We asked our top experts on their recommendations for the best acne active ingredients.
Constantly waking up to stubborn acne and dreaming of the day you reach the ultimate goal of achieving clearer skin? Fighting stubborn acne is stressful. However, what is even more stressful is finding the right products and regimen that work best for you.
Given that acne can be very complex, truth is, acne is not just a cosmetic issue. Rather, it is a medical condition that warrants expert care. Most of the time, we rely on acne treatments without knowing what is actually in the products we are buying, what the active ingredients actually do, and how to effectively combine different products in a regimen.
So, what are these acne ingredients that truly work? Here are The Naderi Center’s top picks for the best ingredients to fight acne:
Benzoyl peroxide is an antimicrobial, which helps kill acne-causing bacteria—specifically P. acnes bacteria. It also helps remove excess oil from the skin, removes and exfoliates dead skin cells, decreases inflammation, and keeps pores clean. In turn, this ingredient is good for treating and preventing acne.
Tip: this ingredient is best for inflamed and cystic acne. Our experts recommend that patients start slowly, around 2-5 % potency, to avoid excessive irritation. Possible side effects may include: dry skin, stinging, redness, and burning.
Salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid, is a gentle exfoliating acid that has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-comedogenic properties. It helps remove the top layer of dead skin cells by deeply penetrating into the pores; thereby, unclogging them. Because it is also keratolytic, which means it helps dissolve the keratin in your skin, salicylic acid can penetrate deep into the skin and fight pore congestion. It also helps reduce the number, and size, of whiteheads and blackheads while also removing excess skin oil to prevent new pimples. This ingredient regulates cell turnover and helps prevent any build up, which can lead to inflammation and acne.
Tip: patients may experience better results when using it in products that gives this ingredient more time to do its job, such as in toners and spot treatments compared to cleansers.
VITAMIN A DERIVATIVES
Both tackling aging and acne issues, vitamin A derivatives are considered the most effective weapons in fighting acne (and aging). Vitamin A derivatives help exfoliate the skin, boost collagen production, stimulate cellular turnover, and decrease oil production. Thus, they are considered the most effective weapons in fighting acne since they do not only treat current acne, but also prevent the formation of new acne by targeting the initial stages of clogging at the follicle itself.
Selecting the right vitamin A derivative that is right for your skin can be confusing. Here is a simplified breakdown of the Vitamin A derivatives:
RETINOIDS: Tretinoin (including Retin-A), Adapalene, and Tazarotene
Retinoids have been proven to help unclog pores and stimulate collagen production. The secret ingredient that helps combat acne and repair photoaging is retinoic acid. In fighting acne, it works by penetrating into the oil glands and reducing the oil production; its anti-inflammatory property is what keeps acne causing bacteria in check.
The big difference between retinol and retinoids is their concentration of the active ingredient retinoic acid. Retinols have a lower concentration of the active ingredient retinoic acid, while retinoids have higher concentrations. Hence, because the ester forms found in OTC retinols require more steps to convert into retinoic acid, this results in a weaker and less intense product compared to their prescription counterpart.
The acne product that is best for you depends on many factors, such as your skin type, level of oil production, type of acne, age, etc. When purchasing products, it is a good habit to check for the active ingredients as well as the strength of those active ingredients. An ideal acne treatment protocol will contain products that have different active ingredients in order to tackle stubborn acne from multiple angles.
“When starting an acne treatment protocol patience is key as the journey to clearer skin requires time. Acne may look worse before it gets better.”–Dr. Alexandra Snodgrass, Board Certified Dermatologist
Acne is a medical condition, and it warrants expert care. It is important to consider the active ingredients in your skincare, including treatment adjuncts. Choosing the right skincare products that complement each other is hard, and our experts are here to help.