Every year, approximately 50 million Americans are affected by acne. Do you suffer from acne? Looking for the perfect treatment or product that works best for your skin type?

It can be overwhelming when it comes to choosing the best acne treatment. There are so many different products and treatments on the market.

With our comprehensive guide, we discuss different types of acne and the best ways of treating acne. We’ll also give you plenty of tips to manage your skin health.

Read on to learn how to choose the best acne treatment for your skin today.

What Is Acne?

One of the most common skin conditions in the United States is acne vulgaris, which is also known as acne.

Acne usually develops during puberty as a result of persistent inflammation in the hair follicles and oil glands of the skin. When someone has acne, the hair, sebum, and keratinocytes within a hair follicle clump together, obstructing keratinocytes from reaching the skin surface and shedding.

Bacteria multiply in plugged follicles, causing the growth of pimples. The pimple eventually breaks down, releasing pus which contains dead white blood cells and bacteria. This can result in the formation of more pimples and scars on the skin.

Acne can be caused by various factors like genetics, environment, and stress. Though it’s not dangerous to health, it can leave lasting physical and emotional scars.

Finding the Best Acne Treatment

There are numerous acne treatments available, some you can buy over the counter, while others will be prescribed by a cosmetic dermatologist. Choosing acne treatment can be challenging so we’ve listed the best acne treatments here.

Mild acne can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) treatments that don’t require a prescription. These treatments are available as creams, gels, and lotions. To choose the right one for your skin, focus on selecting products with active ingredients that are suitable for you.

For severe acne, you may be prescribed antibiotics as well as a topical treatment.

To treat acne, different components may work in various ways, such as by killing bacteria, removing sebum, or altering the rate of skin renewal.

For effective acne treatment, commonly recommended ingredients are:


Retinoids, a type of vitamin A, can accelerate skin renewal and are typically the initial approach to treating acne. They function by focusing on pores that produce excessive keratin, a protein present in hair, skin, and nails, thereby reducing follicle blockages.

Retinoids help in reducing inflammation and preventing the formation of blackheads and whiteheads, as well as preventing the development of new lesions. Additionally, they improve the skin’s barrier to better absorb other acne treatments.

It is recommended to start with small amounts of retinoids due to the common side effects. This can include skin irritation, dryness, and increased light sensitivity.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a type of antibacterial treatment that is often used for treating acne. When applied to the skin, benzoyl peroxide breaks down and introduces oxygen to the follicle.

As a result, OTC benzoyl peroxide eliminates bacteria that cause acne and enhances lesions by eliminating dead skin cells and excessive sebum. There are different strengths of benzoyl peroxide available over the counter, ranging from 2.5% to 10%, but people with mild to moderate acne are advised to use 5% strength.

Peeling and dry skin are common side effects. If the solution comes into contact with hair or clothes, it may also cause bleaching.

Alpha/Beta-Hydroxy Acids

AHAs and BHAs are types of acids that come from fruits and plants. They are often used in chemical exfoliants to help remove layers of skin and improve the appearance of your skin.

AHAs are a type of acid that dissolve dead skin cells and encourage the growth of new ones by breaking down keratin. By removing the top layer, AHAs can reach deeper layers of skin (dermis) and boost collagen production, which helps make the skin strong and elastic.

If the concentration is high, you may experience side effects such as burning, itching, and increased sensitivity of the skin to light.

BHAs are a type of acid that can dissolve in oil. They can enter the skin surface and roots of hair follicles to reduce sebum production and eliminate dead skin cells. By making keratin softer, BHAs can help other acne treatments penetrate the skin more effectively.

You may experience mild stinging, skin irritation, and rashes as side effects.

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is a natural ingredient found in grains such as barley, rye, and wheat. It is used in combination with other acne treatments to help clear pores and reduce inflammation.

Similar to AHAs and BHAs, it acts as a chemical exfoliator to remove dead skin cells and penetrate the surface layer of the skin. This helps to eliminate blockages and prevent future acne breakouts.

Although azelaic acid is a milder option compared to AHAs and BHAs, it can still cause burning, tingling, peeling, and dryness of the skin. Additionally, it is important to apply sunscreen while using azelaic acid as the outermost layer of skin may become sensitive to sunlight due to peeling.

Choosing the Right Product

Several factors, such as acne type, acne severity, and skin type can influence the choice of a suitable treatment for acne. Asking some general questions can assist in selecting the appropriate treatment.

A qualified dermatologist will help you choose the best product.

Skin Type

What is your skin type – oily, normal, or combination? Certain products may have different effects on different skin types.

Suitability of Ingredients

Is your skin sensitive to any of the ingredients? If you had an adverse reaction to any of the listed ingredients, it’s best to avoid using them in the future and explore alternative options.

Strength of Treatment

If you have easily irritated or sensitive skin, it’s advised to begin with the lowest concentration when using active ingredients. Different strengths are available, and it’s important to note that high concentrations don’t always yield better results. Some people have seen improvement with concentrations as low as 0.5%.

Need to Speak to a Dermatologist?

Choosing the best acne treatment is a crucial step in achieving clear and healthy skin. With so many products on the market, it can be difficult to know which one will work best for you. We’ve listed the best ingredients to look for in a product.

If you need more help deciding on the right product or want to explore other options, speak to Central KY Dermatology. We are here to provide expert advice and get you closer to finding the best acne treatment that works for you.