One of the few skin struggles just as likely to strike in your pre-teen years as it is in adulthood is acne. Though we tend to hide our breakouts behind layers of makeup and Instagram filters, it's a completely normal condition that shouldn't be shrouded. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, up to 85% of individuals from age 12 to 24 will experience some form of acne—that's a lot of people!
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara, MD describes acne as "an inflammatory skin condition that can give you bumps or deep cysts on your face, chest back, or body. It's common in puberty, perimenopause, and the years in-between,” she says. These bumps, or cysts, she explains, crop up due to the accumulation of excess oil and dead skin cells that clog the pores, serving as an environment for bad bacteria to flourish. The result? Whiteheads, blackheads, and deep, inflamed nodules Gohara says can be quite tender. Ouch.
Though there are plenty of internal factors that contribute to acne, there are external solutions that can help. As you can imagine, selecting the proper topical skincare products is paramount. Gohara recommends seeking out known acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid to encourage clear skin, and thankfully, decades of research has lead to an endless supply of products that can treat acne and breakouts of all kinds. Ahead, check out seven of the best skincare brands for acne, and shop our edit of top picks for acne-prone skin.
1. The Inkey List
The Inkey List is an affordable and accessible brand known for its educational efforts to empowering its people with science-backed skincare knowledge. Its popular concierge-style services #AskInkey and Recipe Builder help skincare newbies and enthusiasts alike find the best products for their specific skin concerns. Top picks for treating breakouts include its Salicylic Acid Cleanser and Succinic Acid Treatment, both of which contain salicylic acid, an oil-soluble beta-hydroxy acid that works deep inside the pore to dissolve debris and reduce inflammation that can cause breakouts.
This beloved French pharmacy brand formulates for all skin types from normal to sensitive, and yes, even acne-prone. The Effaclar line, specially designed for acneic and oily skin, includes cleansers, serums, and spot treatments all aimed at clearing zits. Gohara calls out the Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Topical Retinoid as one of her favorites. “It's a retinoid that is strong, yet cosmetically elegant. It helps the pimples and the marks left behind,” she says.
3. Rosen Skincare
Rosen founder Jamika Martin dealt with acne for most of her life, so this brand is a direct response to a hole she saw in the market for an effective line to treat acne with clean formulations. Rosen embraces acne-positivity and ingredient transparency in its products—its initiative, Rosen routines, takes the guesswork of finding a suitable regimen based on all the different kinds of breakouts. One of its bestsellers, the Break-Out Spot Treatment, banishes bumps overnight using zinc oxide and apple cider vinegar.
4. Paula's Choice
Paula’s Choice bears the tagline “beauty begins with truth,” and takes that mission super seriously. You won't find a single product offering not backed by science and extensive research. The brand's Clear lineup is made specifically to treat acne and heavily features blemish-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide to reduce excess oil, unclog pores, and dislodge blackheads.
Versed is more than just a clean skincare company; it's also a community-driven brand that's constantly innovating when it comes to sustainability and product formulation. The new-ish acne range is meant to treat blemishes and comfort the skin at the same time, which is why you won't find run-of-the-mill ingredients that benzoyl peroxide, which can be too harsh even in OTC formulas. Instead, you'll find less irritating yet equally effective ingredients like salicylic acid, sulfur, and tea tree oil.
A dermatologist-founded skincare line stacked with science-backed treatments, Murad offers a clinical, solution-based product offering, including a range specifically designed to treat acne and blemishes from head to toe. (Struggles with backne anyone?)
This drugstore staple is cheap, but that doesn't mean it lacks acne-fighting powers. Its cult-adored Adapalene Gel is perhaps the most buzzed-about acne treatment out there, and for good reason—it really works. Its other offerings include a host of oil-free, active-laced products to help clear even the most severe breakouts.