14 Products Dermatologists Actually Use When They're Breaking Out

It's unavoidable: Every single time we sit in the exam chair at a dermatologist appointment, there's a moment where we stop paying attention while the doctor is mid-sentence to evaluate their skin. After all, it's only normal to look at the skin of the person who is trained to tell you what to do with yours... right?
Derms spend their days treating skin conditions and concerns, including hyperpigmentation, unwanted signs of aging, and acne. They have access to the best state-of-the-art equipment and medication, and many of them also rely on products available in the beauty department when they're off-duty to keep their skin clear. "Being a dermatologist doesn't make you immune to breakouts and acne," Mount Sinai Hospital dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, reminds us.
But seeing as derms are at the forefront of all our acne concerns, we needed to know exactly what they use when pimples attack. So if you, too, gaze helplessly at your doc and wish you could raid his or her medicine cabinet — we got you. We asked top dermatologists to share the exact products they use to treat their breakouts, ahead.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
2 of 14
Her Regimen

"I love glycolic acid cleaners to brighten my skin," Dr. Henry says. "This one is super gentle, so I typically use it morning and night." The glycolic acid helps to exfoliate away dead cells for brighter, clearer skin, while soothing extracts of chamomile, marshmallow, and sage prevent irritation for even sensitive skin types.
3 of 14
If your skin is acne-prone and oily, investing in a good exfoliator is invaluable. Dr. Henry likes to use this one a few times a week. It has benzoyl peroxide and glycolic acid to kill acne-causing bacteria, brighten, and unclog pores.
4 of 14
"I use this moisturizer from Perricone MD during the day. It's super hydrating, but it's oil-free and doesn't make my skin feel greasy," Dr. Henry says. It's also enriched with vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants to keep skin soft and vibrant.
5 of 14
Since most acne products can make your skin feel dry, Dr. Henry suggests using a super moisturizing lotion before bed. "At night, I cleanse and moisturize my skin with this formula, which is lightweight and hydrating," she says. It's a gel-like cream with activated aloe, which will also help if your skin is red and inflamed.
6 of 14
If you're struggling with painful whiteheads or tough blackheads, dab some of this on top of your problem areas. "This spot treatment has 5.5% benzoyl peroxide, which dries out acne, and I use it at the sight of my breakout, or all over if my skin is really freaking out," Dr. Henry says.
7 of 14
8 of 14
Her Regimen

"The key to treating acne is to use the most gentle cleanser," says Dr. Gohara. "I love Dove Shower Foam because you can use it on your face, and it deposits moisture as you cleanse." The cleanser is also hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and non-irritating for people with sensitive skin.
9 of 14
To shrink breakouts, Dr. Gohara uses a dime-size amount of this gel, which has salicylic acid to unclog pores and control oil production, in the morning.
10 of 14
"At night, I use a pea size amount of over-the-counter retinol adapalene all over my face. This helps with cell turnover and reduces marks from acne," Dr. Gohara says. You can also find adapalene as the active ingredient in OTC acne treatments like Differin.
11 of 14
Joshua Zeichner, MD
Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City
12 of 14
His Regimen

"Everyone breaks out with pimples sometimes, even the dermatologist. To make sure my skin is clear, I look for cleansers that have salicylic acid," Dr. Zeichner says. He explains that salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that helps remove excess oil and loosens dead cells from the surface of the skin, gently sloughing away acne-causing buildup.
13 of 14
Dr. Zeichner says that benzoyl peroxide is the most effective over-the-counter ingredient available to treat acne. "When I get an individual, angry bump, I use this to dry out the spot," he says. You can use this mask morning or night — it dries clear, so you don't have to worry about walking around with visible product on your skin once you rub it in.
14 of 14
"On days when my skin is feeling particularly oily, I use this witch hazel toner, which deep cleans my pores," Dr. Zeichner says. Witch hazel is a natural astringent that helps mattify and purify pores. This particular formula also has glycolic acid, which helps cell turnover, so you can brighten hyperpigmentation while you treat breakouts.

More from Skin Care