Acne - PureSkin Dermatology


Are you dealing with frequent breakouts?  Feeling overwhelmed with the number of advertisements and over the counter options to treat acne?  Well, you’re not alone.  With so many acne treatments available over the counter, it’s hard to know where to start.  Acne is considered a chronic disease of the oil gland, and even after achieving improvement, it is important to keep up with maintenance therapy to prevent it from coming back, or worse causing scarring.

September is National Acne Awareness month, and in honour of all those suffering from acne and not knowing where to start, we’ve listed our favourite over the counter active ingredients to look out for:  

  • Salicylic Acid
    A beta-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid helps unclog pores, combats sebum production and is an effective treatment for white heads and black heads.  It is available over the counter as a cleanser and moisturizer.  With minimal side effects, this is usually one of the first treatments we recommend patients with mild acne try over the counter.
  • Benzoyl Peroxide
    Benzoyl peroxide is an excellent antibiotic and anti-inflammatory agent to treat acne, meaning it will reduce redness and decrease pus-filled lesions.  It can be found in cleansers and moisturizers over the counter.  The main side effect with this treatment is that it bleaches clothing, linens and even hair – so consider investing in all white linen!   
  • Azelaic Acid
    Azelaic acid is a great option if you have more sensitive skin.  It works as an anti-inflammatory, decreasing white heads and black heads without causing skin irritation.  It is also safe to use if pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • Retinoids
    Topical retinoids are available over the counter and come in gels, creams and lotions.  These are vitamin A derivatives that are best used in the evenings on freshly cleansed skin.  Most common side effects include skin irritation and sun sensitivity.  It is the basis of all prescriptive acne treatment and an extremely effective one.  If you’re struggling with getting your skin used to a retinoid, check out our post on How to use Retinol like a pro.

Most importantly, when treating acne, remember to be patient.  Products need to be used consistently, and most acne treatments take 8-12 weeks to show improvement, and even longer to achieve acne clearance. 

When should I get professional help?

If you’ve been patient and diligently trying over the counter products with no improvement, it may be time to see your physician for prescription options.  If you are starting to see scarring or pigmentation, better to seek professional help sooner than later, because once scarring sets, it will take many months to clear up.