For those who experience acne, you know how hard it is to find the perfect cure to make your skin never break out again. Among many things, acne can be caused from overproduction of oil, irregular shedding of expired skin cells, build up of bacteria in the pore, and hormonal activity. For every person the cause will be different, but acne-prone skin types require constant care and discipline with both professional skin treatments, and of course, using the right products for your skin type. When it comes to getting the best results, it’s very important to use (and avoid) certain skin care ingredients.
While there are many other ingredients reduce blemishes, here's a quick guide of my personal favorites that I find to be most effective — along with a few to avoid.
Salicylic Acid: This is a keratolytic beta hydroxy acid (BHA) famous for its ability to smooth the skin without causing irritation, reduce acne-causing bacteria and oil to prevent blemishes, all while penetrating the pores to help clear out impurities (making it also excellent for preventing blackheads after a deep pore cleansing facial). You’ll usually find salicylic acid in moisturizers and cleansers formulated for breakout-prone skin, as well as in acne spot treatments.
Beta Glucans: This yeast extract helps to make skin less sensitive over time and encourage less breakout activity. It works effectively for preventing blemishes from within, without the risk of drying out or irritating the surface of the skin.
Tea Tree Oil: This natural oil offers antimicrobial properties to destroy acne-causing bacteria and keep pores clean. It's not as fast-acting as these other ingredients mentioned, but because it dries out blemishes, it can be effective.
Jojoba Beads: Unlike natural-grained exfoliating scrubs, these are perfectly round polishing beads that when rolled over the skin can reduce clogged pores and promote more even-toned skin. It's important to exfoliate and not use products that are harsh or overly abrasive.
Sulfur: A powerful tried-and-true disinfectant, sulfur is especially effective when found in spot treatments for drying up blemishes.
Niacinamide: A derivative of vitamin B3, this anti-inflammatory agent can improve the appearance of acne.
Benzoyl Peroxide: Perfect for daily use, look for this acne-erasing ingredient in concentration of 2.5 percent.
Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid: These exfoliating acids work best for adult acne by exfoliating the skin to keep bacteria and oil from staying trapped in the pores leading to breakouts. There's a lot of buzz these days about using coconut oil as in ingredient effective for blemishes. But, I haven't come across a definitive study that proves oil can destroy acne bacteria that live within follicles and pores better than an ingredient like salicylic acid. Still, every skin responds differently, so it's important to experiment with different strategies to find what gives you the best results.
SD Alcohol 40, Denatured Alcohol, Ethanol and Isopropyl Alcohol: These are commonly found in toners and should be avoided in any form other than an acne spot treatment.
Sodium or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate: These are commonly found in cleansing gels and are extremely dehydrating to the skin. Be sure to choose cleansers labeled "sulfate-free."
Mineral Oil and Petrolatum: These ingredients can have a pore-clogging effect on the skin.
Isopropyl Myristate and Isopropyl Palmitate: These may also encourage clogged pores.
Apricot Kernels: These are naturally-made particles found in popular facial scrubs that can irritate and cause microtears in the skin, letting bacteria spread.
Although there is a purpose for every ingredient in cosmetics, certain ingredients may or may not be appropriate for your acne-prone skin. Start reading your ingredient labels to ensure what you’re putting on your skin is helping it, not hurting it! Have any questions about your skin type? Leave 'em in the comments!