The Best Over The Counter Acne Treatment – 2017 Reviews & Top Picks


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Guided by our vision of being your top source for anything skin related, we give you our reviews on the best over the counter acne treatment. Though there are many acne treatments, some can make it worse. We’ve ranked the best over the counter acne treatments for you.


You are probably blessed by the skin goddess if you didn’t experience, even once in your life, a zit. For the rest of us, acne can be a real problem that doesn’t go away after our teen years.

The skin is the body’s largest organ as it covers you from head to toe. However, the skin being the first layer of protection doesn’t mean it is invincible. There are a lot of skin conditions that you might come across whether genetically or through various factors.

Acne is the most common condition your skin might get. Often, acne is joined by either blackheads or whiteheads, or in some cases, both.

Although acne is not deadly, it can likely kill your self-confidence, especially if your acne decided it's high time to turn a shade of red.

However, you shouldn’t worry about it since you have a lot of options to fight this aggravating skin problem at your disposal.

If you head over to the nearest drugstore, you’ll see that there are numerous over the counter acne treatments that can help you battle acne.

Here are our top five picks for the best over the counter acne treatments.​

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Quick Overview: Our Choices for the Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment

For the best over the counter acne treatment, our top pick is Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Defense Face Lotion. It has salicylic acid in it and targets, as well as prevents, further breakouts.

In second place is Mary Kay Clear Proof Acne System Set. The set comes with cleansing gel, toner, acne treatment gel, and moisturizer.

Coming in third place is Differin Adapalene Gel. This product targets the main factors for your breakouts - clogged pores and inflammation.

Fourth place for the best over the counter acne treatment is Acne.org AHA+10% Glycolic Acid. This product contains 10% glycolic acid, and this is the highest amount of the acid that you will find in an over the counter product.

And in fifth place is AcneFree Severe Corrective Toner. This toner is step two in this regimen, but it does well enough on its own.

Why Do You Get Acne?

About 80% of the entire population experiences acne. Acne is so common that not only adolescents and adults get it, but even babies do.

The actual reason why a person gets acne is not yet known. The closest answer to the question of why we get acne is because of several factors.

First, acne can be triggered by the food you eat.

For example, sugary treats. Too much sugar in your diet can not only trigger diabetes, but it can also cause your pancreas to produce double the amount of insulin and IGF-1 to maintain balance to your blood glucose.

Too much insulin and IGF-1 can trigger androgen. Excess androgen means excess sebum, and therefore, clogged pores that cause your breakout.​

Even some of our habits can cause acne problems. Sleeping with your makeup on is never a good thing to do because the ingredients in cosmetics can clog your pores and will just aggravate your skin.

What Parts Of The Body Are Susceptible To Acne?​

Unlike popular notions, acne is not exclusive to the face.

Yes, the face is where acne commonly grows since it is the most exposed.

Also, some people tend to apply various things such as makeup and masks, and sometimes, the ingredients in these products can cause us to have acne breakouts.

Because your skin covers you from head to toe, it’s possible to have acne in various parts of the body.

Apart from the face, acne is commonly found on the shoulders, the back (bacne), and even on your butt cheeks.

Product Reviews - Our Top 5 Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment Products​


#1 - Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Defense Face Lotion

Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment - 1

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Defense Face Lotion is our number one pick on our list of the best over the counter acne treatment.

This face lotion does three things. First, it targets and helps get rid of existing acne. Second, it helps prevent future breakouts. And lastly, it soothes the skin, preventing peeling and redness.

The main ingredient of this face lotion is salicylic acid. Salicylic acid, along with benzoyl peroxide, is known to be acne’s worst enemy.

Since clogged pores can mean breakouts, the salicylic acid in this face lotion can help you with that.

The acid penetrates deep into your skin and pores and unclogs the oil and dirt - in a way this prevents future breakouts as well.

What we liked the most in this face lotion is that though it has acne-fighting ingredients, it wasn’t harsh at all. It didn’t leave our skin dry either.

The only thing that we didn’t like about this product was that it may cause a bit of redness or burning sensation when used with other skin care products, and it may give skin a slight sheen.​

What We Like:

  • Non-comedogenic
  • Targets acne

What We Didn't Like:

  • May cause slight stinging and redness
  • May leave an odd sheen on the face

#2 - Mary Kay Clear Proof Acne System Set

The second of our top picks is a set of four skincare products that can only be described as a regimen.

The products in the collection include a cleansing gel, a blemish control toner, an acne treatment gel, and an oil-free moisturizer. All of these are over the counter products.

Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment - 2

The cleanser left our skin feeling tight and clean, while the toner felt very refreshing, especially on a hot day.

The treatment gel stung a little but it faded after a few seconds, while the oil-free moisturizer hydrated our skin without any greasiness.

Through consistent use, the acne system set aims to control breakouts by treating the existing acne and protecting the skin from getting a fresh batch of zits.

The main ingredients in this set is a mixture of the deadly enemies of acne - 2% of salicylic acid and 5% benzoyl peroxide.

What we liked the most about this set is its longevity. You can maximize all of the products, and you are at least covered for the recommended 12-week period.​

What We Like:

  • Easy to use
  • Have two powerful acne-fighting ingredients

What We Didn't Like:

  • May cause a little reddening due to presence of active ingredients
  • May cause burning sensation if skin is exposed to the sun after treatment

#3 - Differin Adapalene Gel

Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment - 3

The third product on our list of the best over the counter acne treatment uses an ingredient that is neither benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid - it uses adapalene, a kind of retinoid.

Adapalene is a third-generation retinoid and works best for mild to severe acne cases.

It has no known side-effect as of the moment since it is considered a new technology in the field of acne treatment products.

In this product, a 0.1% of adapalene is the main active ingredient and is used to treat pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads as well.

Instead of unclogging the blocked pores (that causes you to breakout), the adapalene keeps your pores from getting clogged by regulating skin cell turnovers.

Adapalene gel is also an anti-inflammatory agent and can help soothe your red and swollen zit by reducing its size and color.

We used this gel after washing our face with our regular cleanser and there was a slight burning and stinging sensation, which is a common side effect of the product.

We noticed that it could cause a bit of flaking, so we applied a non-comedogenic moisturizer to our face after dabbing on the acne treatment to prevent excessive dryness.​

What We Like:

  • Odorless
  • Prevents pores from getting clogged

What We Didn't Like:

  • May cause dryness and flaking
  • May not be suitable for use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding

#4 - Acne.org AHA+10% Glycolic Acid

Here’s another product that does not have either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide: instead it uses glycolic acid to fight acne.

Glycolic acid exfoliates skin, and daily exfoliation is recommended to encourage your skin to rejuvenate as you are removing dead and useless cells.

Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment - 4

The exfoliating properties of glycolic acid will make your skin appear healthier and your complexion may look clearer and more even-toned.

Aside from glycolic acid, this product also contains licochalcone, an extract that comes from licorice root.

This ingredient can help calm irritated and red skin, so you do not have to worry about looking splotchy.

What we liked about this product was how it spread easily. It was also absorbed well and didn’t leave any heavy, sticky feeling. We also loved how it can prevent a pimple from maturing.

Another bonus is that the product is non-comedogenic and scent-free.​

What We Like:

  • Comes in a big bottle
  • May be used for treatment of body acne

What We Didn't Like:

  • May cause slight stinging
  • May be too potent for sensitive skin

#5 - AcneFree Severe Corrective Toner

Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment - 5

The last, but definitely not the least on our list of the best over the counter acne treatment, is a corrective toner that’s part of an acne treatment system set, but works just fine on its own as well.

This toner can be used for acne conditions ranging from mild to severe.

The primary target of this acne corrective toner is to address not just the acne per se, but the troubles and woes that come along with it.

Acne-infected skin can be swollen, and it usually takes quite awhile for it to completely heal (here’s positive thinking that it won’t scar, too).

With this toner, the excess oil that can eventually clog more pores or just aggravate existing acne is gently sloughed off. Getting rid of excess oil can help prevent breakouts in the future as well.

The tea tree oil in this toner can also help address swollen and red acne as the oil is a good anti-inflammatory agent.

The witch hazel in this toner can also help in reducing excess oil produced and even in reducing the size of your pores - witch hazel is a known natural astringent.

The toner feels quite refreshing, but our face looked oily minutes after application. It may also take a while before you can see any discernible change in your acne.​

What We Like:

  • Has several acne-fighting ingredients
  • May be used as part of a treatment set or on its own

What We Didn't Like:

  • May cause a bit of oiliness
  • May not prevent blackheads or whiteheads from forming

Latest Reviews and Comparisons of the Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment Products

Products

Ingredients

Benefits

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  Best Choice  

Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment - 1

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Defense Face Lotion

  • Salicylic acid
  • Allantoin
  • Tocopheryl acetate
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Lightweight
  • Prevents future breakouts

2nd Choice

Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment - 2

Mary Kay Clear Proof Acne System Set

  • Salicylic acid
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • May work for sensitive skin
  • Controls breakouts

3rd Choice

Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment - 3

Differin Adapalene Gel

  • Adapalene
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Carbomer 940
  • May help mild to severe cases of acne
  • Reduces size and swelling of zits

4th Choice

Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment - 4

Acne.org AHA+10% Glycolic Acid

  • Glycolic acid
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Glycerin
  • Exfoliates skin
  • May be used as a treatment for body acne

5th Choice

Best Over the Counter Acne Treatment - 5

AcneFree Severe Corrective Toner

  • Witch hazel
  • Tea tree oil
  • Works as part of a set and on its own
  • Helps bring down swollen zits

The Bottom Line

Our top pick for the best over the counter acne treatment is Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Defense Face Lotion.

Not only does it come from a reputable skincare and makeup brand, but it is also a specific treatment made for the most common skin issue of all time - acne.

Although salicylic acid may bring about some issues (mostly caused by excess dosages), this face lotion delivered enough of the acid to treat the acne without forgetting to put into consideration the skin condition afterward.

Salicylic acid was balanced by other ingredients that soothed the skin, and you don’t have to worry about dryness and flakiness.

Acne is common and the treatments are plenty whether prescribed or over the counter.

Our top pick, and the remaining four are readily available in drug stores all over the United States, and the quality and their active ingredients may help to treat your acne.​

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