Active Ingredients in Acne Treatments

Acne is a common skin condition that has no one origin, and thus caused by many different things. Each person has a different skin type, whether dry, oil, or combination-type skin, and no two cases of acne are every the same. Due to these factors, there are a multitude of acne remedies for one to choose from. These acne remedies contain one or more active ingredients that are the primary component used to treat acne. While there has been numerous acne remedies and ingredients over the years, some have become very common in the healthcare market.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is one of the most common active ingredients found in modern acne products. They aim to dissolve whiteheads through the elimination of dead cells within hair follicles. Removal of dead cells prevents pores from becoming clogged and allows oil sebum to pass through. Salicylic acid products often present with a stinging sensation in the first several days of use. Strong amounts of salicylic acid within the formula can cause the acne cleanser to turn skin dry and red. Salicylic acid products do not just include acne cleanser options, but the active ingredient can also be found in scrubs, toners, and other anti-acne products. When shopping for salicylic acid products, such as an acne cleanser, be sure to also purchase a moisturizer to help keep skin hydrated.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is another one of the most common active ingredients found in acne products. It is an anti-bacterial agent that eliminates bacteria from follicles and helps to prevent acne from progressing. Products containing benzoyl peroxide may contain up to 10 percent concentration, while the number can go as low as 2.5 percent. The varying amounts of the active ingredient are important, as it can be used by people of different severities of acne and various sensitivities of skin. Similar to salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide can also cause slight swelling of the afflicted skin, as well as redness.


Sulfur is typically not used alone in acne products, but as a supplementary ingredient. It has the ability to remove dead skin cells and eliminate excess oil from the skin’s surface. This process can help in the prevention of acne, but is also known to cause adverse side effects. Redness is a common side effect when using products with sulfur. Acne may begin to subside at first but skin can become worse if it is sensitive. Soreness is also accredited to the use of acne products containing sulfur. Acne sufferers should change to a lower dosage if these side effects occur.


Adapalene is an active ingredient and type of synthetic retinoid. Retinoids are chemically similar to Vitamin A and are commonly used in topical acne treatments. Retinoids, such as adapalene, help the skin shed dead cells and stimulates new skin cell growth. It also helps to unclog pores and reduces inflammation. When using an acne treatment with the active ingredient of adapalene, acne may worsen temporarily at first but should eventually improve. Side effects can include skin irritation, stinging and burning sensations, and sensitivity to UV light.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is a form of natural alpha hydroxy acid, derived from sugars in certain plants or in milk. This type of acid dissolves the cement that holds dead skin cells together. When this occurs, old cells are eliminated and new cells are produced. The most common alpha hydroxy acid is glycolic acid. Acne can be controlled with regular use of acne treatments, but with any product, can have adverse side effects. Skin texture is also restored with the use of glycolic acid. Acne scarring or trauma to the skin is also lowered, leaving the skin with a smooth appearance. The alpha hydroxy acid properties help to clean pores and increase collagen in the dermis.

The active ingredients found in most acne products are highly important, as they are the primary components that aid to eliminate blemishes. These include ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulfur. Acne can also be treated with ingredients such as adapalene and glycolic acid. Acne can be difficult to deal with and may lower your self-confidence. The key, however, is to target your type of acne and find the best product for your skin type and acne severity. It is possible to achieve clear, healthy skin with the help of a quality acne product.