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The Best Topical Acne Treatments Our Dermatologists Want You to Know About

Dealing with any type of acne, whether it be irritating whiteheads, stubborn blackheads, painful cystic acne, hormonal breakouts or even maskne, is never fun. Thankfully, there are a number of effective topical acne treatments available these days to treat breakouts and help you achieve clear, healthy skin. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the best topical acne treatments, check out our list below. 


Best Topical Treatments for Acne

From salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide to retinoids and prescription acne creams, these are the best topical
acne treatments our dermatologists want you to know about. 


Salicylic Acid 

One of the top go-to acne treatments for teenagers and young adults, salicylic acid is a classic acne-busting ingredient in many products lining drugstore shelves. Salicylic acid works by breaking down and dissolving excess oil, gently exfoliating the skin to remove dead skin cells, and reducing inflammation to help reduce hyperpigmentation and soothe the skin. 

However, keep in mind that salicylic acid can easily dry out the skin if overused. We recommend sticking to only one product with salicylic acid if using it everyday. (Or switch to using it every other day if you start to notice irritation and dryness.) 


Benzoyl Peroxide 

Another well-known acne treatment, benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial ingredient that’s effective at killing
Cutibacterium acnes, or C. acnes bacteria, which triggers the body’s inflammatory response when overpopulating sebaceous glands and causes breakouts

While benzoyl peroxide is great at neutralizing bacteria, it can often cause skin irritation if used in excess. Thus, only use it in small amounts and apply directly to affected areas, rather than your entire face. 

Additionally, benzoyl peroxide can bleach towels, clothing, and sheets so be careful when and how you apply it. 

In most cases, topical acne treatments containing benzoyl peroxide can be found over-the-counter in washes and creams. However, if you suffer from moderate to severe acne and OTC products aren’t doing the job, we recommend visiting a board-certified dermatologist for more treatment options, such as a prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide formula. 


Glycolic Acid 

An effective topical treatment for mild to moderate acne, glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that reduces spots, decreases inflammation, and gently exfoliates the skin to eliminate dead skin cells and unclog pores. 

Glycolic acid can be found in topical creams, washes, peels, moisturizers, and serums. At The Center for Surgical Dermatology, we offer Glytone, which is a popular skin care brand featuring glycolic acid to help you achieve clear skin and a healthy complexion. 



While over-the-counter retinol and prescription-based retinoids have gotten a lot of attention lately for their anti-aging abilities, they also have powerful acne-blasting properties to clear skin and prevent breakouts. 

As Dr. Lingam told us in a recent interview on the best acne treatments, using OTC retinols and prescription-based retinoids (i.e. Retin-a, Differin, Tazorac, etc.) as a topical acne treatment “helps prevent clogging of pores by encouraging the shedding of skin cells, speeding up cellular turnover, and slowing collagen breakdown.” 

But it’s important to keep in mind not all OTC retinol products are created equal; some formulations of retinols are not effective or beneficial to the skin. Thus, we recommend talking to a board-certified dermatologist to discuss your options and identify the products that are best for your unique skin.


Ready to Try a Topical Acne Treatment? 

Clear skin
is possible! Our expert dermatologists at The Center for Surgical Dermatology would love to find you the right topical acne treatment to eliminate your acne and help you achieve beautifully clear skin for good. Schedule an appointment today. 

If you’re dealing with stubborn acne, you’re not alone. The Center for Surgical Dermatology is a leader in acne treatments, so book an appointment online here or call (614) 847-4100 to schedule an appointment and start clearing your skin today! 

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