Acne Treatment Products That Really Work – Acne Routine 101

As some who has been suffering from acne since the age of 12 (thanks puberty!) I can tell you that I have tried every acne treatment there is. From expensive dermatologist recommendations to drugstore acne treatment products, I have seen it all and used it all. Now that I am 27 years old, I finally have an acne skincare routine pinned down that helps keep my acne in check.


I’m not a person who likes to spend too much money on acne treatment products. Why? Because if they don’t work, it’s money down the drain. If you’re a fellow acne sufferer, you’ll understand this sentiment. With so many products coming out every single day, you eventually learn how to budget for the right products.

Here are my top acne treatment products that have cleared my acne completely and don’t cost a lot either-

best acne treatment cleansers from the drugstore


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These daily cleansing pads from Nip + Fab have singlehandedly changed my skin for the better. I use these in the morning and the extreme night fix pads at night before going to bed right before I get my periods. That’s the time when I tend to get a lot of acne and it takes the rest of the month to clear it out. By which time, obviously, the cycle begins again. Sigh!

Once my acne clears up, which is pretty quickly with these pads, I’ll switch to using it on alternate days. Both the night and daily pads have Glycolic acid which helps to exfoliate the skin from the surface.


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The best thing about this acne treatment face wash from Neutrogena is that it’s easily available and a bottle lasts for a long time. This face wash contains Salicylic acid which is an ingredient I instantly gravitate towards. If you have dry skin, this is one of the cleansers you can use.

It’s an amazing daily cleanser that will keep your skin clean. However, it doesn’t leave your skin tight and parched – it’s like a moisturizing cleanser which doesn’t strip your skin. This is quite different from other acne face washes I’ve tried.


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If your skin is really sensitive and everything you use is breaking you out, the Cetaphil sensitive skin line is a safe bet. From their Gentle skin cleanser to the moisturizer, everything is extremely gentle on the skin. These products have never broken me out and I’ve not even gotten as much as a stray whitehead because of Cetaphil.

Ideally, people with acne prone skin should double cleanse after removing makeup. This is my second cleanse after the Neutrogena one.

best acne treatment toners from the drugstore


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A cult product that has earned its cult status. I love the Pixi glow tonic because it has 5% glycolic acid and despite that, it won’t overstress my skin. I’m prone to redness so I won’t combine the glow tonic with my cleansing pads from Nip + Fab. This is a nice everyday toner that you should take down your neck and clavicle. If you are a bacne sufferer, this might also be good to use on the back. It won’t sting or irritate your skin.

Also, The Ordinary 7% Glycolic toning solution is a dupe for this and it packs a bigger punch with its concentration of Glycolic acid and is much cheaper. I am currently using the 5% Pixi one but I will eventually graduate my skin to the cheaper, more effective Ordinary one.


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Witch hazel is a wonder ingredient for acne prone skin and if you’re looking for a good toner that will soothe as much as treat, this is a great acne treatment toner. While rose water takes care of the redness and soothes your skin, witch hazel dries out the acne and acts as an anti bacterial treatment.

I love that you get a massive bottle and the price is quite affordable for the size. I buy mine off of Amazon and I always have a bottle of this in my skincare stash.

best acne face oils


acne treatment moisturizer rose hip oil
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The Ordinary by Deciem instantly rose to fame when Wayne Goss discovered the brand. It’s an inexpensive skincare brand where you can find a lot of essentials for an acne skincare routine at about 1/10th the cost. Their 100% Organic Cold Pressed Rose Hip seed oil is a tried and tested beauty gem that hydrates acne prone skin without clogging pores.

I love this for my sensitive skin because it has also helped to lighten my acne scars. Even oily skinned people like me will love this because it gets absorbed instantly and does not irritate the skin at all.


acne treatment marula oil
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Marula oil is an amazing skincare oil that has acne treatment properties. If you are using a lot of AHA, BHA, and other acids in your skincare routine, your skin can dry out. Using an oil that doesn’t clog the pores can help restore moisture and skin elasticity.

The Acure Organics Marula oil is cheap and you only need 2 to 3 drops for your whole face. Just pat it in right after you have cleansed and toned your skin. You’ll wake up to gorgeously soft and supple skin.

best acne spot treatment drugstore


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The drying lotion by Mario Badescu is a heaven sent product for acne and I have been using it for a couple of years now. It works best as an overnight acne treatment because you cannot wear this under the makeup. To use it, take a q tip and dip it deep in the bottle, taking care to get the white deposit at the bottom. Then just apply it to the active acne on the face and sleep on it.

You’ll be sleeping with spots on your face but this is so worth it.In the morning, your acne would have dried up considerably and this acne liquid doesn’t let your active spots leave behind scars which is another wonderful benefit.


acne treatment patches
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These patches are for people like me who can’t help but pick on their active acne spots. This bad habit will not only ensure that you get acne scars but it will also spread the acne all over your face. The Missha patches are small and thin, and you can apply them on the active acne currently on your face. These are like polka dot stickers that have tea tree oil and Salicylic acid acne treatment in them.

When you wake up, a small zit would have disappeared while a big one would be visibly smaller and flattened. It’s a nice overnight acne treatment when you need your face to be clear in a short time.


This acne spot treatment by Burt’s Bees comes in a tiny bottle but you don’t really need a lot of it. It has willow bark and salicylic acid – known acne fighting ingredients – and it smells a bit like an astringent to me. Use this with a q tip and apply on your active spots.

If you have overly sensitive skin, I wouldn’t recommend leaving it overnight but it really does work in making your acne disappear in a short time.

best acne scar treatment


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This is a daily repair acne treatment that comes with the goodness of Witch Hazel and Salicylic acid. It also has aloe for soothing the skin. This oil free moisturizer gets absorbed quickly and is more of a maintenance treatment than anything else.

Combine this with the Yes to Tomatoes mask and it will get rid of redness, small acne bumps and spots, and will leave behind a healthy complexion.


acne treatment vitamin c serum
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A relatively new product, Maelove’s Glow Maker is the perfect dupe for the much hyped and overpriced Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum that costs a bomb. This one is an anti oxidant and anti ageing serum that will take care of your acne scars and add glow to the skin. I love this hydrating serum and it’s multipurpose too because it works as an excellent primer for the skin.

Make sure you put on some sunscreen over your Vitamin C serums to protect your skin from sun damage. Generally, I’d recommend wearing sunscreen at all times of the day if you are suffering from acne because it really helps!


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This serum was previously called the Seriously Glowing and came in a different bottle. They’ve changed the name to Brilliantly Brightening and it does exactly what it promises. It has an amazing combination of facial oils that will keep you glowing and hydrated.

I use this during the day because it seriously makes my skin shine bright. You can also mix a drop of this oil with your foundation to keep your skin glowing and your makeup on the natural side.

best acne treatment face mists


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I can’t gush about the thermal spring water enough. It has helped my skin so much, I would buy this even if they doubled the price. It is a light mist that gets absorbed in your face and it can also be used to set your makeup.

I love that this mist helps to curb the redness in my skin and gets rid of dry patches around my nose and between my brows. The mister on the bottle is beautiful as well and evenly distributes the product (so no blotchy drops all over your face).


acne treatment face mist
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The Glow Mist by Pixi works in tandem with the glow tonic. It has 13 natural oils and this hydrating acne treatment mist will soothe with aloe vera and combat redness. It’s a must have acne skincare product for winter because the oils really help to seal in the moisture.

I especially love how soothing it is for aggravated skin, it really helps me when my skin is irritated from cystic acne.


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Another great product from Mario Badescu which, in my opinion, is one of the best brands for acne prone skin. This soothing mist has the goodness of aloe and rose water to deal with painful acne. It smells really nice and lifts up the skin whenever you think your face is looking dull.

Apparently, you can also use this on your hair to treat dryness. It works even better when cool so I keep mine in the refrigerator, as they recommend. It’s a cult fave I can’t have enough of.


best acne treatment ingredients


acne treatment salicylic acid
Benefits of Salicylic acid for acne prone skin; Image by

This is the main ingredient I look for in my cleansers and spot acne treatment products. Salicylic acid will exfoliate the skin on the surface and get rid of all the dead skin cells that are causing texture issues. It also fights acne and treats clogged pores by cleaning them inside out. A salicylic acid toner will help acne scars and blemishes fade away faster and it will even help you keep your acne in check.

You might have heard people talking about including BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) in the skincare routine. They are mostly talking about Salicylic acid. BHAs are good for the oily areas of your face, like your T zone.


acne treatment benefits of glycolic acid
Benefits of Glycolic acid for acne; Image by

Glycolic acid is an ingredient that, when combined with other acne treatment ingredients, becomes something like superwoman. It can do it all and it will help other acne treatments penetrate deeper into the skin. It helps in re-texturizing the skin and will help with large pores. My pores always look teeny tiny when I use Glycolic acid products.

Glycolic acid has some amazing anti ageing benefits like softening wrinkles and fine lines, improving cell renewal, preventing deep wrinkles from forming, keeping skin elastic and supple, and so much more. For both acne and anti ageing, it helps in promoting collagen production in the skin. This is an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid). AHA is good for the dry areas of your face like your cheeks or chin.


acne treatment sulfur
Benefits of Sulfur for acne prone skin; Image by

If your acne is being caused due to bacteria, you will see a lot of reduction from including sulfur based acne treatment products in your routine. It gets rid of congestion and reveals healthy, glowing skin. A while back, I was getting cluster acne on top of my cheekbones and my chin. I tried everything and nothing would work – then I used an OTC sulfur cream and combined it with one of my honey masks and boom! The congestion disappeared within 2 days.

Sulfur promotes collagen and is also great as a supplement for healthy skin, nails, and hair. Garlic, onion, sesame seeds, cashew nuts, bananas, avocados, and many other fruits and veggies are good sources of Sulfur, if you want to include this wonder ingredient in your diet as well.


acne treatment benzoyl peroxide
How Benzoyl Peroxide helps in acne treatment

Benzoyl Peroxide is one ingredient I will only recommend to people who have tried and exhausted everything else. To me, this is the accutane of OTC products. I’ll explain why I say that. BP leaves behind scars and blemishes that take a long time to heal. It works, it definitely works in getting rid of all kinds of acne but it leaves your skin so high and dry, you might just miss your acne.

If you’re going to go the BP way, start with 1% and then move to 2.5% in a couple of months. You don’t need 10% BP and anything over 2.5% works exactly like the 2.5% one. So don’t over-dry your skin because you think you’re getting more benefits. Follow up your BP application with a good moisturizer to avoid scaly, dry patches.


It’s good to have a bottle of Witch Hazel toner in your medicine cabinet because it has multiple uses. For acne, Witch Hazel will get rid of the excess oil on your face that is causing clogged pores. It is much better to use Witch hazel than pop a pimple because it works freakishly fast in shrinking zits. If AHAs and BHAs are irritating your skin, reduce their usage to 2 times a week and go for Witch Hazel for the rest of the days.

That’s why I recommend the Thayers toner because it also has some aloe vera and rose water which will soothe congested skin that is struggling to breathe.


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TL;DR This is the boring part of the article where I rant, so feel free to skip it.

If you’ve been suffering from acne for a long time, it’s very easy to lose confidence in yourself. I remember not leaving my house for close to a year when my breakouts got really bad and even if I did, never without a thick layer of makeup. Eventually, you have to realize that your acne is a part of you and you’re not alone – everyone gets it. Maybe others don’t get it as bad as you but it’s still an important part of who you are.

When people meet you, they think about how kind you are and how smart, or how witty your jokes are. Acne creates a first impression on people & those who find it bad or ugly are truly not worth your time. So, just relax and let your skin heal in its own time and if it doesn’t, big deal. This doesn’t define you, it’s just a few bumps on your skin. Eat healthy things, splurge on yourself, and keep in mind that if you don’t love yourself, no one else can.

Thanks for reading this article and I hope these remedies help you out!


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