Our Favorite Acne Fighting Ingredients

By Elizabeth G Stratte, MD and Maren Stratte


We see a lot of acne products out there with a lot of different ingredients. It can be overwhelming as well as discouraging with false promises and high expectations. Here we’ve collected the most effective ingredients to look out for. 

Salicylic Acid

Best for Mild Acne


Salicylic acid focuses on exfoliating the top layer of skin. This ingredient is best for addressing blackheads and white heads as well as acne scarring. Look for cleansers with Salicylic acid for clearer skin and smaller pores. One of our best selling products, Pore Therapy, is a cult favorite that especially helps with maskne, but don’t forget to pair it with a non-irritating moisturizer to keep your pores clean and skin hydrated!



Benzoyl Peroxide

Best for Oily Skin, Cystic Acne


Benzoyl Peroxide (BP) works to exfoliate into the middle layer of the skin to address oil production and decrease bacteria that causes cystic acne. Watch out for products that claim to reduce oil production. Doctor Stratte explains “your skin produces a certain amount of oil and no ingredient can change this. Benzoyl Peroxide can absorb the oil, but not decrease its production”. 

Renew hack: use your BP cleanser on your underarms to kill bacteria and reduce odor! Our favorite is PanOxyl 10%.

Glycolic Acid

Good for all skin types


Glycolic Acid is an AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy Acid) that exfoliates revealing newer brighter skin. It’s a gentle way to exfoliate skin versus harsh manual exfoliation, which can cause more irritation, breakouts, and acne scarring. Glycolic Acid is also great for the body to address breakouts and overall dull looking skin. We love the Glytone KP kit that helps with Keratosis Pilaris, acne, and even helps to reduce stretch marks. 


Good for all skin types


A surprising fact about everybody’s favorite anti-aging ingredient is it was originally created to treat acne! Retinols increase cell turnover in the skin to quickly treat and prevent the beginning stage of acne, comedones (clogged pores). “Retinols are hands down the best ingredient for acne,” says Dr. Stratte. “They help to exfoliate the inside of the pores which will  increase the shedding of the lining in the pores that creates acne, and prevents the pimple from forming.”

Everybody’s skin tolerates retinol differently, so we always recommend use with a thick non-comedogenic  moisturizer, at night and SPF everyday, as it can make your skin dry and sensitive to the sun. Retinols come in different levels, and it’s important to start slowly with either SkinMedica Retinol Complex .25 or Obagi Tretinoin .025.

Tags: Acne, Ingredients


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