*Be aware: Some with mild acne or mild to moderate acne may need medical help to get this condition under control and to prevent scarring. (See Checklist – When to see a doctor)
Over the counter acne treatments: These readily available treatments often contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, non-prescription strength active ingredients that can help improve mild acne.
Another ingredient used less often is sulphur. It is thought to help exfoliate and mildly dry out the skin as well as act as an antibacterial agent. Sulphur has an unpleasant odour that manufacturers try to mask.
Quick guide: Benzoyl peroxide, an antimicrobial used in over the counter acne treatments for many decades and developed in Canada. Used in low concentrations of 2.5% to 5%.
How it works: Kills bacteria that thrive in blocked, oily skin pores. Benzoyl peroxide works in a different way to antibiotics. It also some ability to help exfoliate the skin, helping to unplug pores.
Side effects: Mild irritation, dryness, redness, fine scaling. Can cause rare but serious allergic reaction.
Dos & Don’ts: Wait 10 – 15 minutes after washing your face before applying a leave-on product in order to lessen irritation. Use a moisturizer daily. Try a lower concentration if the skin becomes irritated. Can bleach or lighten clothing and pillowcases etc, so sleep on white bedding while using.
Expect results: In 6 – 8 weeks.
Quick Guide: Salicylic acid, a common ingredient in acne preparations. Used in low concentrations from 0.5 % to 2 %.
How it works: Main benefit is in breaking down surface skin cells whichhelps to mildly exfoliate the skin.
Side effects: Usually mild in nature, visible peeling, irritation. Can cause rare but serious allergic reaction.
Dos and Don’ts: Use sunscreen and other sun protection as your skin can be more sun sensitive.
Expect results: In 6 – 8 weeks. There may be modest improvement due to the low concentrations used.
4 Tips – How to use over-the-counter treatments
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