Dermatologist Reveals The 5 Drugstore Products That Actually Treat Acne Effectively – Exclusive

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Acne can be such a pain — like we don't already have enough problems in life! Pimples have a way of popping up out of nowhere, or sticking around in a cluster on our skin while we continue to dream of clear, flawless skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, acne is actually "a skin condition" where "hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells," and as a result, we get "whiteheads, blackheads or pimples." Some forms of acne go away with time, while others are "persistent," but the sooner you treat it, the sooner you can resolve the issue. Your skin type, hormones, and the environment can contribute to acne. While people have more luck getting rid of it with over-the-counter medications or time, others need regular visits with a dermatologist to achieve the same results.

If you're looking for drugstore products that actually treat acne effectively, you're in luck. We spoke with Dr. Macrene Alexiades, a New York City-based dermatologist who specializes in acne and has over 25 years of research experience (via NY Derm). Dr. Alexiades treats acne using laser treatments, peels, and photodynamic therapy at her Park Avenue clinic, and she has published research articles on the various types and treatments for acne. While severe cases of acne will require intense treatment best left to your dermatologist, you can treat milder forms of acne at home successfully with these magical ingredients — all of which are pretty affordable.

Dr. Macrene Alexiades' secret to treating acne at home

With beauty aisles overflowing with acne-fighting products that promise clear skin, it can be confusing to choose the one that really works. That's why Dr. Macrene Alexiades is here to share her top skincare tips for women. Dr. Alexiades said that drugstore products can prevent and treat acne but only "if you choose the right ones." She told The List, "A good retinol impacts cell turnover to the skin. It reduces sebum activity [and] therefore works against acne. It also results in peeling of the skin, and this causes a resurfacing effect, reducing wrinkles." She added that people with oily skin, acne, and large pores can trust retinol if they don't have other major skin issues.

Office treatments are medical grade, but if you want to treat acne at home, Dr. Alexiades said, "In the morning, wash with warm water, pat dry, and put on your benzoyl peroxide preparation. When you get home from work or school, wash with your salicylic acid cleanser, and then right before bed, put on one pea-sized amount of adapalene." She added that the three steps are similar to how she treats her patients in the office. "It's essentially the recipe for success in my world. This three-step routine is something everyone can do. If it gets fancier than that, everything falls apart." 

We couldn't agree more, and if it takes three little steps to mimic Dr. Alexiades' professional-grade treatment at home for clearer skin, we're all for it.

Dr. Macrene Alexiades' favorite acne products are available in drugstores

Now that we know how to treat and prevent acne at home, let's find out which drugstore products Dr. Macrene Alexiades trusts so we can add those to our bathroom vanity! She already told us retinol is golden, but she has a few other favorites as well.

As Dr. Alexiades told The List, "The other classic ingredients you're going to find over-the-counter that actually work pretty well for mild acne are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. If you go into the pharmacy, you can pick out any number of brands," that contain these ingredients, all of which will benefit your skin. However, if you have acne-rosacea, these ingredients may worsen your condition as your skin can't tolerate them. "If you have very sensitive skin and you're getting worse with regular run-of-the-mill pharmacy stuff, you should buy an over-the-counter remedy that has sulfur," she added.

She spilled the tea on the drugstore products she recommends the most, which include Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Fighting Face WashDifferin Gel, Acnefree Acne Clearing Sulfur Mask, Acnomel Adult Acne Medication Cream, and Summer Labs Liquimat. We're adding these to our cart ASAP to say goodbye to acne! According to Dr. Alexiades, oil-based sunscreens are also "a huge acne trigger," so she recommends choosing oil-free sunscreen and minimizing exposure to the sun for extended periods. Look for products without vitamin E, avocado oil, algae extract, and sodium lauryl sulfate, as they can clog your pores and make your acne worse.