Acne is getting tougher to treat and many dermatologists now suggest a combination of products, including over-the-counter spot treatments. Before we go further, you need to know that topical products require some discipline: they don't work if you don't use them. But if you can manage a routine with two or three treatments, your new acne cocktail may be the key to clear, healthy skin. Here's how.
When combining products, don't apply them at the same time. For example, if you use two products, use one in the morning and the other at night. If you use three, add one at lunch. And wash your face each time you apply a new product.
We suggest washing because acne products can irritate the skin. Many (but not all) acne treatments contain ingredients that help the skin turn over more quickly. In other words, they help to peel off the outermost layer of skin. While this helps unclog pores, it also can cause dryness and irritation—especially for people with sensitive skin.
If your skin becomes irritated, wash and moisturize your face immediately, then wait a day or two before trying again.
If you're seeing a dermatologist or doctor, talk things over. Write a list of questions before you go and bring all of your skincare products to each visit.
Benzoyl peroxide is an amazing ingredient and we'd suggest it as your first choice. But it can cause dryness and irritation. That's why we're partial to our Acne Control Complex ($30), a spot treatment which combines a low-dose of benzoyl peroxide with natural soothing and hydrating ingredients.
If you add a second product, salicylic acid is a great choice, like that found in the Neutrogena Rapid Clear 2-in-1 Fight & Fade Gel ($10).
Tea tree oil also may help, especially when combined with more powerful treatments. We've tried the Belief Tea Tree Oil ($26) treatment.
The bacteria that causes acne is increasingly resistant to antibiotics. But topical antibiotics like clindamycin still can help, especially when used in combination with other treatments. This lotion is gentle, making it great to pair with other zit-busting ingredients that may cause irritation.
A prescription-strength retinoid cream, such as tretinoin (Retin-A Micro), or adapalene (Differin, Epiduo), also may help. These accelerate skin turnover, so when combining with benzoyl peroxide or acids, make sure you alternate products and wash between applications.
If your acne is severe or extremely persistent, your doctor may suggest Accutane. This drug is a pill and it may make your skin extremely dry and sensitive. Your skin doctor may ask you to discontinue topical treatments, avoid the sun, and stock up on moisturizers and lip balm, which we recommend.