When you struggle with acne, it can feel like your skin breaks out at the slightest trigger—seasonal changes, new beauty products, hormonal changes. Understanding how the ingredients in your acne-fighting products work can help you effectively treat and prevent blemishes so you can keep your skin clear and radiant.
Glycolic acid (AHA), salicylic acid (BHA), and benzoyl peroxide are three ingredients commonly found in over-the-counter products for mild acne. But how do you know which ingredient is the right one for you?
What Are the Differences Between the Most Popular Acne Ingredients?
Here is a breakdown of three common over-the-counter acne-fighting ingredients to help treat and prevent mild acne.
This ingredient works by removing excess oil and dead skin cells and killing bacteria beneath your skin. It can help with pimples, pus, and redness, but doesn’t help with whiteheads or blackheads.
Benzoyl peroxide is a bleaching agent. It can bleach your clothing, skin, and other materials, so apply with caution and wash your hands thoroughly after using it. Benzoyl peroxide is much harsher than other common acne ingredients, such as salicylic acid.
When starting benzoyl peroxide, you may notice your skin becoming increasingly irritated, dry, and red. You also might see a worsening of your acne, especially during the first three weeks of use. If your skin doesn’t become clearer and less irritated within 4 to 6 weeks, you should stop using it.
Glycolic acid is a water-soluble, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane. It helps reduce acne through exfoliating the surface level of the skin so the dead cells can’t mix with oils on your skin and clog your pores.
Glycolic acid provides several benefits for your skin. Your skin looks rejuvenated and smoother thanks to its exfoliating properties. It also helps your skin retain moisture, so your skin doesn’t overproduce oil. Plus, it can help reduce the appearance of acne scars, dark spots, fine lines, and surface wrinkles. Many people report softer, more vibrant skin after using this ingredient.
When using this ingredient, it’s important to apply sunscreen since your skin will be more photosensitive.
Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that penetrates deep into your pores. Salicylic acid helps fight acne by exfoliating the top layers of your skin and removing dead cells and excess oil from inside your pores. It also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties to help prevent future breakouts.
Salicylic acid is particularly effective against blackheads, whiteheads, and can prevent future comedones from forming. By helping to keep your pores clear, this ingredient can help prevent blemishes from starting.
This ingredient can dry your face if too much oil is removed; however, it’s less harsh than benzoyl peroxide. Don’t use salicylic acid if you’re allergic to aspirin.
How Do You Choose the Right Acne Ingredients for You?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to treating and preventing acne. That said, the more you understand your skin type, your kind of acne, and the potential causes of your breakouts, the easier it becomes to select the right ingredients for you.
If you have sensitive skin, consider trying products with less harsh ingredients, such as salicylic acid and glycolic acid. These products are often less irritating to people’s skin than benzoyl peroxide. Additionally, if you have eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, or psoriasis, you should consult with your doctor before using benzoyl peroxide.
Are you looking for a gentle cleanser to help treat and prevent your acne and improve the appearance of your skin? Then try Innate Skin’s Clear Skin AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser to gently exfoliate your skin to reveal your healthiest skin and fight current and future acne breakouts. It is gentle enough to be used 1-2 times a day by most people and won’t bleach your clothing, towels, and sheets!