Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007


What Kind of Acne Cream Is Most Effective for Your Skin?

By Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, Double board-certified dermatologist

Even though there are many types of acne treatment, the anti-acne cream tends to lead the list of preferred methods of dealing with unsightly blemishes. The reason is fairly simple: they are easy to use and easy to obtain. The question is, does acne cream really work, and is it strong enough to deal with the problem on its own?

acne cream
People generally prefer acne cream to other treatments because it’s easy to use.


  • Acne creams are not effective or in any way advised in the treatment of serious forms of acne such as cystic acne, nodular acne, and acne conglobata.
  • Milder forms of acne such as acne vulgaris, whiteheads, and blackheads all respond well to acne creams.
  • Skin type matters when considering whether or not to try an acne cream. Creams are not ideal for oily skin.
  • Several different chemicals are used in acne creams, the most common being benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. These actives fight acne by reducing bacterial count, removing dead skin cells, unclogging pores, and reducing surface oil.
  • It is common for acne creams containing benzoyl peroxide (BPO) to cause a dry and stiff feeling of the skin. A good moisturizer, switching to a cream with a lower concentration, or using a cream with soothing natural ingredients can alleviate the problem.

Types of Acne

Before you rush to the store to pick up a tube of acne cream for your latest breakout, it is good to know what you’re dealing with. Even though acne is used as a blanket term for any surface blemish, there are actually many different types of acne. Some respond to acne cream and some do not. The various types of acne are:

  • Cystic Acne
  • Acne Conglobata
  • Acne Vulgaris
  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Nodular Acne

The biggest difference between these types of acne is whether they occur beneath the skin surface, or on top of the skin. The types of acne that originate below the skin surface are least affected by skin applications, and even the best acne cream may only have a mild effect on them. Acne conglobata, cystic acne, and nodular acne begin beneath the surface, often far beneath and often require much more complex treatment. Even though a good acne cream can help keep the skin clean and free of bacteria that may aggravate the situation, it is a good idea to consult your physician or a dermatologist to see if there are better answers for acne conglobata, cystic acne and nodular acne. Generally speaking, an acne sufferer should see a doctor or skin specialist right away before trying anything else if they…

  • Suffer from cystic acne, nodular acne, or acne conglobata. These types of acne will often not only cause physical pain but also cause scars, and it makes sense for a dermatologist to quickly intervene with antibiotics to deal with the inflammation and the discomfort.
  • Feel uncomfortable trying home remedies on their own and prefer to let their own physician or a dermatologist take care of their treatment.
  • Experience feelings of depression on account of their acne.
  • Experience pain or other physical discomfort from their acne.

In all other situations it makes perfect sense to either try a homemade remedy or an over-the-counter acne cream. Dietary changes always make sense, regardless of what direction the sufferer takes in their treatment.

The three types of acne that are best suited to treatment with acne cream are acne vulgaris, blackheads, and whiteheads. These types of acne occur due to dead skin cells and oils that clog the pores of your skin and create painful eruptions.

How to Choose an Acne Cream

When looking for the best acne medication for your condition you first have to consider your skin type. If your skin is oily, you don’t want to use creams. An acne cream will simply increase the oil on the surface of your skin because creams have an oil base to keep them smooth and pliable.

For oily skin your best choice is a gel form of acne product. Anti-acne cream is the best choice for people with dry or combination skin. Not only will it help prevent the flaking that can clog up pores, but it will feel great and make your skin feel softer in general.

Active Ingredients in Acne Creams

The best acne cream products are medicated with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulphur, tea tree oil, or a combination of these.

  • Salicylic acid loosens the debris and dirt on the surface of the skin and lets you wash away the contaminants that often cause acne breakouts. It’s also helps unclog pores, which is part of the reason why acne forms in the first place. Alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid are both forms of salicylic acid that basically do the same thing, i.e. exfoliate the skin. It is used in acne cream, gel, and medicated pads. There are no known side effects to using products with salicylic acid. Note that users of alpha hydroxy acid can experience a 50% increase in sensitivity to the sun you should take precautions including wearing sunscreen and protective clothing when going out in sunlight. Generally speaking, salicylic acid is very gentle to use, and is less likely to cause skin irritations.
  • Benzoyl Peroxide is a long-acting ingredient in acne medications, and it fights acne by reducing the number of Propionibacterium acnes, the bacterium that is in part responsible for the formation of acne, on the skin surface. It is usually added at 10% in bar soap form, lotion, cream, and gel and should be used once or twice a day. When using products that have benzoyl peroxide as the main active ingredient, have patience. It can take between 4 to 6 weeks to see a complete improvement. Also, BPO, especially at high concentrations, can cause the skin to become quite dry, stiff, and irritated. If this happens, you should first try and see if a good moisturizer can alleviate the problem, and if that doesn’t help, consider switching to a cream with a lower concentration of BPO. Numerous accounts from acne sufferers online suggest that a 2.5% concentration, and using a generous amount of cream is both effective and significantly less drying to the skin. Even at lower concentrations, a good moisturizer is still recommended, though.
  • Sulphur is used in ointments to treat acne and other skin irritations. It relieves the itching and flakiness that can result as a symptom of an acne outbreak. Sulphur is also good to kill the bacteria P. acnes that is responsible for the infections that can accompany acne. Sulphur also decreases the oiliness on the surface of the skin and also helps the skin slough off dead cells to keep the cells clear. It is very mild, and is not known to cause side effects in users.
  • Tea tree oil is an organic ingredient found in acne cream and gels. It only takes a 5% solution of tea tree oil to give many of the same benefits of benzoyl peroxide and also includes antiseptic properties and acts as an antifungal medication on the skin as well.
  • Retinol is good for acne outbreaks on any area of the body, but can cause sensitivity to the sun. If you use a product that contains retinol, it is a good idea to use it at night so there is time for the skin to absorb it before going out in sun, and also to wear sunscreens when using it.
  • Triclosan is used as a face and/or body wash to get rid of bacteria that can aggravate acne. Even when you rinse your face or body, the medication stays behind to protect it from harmful bacteria. While triclosan isn’t very effective on its own, it is usually added to acne cream that includes benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Because some of these ingredients can be harsh on the skin, and cause dryness, the best acne creams will have soothing additives like aloe vera, or other moisturizing ingredients added to combat the “stiff” feeling or irritation you might otherwise experience.

Advanced over-the-counter treatments systems such as Exposed Skin Care has several natural actives, including green tea, passion flower extract, aloe vera, sage extract, and licorice root extract. These natural ingredients all help make their product feel smooth on the skin and, in so doing, turns caring for your skin into an enjoyable experience. Whether you decide on a simple acne cream or the more advanced solutions, there are three things you need to observe regardless if you want to become clear: be consistent, be patient, and always follow the directions.

Comments 0
Comments (0)
Add Comment

Our Mission

To be your most trusted ally in your pursuit of clear, healthy skin.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!