12 Best Over The Counter Acne Treatments

woman in drug store

If you’re struggling with acne, you will no doubt be looking for an effective solution to rid yourself of the problem.

Acne can be unsightly, embarrassing and uncomfortable to live with, so finding a way to minimize the appearance of breakouts couldn’t be more important for sufferers.

Although there are natural remedies which you could use, sometimes, they just aren’t powerful enough to address the source of the problem. If you’ve tried home remedies and they’ve failed, it could be time to try an over the counter acne treatment.

There are many different products to select from, but which ones are most likely to clear up your spots?

Here we look for the best OTC acne treatment from the many products available today.

Active Ingredients

All the best over the counter acne treatments work differently, depending on which active ingredients they contain.

Some kill the bacteria which causes the inflammation associated with acne. Others eradicate the excess oil from the facial skin. Some speed skin cell growth while removing dead skin cells.

Of course, some products will do all these things together. Some of the most commonly used active ingredients you’ll find in over the counter acne treatments include the following:

Benzoyl peroxide – this ingredient is known to kill acne-causing bacteria while removing excessive oil from the skin and removing dead skin cells that are clogging pores.

Benzoyl Peroxide acne products which are available over the counter come in a range of strengths between 2.5% and 10%. There are some possible side effects when using products which contain this ingredient including stinging, burning, redness, dry skin and scaling.

This is especially likely when your skin is sensitive.

Benzoyl Peroxide can also bleach clothing and hair, so care needs to be taken during application.

Salicylic acid – this ingredient prevents the pores from getting clogged. Salicylic acid over the counter products come in a range of strengths between 0.5% and 5%.

There are a few side effects including skin irritation and stinging, but usually these are mild.

Alpha hydroxy acids – there are two kinds of alpha hydroxy acid which can be found in over the counter acne products.

These are lactic acid and glycolic acid. Both are synthetic versions of acid which is derived from fruits which contain sugar.

They help to combat acne by removing dead skin cells while reducing inflammation and stimulating smoother, new skin to grow.

These acids also reduce existing acne scars, giving the impression of the pores being smaller.

Sulfur – this ingredient remains the dead skin cells which clog up the pores while removing excess oil. Often, sulfur will be combined with ingredients like resorcinol, benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Dry skin can result after using products which contain sulfur and some products with this ingredient have a distinctive odor.

Best Over The Counter Acne Treatment Products

Benzoyl Peroxide Treatment

Humane Benzoyl Peroxide 10%

humane

This acne wash contains a high strength of benzoyl peroxide to effectively prevent breakouts and kill bacteria.

As a non-foaming lotion it is easy to apply to the face and is absorbed rapidly into the skin. As it contains no animal products, fragrances, parabens or SLS, this product is entirely cruelty-free with clean ingredients that make it suitable for use by most users.

Unfortunately, it cannot be used by anyone with sensitive skin due to the 10% benzoyl peroxide concentration.

This wash can be used on the back, body and face and since it was made in America in an FDA/cGMO compliant facility, you can rest assured as to its high quality.

Benefits:

  • Maximum 10% Benzoyl Peroxide content
  • Cruelty-free product which uses only clean ingredients
  • Made in the USA in an FDA/cGMO compliant facility
  • Contains no SLS, parabens, fragrances or animal products
  • Kills bacteria and prevents future breakouts

How To Use:

Apply in an even layer onto damp skin. Massage gently into the skin. Leave on the skin for between 1 and 5 minutes then rinse off. Apply an oil-free moisturizer. Repeat one to two times daily.

If peeling of the skin occurs, reduce the number of applications. Avoid the eye area, avoid sun exposure whenever possible and always apply sunscreen.

cta red


Acne.org Treatment

acne org

This high-quality acne treatment has a Benzoyl Peroxide strength of 2.5% and as it is gel-based it is easy to apply to the skin, spreading easily and without pulling or stretching. 

Made from pharmaceutical grade ingredients, this treatment is fragrance and dye-free and has a balanced pH to care for your skin. 

It doesn’t clump up, even when you apply a moisturizer, and it will never turn white if you sweat. 

This treatment is designed to be used alongside other The Acne.org treatments and this is the second step of the Regimen which was designed by Dan Kern, the founder of the company.

Benefits:

  • Gel-based formula goes on clear and is easily spread
  • Made from pharmaceutical grade ingredients
  • Free of dyes and fragrances
  • Doesn’t go white or clump up

How To Use:

Apply gently to the skin using the fingertips until the product has all been absorbed.

cta red


Claridad Benzoyl Peroxide 10% 

claridad

This product has been specifically designed for use on acne-prone skin with a 10% Benzoyl Peroxide content to rapidly clear blemishes, unclog pores and control production of oil. 

Using only pharmaceutical-grade ingredients, this gel dries out pimples rapidly, reducing redness and blasting zits. 

The formula penetrates into the skin deeply, removing excess sebum, oil, dirt and dead skin cells to guard against more breakouts. 

Containing no parabens, this gel goes on smoothly and clear, so you’ll experience no chalky or gooey residue on your skin. 

With its discreet, fast-drying and lightweight formula, it’s suitable for use under moisturizers and make-up and can even be used at night to treat acne during your sleep.

Benefits:

  • Lightweight formula is suitable for use under cosmetics
  • 10% Benzoyl Peroxide content for medical-grade results
  • Rapid-drying, this gel is clear and discreet
  • Contains no parabens

How To Use:

Cleanse and exfoliate your face then apply a thin layer of gel. Apply once or twice per day once your skin has adapted to the formula, then apply a hydrating acne cream. Always wear a SPF30+ sunscreen to protect your skin while using this treatment. 

Should dryness and irritation of the skin be experienced, reduce your use to once per day or once every other day. Treatment can take as long as six weeks for results to be seen.

cta red

Salicylic Acid Treatment

Eva Naturals Serum

Eva Naturals

One of the best over the counter acne treatment options on the market today, Eva Naturals Serum is packed with antioxidants to protect against harmful UV rays and repair sun-damaged skin. 

This anti-aging serum hydrates your skin thanks to its ability to hold up to a thousand times its own weight in water. 

Thanks to the Niacinamide in this formula, redness and inflammation is reduced for a more even and attractive skin tone and reduced hyperpigmentation. 

Meanwhile, the Retinol it contains unclogs the pores, eradicating dirt to make them appear smaller. With organic ingredients, essential oils and vitamins, this potent serum is effective and safe.

Benefits:

  • Reverses and guards against sun damage
  • Nourishes and hydrates the skin
  • Boosts radiance while reducing inflammation and redness
  • Reduces pore size
  • Made from all-natural high-quality ingredients

How To Use:

Carry out a patch test first to ensure you don’t experience any unwanted reactions. When using, wash your face and leave to dry naturally. Apply a small amount of the product to the face, décolleté and neck, leave to dry then moisturize.

cta red


Clean & Clear Advantage Spot Treatment 

clean n clear spot treatment

Clean & Clear is a well-known, high-quality brand with clinically proven treatments. 

This spot treatment from its range is made from salicylic acid and witch hazel to reduce the symptoms of acne visibly within a single day. 

Its oil-free formula dissolves excess oil on the skin, rapidly reducing redness, swelling and the size of spots. Its 2% salicylic acid content penetrates effectively through the pores to clear blemishes without over-drying the skin in as little as four hours. 

Suitable for use on all kinds of skin, this product will improve your skin appearance rapidly and effectively.

Benefits:

  • Reduces pimples and redness in only four hours
  • 2% salicylic acid content for powerful performance
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Won’t overdry the skin
  • Clinically proven formula

How To Use:

Cleanse your face thoroughly then cover the affected area using a thin layer of medication once to three times per day. If you experience peeling or dryness, apply only once per day or once every other day.

cta red


Neutralyze Acne Treatment Kit

neutralyze kit

This treatment kit is ideal for anyone suffering from moderate or severe acne breakouts. 

Its clinically proven formula has been demonstrated to be 95% effective, delivering impressive results with most users seeing improvement within 2 to 3 days. 

The kit contains a face wash, clearing serum and Neutralyze Synergyzer, and all three products work together to reduce irritation and redness while improving the complexion visibly. 

This kit uses Nitric Oxide to promote effective skin healing and to eradicate acne rapidly. Not only does this treatment kit combat acne, it also corrects hyperpigmentation and dark spots thanks to its prescription grade Mandelic Acid and Salicylic Acid content. 

It also fights the signs of aging to minimize wrinkles and fine lines.

Benefits:

  • 95% effective formula
  • Improvement is seen in 2 to 3 days
  • All in one solution for skin problems
  • Anti-aging properties
  • Corrects dark spots and hyperpigmentation
  • Prescription grade ingredients

How To Use:

Wet your face and apply the face wash to the neck and face area, massaging it gently into your skin. Rinse away using warm water and use a clean towel to pat dry. Next, apply the clearing serum to the skin and allow to be completely absorbed. Finally, apply the Neutralyze Synergyzer to the skin and allow to be completely absorbed. 

Repeat morning and evening for the best results.

cta red

Alpha Hydroxy Acids Treatment

Body Merry Face Wash

body merry cleanser

This face wash is the best start to any skincare routine. Its 2.5% Glycolic Acid content is paired with jojoba beads and willow bark to unclog pores and remove dead skin cells as well as any oil and dirt build-up. 

This cleanser contains highly potent ingredients to make the skin look and feel deeply cleaned. Its oils penetrate deeply into the pores to remove grime while smoothing and nourishing the skin and leaving it supple and soft. 

The natural jojoba beads exfoliate the skin gently, while Kojic acid brightens and evens the skin tone. Its natural oils including tea tree, rosehip and olive moisturize and nourish the skin making it look younger and radiant. 

Suitable for use on most types of skin, this is an effective way of preventing and treating acne and breakouts.

Benefits:

  • Can be used on most skin types
  • Nourishes and moisturizes the skin for a younger, more radiant appearance
  • Prevents and treats breakouts
  • Contains natural essential oils
  • 5% Glycolic Acid content

How To Use:

Massage a tiny amount of the cleanser into your wet skin, taking care to avoid your eyes. Rinse away using warm water. 

Use four to five times a week if your skin is oily or two to three times weekly for sensitive, dry or normal skin. Always use a sunscreen when using this product and limit your sun exposure.

cta red


Acne.org AHA+

acne org glycolic acid

Containing 10% pharmaceutical grade Glycolic acid, this treatment is powerful yet intensely hydrating and powerfully exfoliating. 

It will improve your skin texture, leaving your complexion looking smoother. The lightweight lotion spreads very easily leaving no sticky residue, and since it is completely free of dyes and fragrances, it is safe for most users. 

This product also contains a licorice root extract called licochalcone which is known to calm acne-prone skin. This treatment can be used on the body or face alongside the other products in the Acne.org Treatment regimen. 

It is also suitable for combating irritation or as a targeted spot treatment.

Benefits:

  • 10% pharmaceutical grade Glycolic acid for extra potency
  • Intensely hydrating and powerfully exfoliating formula
  • Leaves complexion smoother with a better texture
  • Smooth and lightweight with no sticky residues
  • Licochalcone calms down acne-prone skin
  • Can be used as a spot treatment or to combat irritation

How To Use:

Apply gently to the face in place of your regular nightly moisturizer two to three times per week. Alternatively blend a mix of half AHA+ and half your regular moisturizer and apply to your face nightly.

cta red


Exfoliating Face Cleansing Wipes

glycolic acid pads

These wipes effectively remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, supporting the renewal of skin cells. Making your skin look more luminescent, smooth and healthy, these wipes contain pharmaceutical grade Glycolic Acid to redefine the profile of your skin within a single use. 

Also capable of diminishing acne scars and hyper-pigmentation, this treatment is packed with natural ingredients known for their ability to shrink pores and improve the skin tone. 

It will also source moisture from your skin’s deep tissues to deliver effective hydration to the outer layer. 

Made using medical-grade botanicals like witch hazel extract, vitamin C and chamomile, these wipes will reveal new skin and target your acne breakouts.

Benefits:

  • Redefines your skin profile with just one use
  • Packed with effective and natural ingredients and medical-grade botanicals
  • Diminishes acne scars and hyper-pigmentation
  • Makes skin look smoother and healthier by removing dead skin cells

How To Use:

Simply wipe the skin with these wipes, taking great care to pay close attention to problem areas such as the forehead, chin and hairline.

cta red

Sulfur Acne Treatment

Grisi Sulfur Soap

grisi sulfur

This sulfur soap contains lanolin as an effective treatment for problematic acne-prone skin. 

When used on a regular basis, GRISI soap has been shown to be effective in eradicating breakouts, although results may not be noticed for between one and eight weeks. 

This soap has effective antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties to remove all built-up dirt and oil on the surface of the skin and to unclog blocked pores that result in breakouts and spots.

This soap represents a simple yet effective way to combat your skin problems and to improve your appearance and self-confidence, especially if used together with GRISI Sulfur Ointment.

Benefits:

  • Contains lanolin to treat acne-prone skin
  • Antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties
  • Removes oil and dirt build-up and unclogs pores
  • Restores smooth skin

How To Use:

Wet the affected area using warm water then apply the soap. Make suds and leave on for ten minutes before rinsing away with cold water. Repeat twice or three times daily. 

Avoid scrubbing too harshly as this could leave your skin dry and irritated.

cta red


Traditional Sulfur Soap

traditional sulfur

This premium quality soap has a 10% sulfur content for powerful effectiveness. 

It comes in its own special suds jar activation and storage vessel for extra convenience. Its traditional formula has stood the test of time and has been shown to have been effective time and time again. 

When properly activated, its colloidal system will form an effective and creamy emulsion that pampers your face while treating your problematic acne-prone skin. 

Perfect for treating breakouts, this soap has both anti-fungal and antiseptic properties to eradicate the build up of dirt and oil from the surface of the skin and to unblock clogged pores to reduce future breakouts.

Benefits:

  • Tried and tested traditional formula
  • Anti-fungal and antiseptic properties
  • Comes in its own special suds jar activation and storage vessel
  • 10% sulfur

How To Use:

Activate the soap cleansing bar by soaking it in warm water for 20 seconds. Then work up a lather using either your hands or by rubbing the soap directly on your skin. Avoid your eyes.

cta red


AcneFree Sulfur Mask

sulfur mask

One of the best over the counter acne products of its type is this anti-acne face mask which contains 3.5% sulfur to reduce the severity and frequency of your acne breakouts while also eliminating the problem of excess oil. 

Its bentonite clay and vitamin C content cares for your skin, while reducing the appearance of blemishes and enlarged pores. 

Whether you’re male or female, an adult or a teen, you can benefit from this effective face mask which is particularly recommended to those with sensitive skin. Its color signal technology is especially useful since it changes color to prove it’s working.

Benefits:

  • Color signal technology shows this face mask is working
  • Suitable for sensitive skin
  • 5% sulfur content to reduce severity and frequency of acne breakouts
  • Vitamin C and bentonite clay care for the skin
  • Suitable for men, women, adults and teens

How To Use:

Massage the product gently onto cleansed skin two or three times weekly to absorb the excess oil and cleanse the pores. Leave for ten minutes before rinsing.

cta red


Final Thoughts

Although acne-prone skin can be difficult to cope with, the best over the counter acne medicine can make a big difference to the appearance of your problematic skin. 

These products all contain ingredients which have been proven to be effective in reducing redness and excess oil and in guarding against future breakouts. 

Whether you prefer to use a soap, a face mask, a gel or a face wash, there is sure to be a product available over the counter that suits your preferences and which yields good results for you.