By Dr. Kaycee Reyes
Breakouts can be a bummer! And believe me, having a blemish or two can definitely ruin one’s day! Don’t fret, though, because this week, I’ll let you in on the popular and effective over-the-counter anti-acne ingredients that will leave you confident and in the clear. Acne can be described as having comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), blocked pores, papules (red and raised bumps on the skin), pustules (pus-filled bumps), and cysts (deep bumps that are painful when touched). It is caused by four major factors: the growth of P. acnes or propionibacterium acnes, overproduction of sebum or oil, clogged pores, and skin inflammation. Hormonal activity, which starts at puberty, and environmental factors, such as stress, lifestyle (like smoking and alcohol consumption), and diet may trigger acne. As a result, the following anti-acne ingredients may combat one or multiple causes of acne, either by one ingredient or a combination of it.
1. Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most popular over-the-counter acne-fighting ingredients in the market. It has been around for 45 years as an effective and fast solution to clear the skin from breakouts, working even faster than other anti-acne ingredients! Its proven safety also marks benzoyl peroxide’s staying power in the market. Used alone or in combination with other ingredients, its efficacy varies but is still effective in combating acne nonetheless. It lessens the resistance to topical antibiotics like clindamycin and erythromycin. Benzoyl peroxide, however, is more effective in oily skin, as it may irritate dry or sensitive skin. I suggest to just use 2.5 to five percent concentration since greater concentration can irritate and cause damage to the skin. This is why benzoyl peroxide as a cleanser may be better for more skin types because of its less drying properties.
2. Retinoids come from vitamin A. It comes in many forms such as retinal esters, retinol, oral isotretinoin, and adapalene. It is an effective treatment against comedones. Skin redness, dryness, and peeling are usual side effects of using retinoids, but is nevertheless an effective acne and anti-aging treatment. The order of products must be considered when putting on retinoids as it can alter its effectivity and stability, and must also be applied at night, as light can also affect its efficacy. The use of this is not recommended to pregnant and nursing mothers due to its teratogenic properties.
3. Salicylic acid, like benzoyl peroxide, is one of the most common anti-acne treatments available. It has been reported to be used as an anti-acne cure since the ’60s. It is found naturally in plants, fruits, and vegetables. It is mainly extracted from willow bark, but may also be derived from almonds, peanuts, unripe fruits and vegetables, cantaloupes, kiwi, dates, and raisins, among others. Most salicylic acid used nowadays is synthesized in the laboratory. Salicylic acid is effective in cleaning and unclogging pores, treating skin discoloration and inflammation, and improving skin texture. It is often found as an ingredient in creams, moisturizers, and more often as peels. It is also used as an alternative to retinoids if they are too strong for the skin. But if salicylic acid is not used in the correct dosage or used too often, it may cause stinging, sensitive skin, and peeling.
4. Silver, with the symbol Ag, Argentum in Latin, is one of the Earth’s chemical elements that have been recognized for centuries with wound-healing capacity and liquid-preserving abilities. Before antibiotics were discovered, silver was the world’s known antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal treatment. Today, silver is used in a lot of medical, personal care products, and skin treatments like chemical peels and botulinum toxin injections. For acne, silver is not approved for use by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), but silver sulfadiazine has still been used for years. A lot of studies still have to be administered to prove the efficacy of silver, because of its low resistance to bacteria and its gentleness on skin compared to other ingredients.
5. Tea tree oil has been used for centuries by Australian tribes to treat wounds and other skin lesions. Tea tree oil is derived from Melaleuca alternifolia, a tree also abundant in Australia. Today, it is found as an ingredient in a lot of personal care and beauty products in different concentrations, including shampoos, nail care, and oils. It also treats a wide variety of skin infections, including acne, fungal and vaginal infections, psoriasis, cold sores, rashes, lice, cuts, and burns.
While it does not deliver fast results as other ingredients mentioned above, it is one of the safest.
You may have probably heard one or all these over-the-counter anti-acne ingredients and you probably swear by one of these as your skin savior. The best treatment to combat acne, however, is a combination of these ingredients and more, like laser treatments, oral medications, or a lifestyle modification, if it requires. It is always better to consult a professional than self-medicate before it’s too late. Consult your doctor now. Your skin will thank you later.