A small disclaimer: We want to point out that it’s a common practice for the skincare industry to demonize or acne-shame in an attempt to create and feed into insecurities to better promote anti-acne products. We believe that all skin is perfect as long as you feel comfortable in it, and wish you all the best in your skincare journey. If your skincare journey involves reducing acne and acne scarring, please read on for more information!
Over 85% of people have experienced acne at some point in their lives! It’s often painful and unwanted, on top of recurring constantly to the point where two pimples pop up when one finally disappears. We share those concerns too, and we’re here to help!
To first understand how to take care of acne, we need to understand how breakouts form. Acne happens when dead skin cells and sebum are clumped together to plug a follicle, and can have many different causes. Genetics, external irritants, diet, stress, and hormones can all influence the severity and frequency of acne; sometimes, topical treatments may not be effective for all forms of acne. If no topical treatments are effective, it may be best to visit a dermatologist for a professional look at your acne. The overarching tip to eliminate acne is to keep pores clean so as to avoid the aforementioned clogging, and to use non comedogenic products.
While keeping pores clean alone can generally lessen the recurrence of acne, we suggest also identifying the type of breakout. Contrary to popular belief, whiteheads and blackheads are not pimples! While whiteheads and blackheads are non-inflammatory breakouts, pimples are inflamed by bacteria infection. Each type of breakout has its own best treatment, so make sure you know what kinds of breakouts you are experiencing.
Whiteheads and blackheads, for example, are best treated with one active product at a time, giving your skin time to adjust until you feel confident your skin can handle more frequent application. Acids are especially great for non-inflammatory breakouts because they open the pores up, thereby eliminating clogging. Arguably, the most popular ingredient for treating whiteheads and blackheads is salicylic acid (a BHA), but glycolic acid (an AHA) and retinol (a gentler form of retinoid) are also common in acne-fighting products.
Since pimples are already inflamed by bacteria infection, it’s important to keep your pimples clean. This means no dirty makeup brushes or pillowcases! Plus, incorporating antibacterial products in your skincare routine can be a great way to reduce inflammation and redness. Common ingredients to treat pimples include our besties salicylic acid and AHAs!
Of course, your skin type and condition also play a role in how to properly treat your acne. Oily skin types produce more oil and sebum, therefore increasing the likelihood of acne. If you have a dehydrated skin condition, your skin may overcompensate and overproduce oil and sebum as well, leading to more acne. Finding the proper balance of hydration versus moisturization can be key to treating acne with your specific skin type and condition.
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite acne-fighting products at Glowie Co, all personally tested and sitting pretty on our Holy Grail list!
Best Products for Acne
CosRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
While CosRX’s BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is marketed as a blackhead-fighting product specifically, we can attest that it’s actually amazing for most types of breakouts. It contains betaine salicylate, a milder form of BHA that combines both betaine and salicylic acid. In other words, it gently exfoliates with the power of salicylic acid while moisturizing skin at the same time with betaine. One major mistake that some may make while attempting to treat acne is neglecting to moisturize skin after harshly exfoliating, which can damage skin further. The lack of moisturization can lead to skin overcompensating by overproducing oil and sebum, thus contributing to even more acne formation. What’s fantastic about this exfoliator is its dual function of not only clearing clogged pores and preventing future build-up, but also helping skin rebuild its moisture shield so as to create healthier skin overall.
Plus, the BHA Blackhead Power Liquid’s first ingredient is willow bark water, which contains salicin, the natural form of salicylic acid. As such, willow bark water is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredient that provides major soothing benefits to irritated, inflamed skin. To improve the appearance of redness and acne scarring, niacinamide also makes an appearance in this all-star ingredients list. If your skin reacts poorly to stronger acids such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, give this chemical exfoliator a shot!
Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner
Using acids on your face seems like an uber scary idea; we totally understand! If you’re hesitant to start using acids, a great place to start is with a daily toner that contains other replenishing and nourishing ingredients. Enter Benton’s Aloe BHA Skin Toner, which is super mild and suitable for everyday use with snail mucin and aloe in addition to salicylic acid. The salicylic acid here is concentrated only at 0.5%, so it’s our top pick for sensitive skin and mild acne. Don’t be mistaken, though! Even though the concentration is on the lower end, it’s much better to err on the side of caution than chemically exfoliate your face off in an attempt to remove all acne at once. We find that patience in treating acne leads to fewer flare-ups and an easier healing process. This toner is especially effective in soothing and healing skin, as it delivers anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits from aloe leaf water and aloe leaf extract.
Plus, antimicrobial snail mucin speeds up the acne healing process and regenerates cells with its glycolic acid! Aloe and snail mucin are both gentle and healing ingredients that can fade acne scars, so this toner treats both present acne and previous acne scars. What’s more, Benton also includes sodium hyaluronate, a form of hyaluronic acid, in this formulation. As we mentioned earlier, a huge mistake is to over-exfoliate without taking the proper measures to strengthen the skin’s natural moisture barrier. This toner both lightly exfoliates and does more than enough to hydrate and moisturize the skin!
Naruko Tea Tree Shine Control & Blemish Clear Sheet Mask
Salicylic acid, tranexamic acid, tea tree essential oil, and sodium hyaluronate? Yeah, we’re officially obsessed. Naruko’s Tea Tree Shine Control & Blemish Clear Sheet Mask straddles the line between oil and moisture balance perfectly, while also combining two potent acids to both detoxify pores and reduce acne scarring. Salicylic acid is an exfoliating acid that specifically targets acne, whereas tranexamic acid reduces discoloration and redness. Tranexamic acid is a water-soluble ingredient that actually works best with oil-soluble ingredients such as salicylic acid, as they improve its penetration into the skin and therefore increase its effectiveness. Sodium hyaluronate replenishes the skin to strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier.
Natural acne-fighting ingredient tea tree essential oil is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, and is best suited for mild to moderate inflammatory acne. Tea tree essential oil is also non comedogenic and surprisingly moisturizes as well, which we love in this sheet mask! Each box contains 10 sheet masks that drive 26 mL of powerful essence into the skin, clearing pores while maintaining proper moisture content to regulate oil production.
CosRX Centella Blemish Cream
CosRX’s Centella Blemish Cream is an overnight spot treatment that treats acne in two ways: first, it soothes inflammation and redness from active breakouts. Second, it fades older acne scars for a blemish-free appearance. The key ingredients, centella asiatica leaf water and centella asiatica extract, have significant scientific research to suggest that their active compounds are not only greatly soothing, but hydrating and restorative as well. Zinc oxide discourages bacterial infection and protects the skin from external irritants, thus supporting wound healing. It also minimizes irritation and seals in moisture, both of which are important for fighting acne.
One thing worth noting is that this spot treatment is NOT a night-time moisturizing cream, nor is it meant to be blended in. After moisturizing, apply a thick layer on your active breakouts, as well as older acne scars, to spot treat. If you’re looking for something to suck out the gunk from your pimples at a later stage, we recommend another CosRX product (yes, yet ANOTHER CosRX product since they understand the assignment!): the Acne Pimple Master Patch!
Acne can often seem like an insurmountable obstacle, but it can be treated with patience, knowledge, and the right products. In the case that you are still struggling with acne, perhaps consulting a dermatologist or medical professional in person is the best option if you have the means to do so!
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