prescription medications. They usually contain an “active ingredient” like benzoyl peroxide, sulphur, salicylic acid, or resorcinol.drugstore image

Over the Counter acne treatments are pushed on us by the multi-billion dollar cosmetics industry who pay for all of those glitzy commercials you see on tv and in beauty magazines. The problem is that they don’t attack the actual cause of acne (hormone imbalance) and they often promote the idea that your pimples can be beaten with better hygiene or with a simple pimple cream. Don’t believe it. If you have severe acne, over the counter treatments aren’t going to do you much good. If you suffer from a very mild form of acne with occasional breakouts, you might find that a OTC topical acne treatment with benzoyl peroxide can be useful, but in all honesty the negatives outweigh the benefits of benzoyl peroxide for most people. The best acne treatment on the market is Acne No More by Mike Walden. Click Here to Read My Review of Acne No More  and see why I recommend it more than any other treatment.

Let’s take a closer look at some popular over the counter acne treatments:

Cleansers, washes, scrubs and pore strips – Forget it!

You shouldn’t bother with any of these over the counter acne treatments even if they contain an active ingredient like benzoyl peroxide. The liquid acne products don’t stay on your face long enough to do anything. As a rule of thumb, anything your rinse off your face instead of leaving it on is probably a waste of money.

Pore strips look like they’re working when you see little black spikes all over them after you go after your blackheads but the truth is that pore strips irritate acne prone skin and can make things worse.

For face washing, you should use a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil over any of the “medicated” acne washes. There is a good deal I found on a two-pack of Cetaphil on Amazon: click here to see at Amazon Cetaphil is a gentle cleanser that won’t irritate your skin like soap. Irritation aggravates acne and many people find, especially if they have only light to moderate acne, that switching to Cetaphil makes a big difference to their complexion. Another tip: You only need to wash your face twice per day. If you do it more than that, again, you might aggravate your acne. Remember – hygiene does not cause acne, hormones cause acne.

Benzoyl Peroxide Topical Acne Treatment

Benzoyl peroxide is known to dermatologists as the “gold standard” of topical acne treatments. It is the active ingredient in 90% of acne medications (like ProActive and other “systems” you get online). When applied to your acne prone skin, whether as a pimples cream, gel or lotion, it breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and benzoic acid. It is the hydrogen peroxide that kills the P.acnes bacteria that infects blackheads and whiteheads and turns them into pimples. One advantage over other antibiotics is that bacteria don’t develop a “resistance” to benzoyl peroxide. It also might have some effect in clearing blocked pores.

First the good news. Although it is widely prescribed by dermatologists in strengths of 5-10%, concentrations of 2.5% which you can get over the counter are just as effective and much less expensive. If your dermatologist tries to prescribe a 10% B.P. pimples cream to you, save your money and get the 2.5% cream instead. An added benefit is that the 2.5% solution will be much less irritating to your skin. If you have light to moderate acne and don’t have sensitive skin, a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide acne treatment might be worth trying.

Benzoyl peroxide is most effective when used in combination with salicylic acid which helps the benzoyl peroxide to penetrate more deeply into your clogged pores. You can buy salicylic acid wipes over the counter at most drug stores. Simply wipe your face with the pad before applying the benzoyl peroxide.

Okay, now the not so good news. Most people that I talk to, including myself, have not responded to benzoyl peroxide other than to develop dry, flaky itchy skin. Maybe that’s because I generally deal with moderate to heavy acne sufferers. If you have cystic acne, benzoyl peroxide is unlikely to help and will probably aggravate your acne. One issue is that benzoyl peroxide only treats one of the contributing factors to pimples which is the P.acnes bacteria. Sure, the bacteria can infect your blackheads and whiteheads but the true cause of acne is hormonal and benzoyl peroxide does nothing to treat this underlying factor.

It is a bleaching agent (hydrogen peroxide, remember?) so be careful around your clothes, hair, bedding and towels. Also, because it does not treat the real cause of acne, any benefits you see from using benzoyl peroxide pimples cream stop when you stop taking it. That’s great for the cosmetics companies who have you hooked but not so great for your wallet. Finally, don’t forget that it is very irritating to your skin and can cause it to burn, peel, itch and become red and inflamed. Benzoyl peroxide was first used to treat acne because doctors liked it as an effective “peeling agent.” Fortunately, at over the counter strength of 2.5%, you might be able to tolerate it fine.

Like I said, please stick to trying the 2.5% solutions. If benzoyl peroxide will work for you, it will work at that strength. In my experience, this “gold standard” only works if you mild acne and will take about 6 weeks to show a positive effect. Don’t expect any miracles. The best thing about benzoyl peroxide is that it is cheap if bought over the counter. If you want a treatment that is actually effective (!!!), I recommend Acne No More (Click Here To Read My Review). You should also sign up for my free acne treatments email mini-course (Click Here to Read More about the free Email mini-course) which is “spam free” and full of great tips to help you get rid of acne. Good Luck, and Remember – You Deserve Clear Skin!