3 Best Over-The-Counter Acne Fighting Ingredients

Written by Christa Tomc, DO, Board Certified Dermatologist on January 25, 2017 No Comments

acne fighting ingredients

Of all the major skin conditions, acne is one of the most common skin complaints of our patients. While acne is most prevalent in teenage years, it can persist throughout adulthood. There are different types of acne and it can occur nearly anywhere on the body. Severe forms of acne can lead to serious and permanent scarring.

At Westlake Dermatology, we take a scientific approach to acne management offering the most advanced acne treatment options to address acne of any level.  In addition to in-office treatments there are also many great over-the-counter acne treatments that can help manage acne. If you’re considering non-prescription strength acne products, look for formulas that contain these types of acne-fighting ingredients:

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a form of beta hydroxyl acid (BHA) that treats acne in two ways. First, its lipophilic properties work to dissolve excess oil (sebum). Second, salicylic acid is a natural exfoliant, removing dead skin cells and debris from the skin. Both of these functions limit the clogging of pores. Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties which further help to prevent breakouts.

** Tip: Individuals with sensitive will want to opt for a formula that uses a lower percentage of salicylic acid and/or refrain from using the product on a daily basis. 


Nicotinamide, also called nicotinic acid or niacinamide, is a form of vitamin B3 that promotes overall skin health. In terms of acne prevention, nicotinamide helps slow the skin’s product of sebum while also minimizing inflammation. Nicotinamide also helps to keep the skin properly hydrated by reducing water loss, making it an ideal ingredient to use alongside drying ingredients like salicylic acid.

** Tip: The hydrating and antioxidant nature of nicotinamide can also help even the skin tone and correct pigmentation issues.

Benzoyl Peroxide

The root cause of acne is P. acnes, a type of bacteria which thrives in clogged pores. Oxygen is the natural enemy of P. acnes. In fact, the bacteria cannot survive in oxygen rich environments. This weakness is what makes benzoyl peroxide a powerful ingredient in the fight against breakouts.

Benzoyl peroxide works by forcing oxygen into clogged pores which kills the bacteria under the skin’s surface. Since benzoyl peroxide works on contact you’ll find it in both acne-specific cleansers and spot treatments.

** Tip: to limit skin irritation opt for a benzoyl peroxide based product that also includes soothing ingredients like gluconolactone. Benzoyl peroxide can stain fabrics, so be sure it dries completely on the skin. 


Christa Tomc, DO

Christa Tomc, DO, earned her medical degree at Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine and subsequently completed her internship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, serving as resident liaison of her intern class. Dr. Tomc’s interests include detection and prevention of skin cancer and premature photo-aging. Dr. Tomc is a member of the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, American Osteopathic Association, American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, Women’s Dermatologic Society, Texas Dermatologic Society, Texas Medical Association, and Dallas-Fort Worth Dermatologic Society.

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