Whether you’re dealing with regular breakouts or the occasional periodic pimple, finding the right products to treat your acne-prone skin can feel like a full-time job – only one that actually does.
take your money. Still, those with rashes are often on the lookout for cures. Bad skin days can be tough: Acne can erode self-confidence and even lead to serious mental health issues like isolation, anxiety, and depression. Although it may sometimes seem like it, the pursuit of blemish-free skin doesn’t have to be pointless or overly expensive. To prove it, Bustle polled a handful of dermatologists for their picks of the best acne treatments under $20.
Ahead, discover washes, serums, scrubs and spot treatments proven to treat everything from active facial lesions to dark spots and back acne. The trick in browsing the shelves? According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, it’s all about looking for products that contain actives that “have been proven to work.” So keep an eye out for acne-fighting ingredients like adapalene, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulfur, to name a few top examples. To help combat any irritation caused by these potentially harsh actives, dermatologist Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, MD recommends looking for formulas that also contain calming ingredients that support the skin barrier.
To help you shop, scroll for 15 acne products under $20 that dermatologists swear by their patients.
At Bustle, we only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, board-certified dermatologist specializing in general medical dermatology, surgical dermatology, cosmetics, and pediatric dermatology.
Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, board-certified dermatologist based in New York.
Dr. Jenny Liu, MD, board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Dr. Heather Woolery-LLoyd, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist and Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.
Dr. Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist and vice president of the Women’s Dermatologic Society.
Dr Papri Sarkar. MD, board-certified dermatologist and member of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery and the American Academy of Dermatology.
Dr. Chris Tomassian, MD, dermatologist at North Pacific Dermatology.
Fan-favorite topical retinoid
If you’ve struggled with acne, you’re probably familiar with this adapalene gel. It’s a super-effective over-the-counter topical retinoid, which according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jenny Liu, MD, is the foundation for the treatment and prevention of acne and acne. help with acne scars. “It’s gentler for beginners, and best of all, you don’t need a prescription,” says Liu.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Heather Woolery-LLoyd, MD, says Differin is well tolerated by most patients. For best results, use at night and follow with your favorite moisturizer.
Active ingredients: adapalene
salicylic acid cleanser
Woolery-Lloyd says this 2% salicylic acid face wash was once a must-have prescription, but is (thankfully) now available over-the-counter. The Miami-based Dermis says it’s perfect for people with sensitive skin who may not tolerate benzoyl peroxide well. It also contains lipo-hydroxy acid (an exfoliating derivative of salicylic acid) and glycerin, a popular humectant that attracts moisture and can offset any dryness from the chemical exfoliant.
Active ingredients: 2% salicylic acid, lipo-hydroxy acid, glycerin
Benzoyl peroxide wash
Zubritsky says this 4% benzoyl peroxide is one of her favorite rash remedies. “Benzoyl peroxide helps reduce inflammation and eliminate acne-causing bacteria,” she explains. The ingredient can be drying and hard to tolerate, adds Liu, but this gentle cleanser also contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid — a hydrating humectant — to help keep things calm.
Active ingredients: 4% benzoyl peroxide, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide
For spot treatment, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara, MD, says hydrocolloid dressings like these are an effective choice. Essentially, they work to suck moisture out of your escape. As a bonus, they prevent you from picking and popping your pimples. Stick one on a pimple overnight and it will absorb grime to reveal clearer looking skin.
Active ingredients: medical grade hydrocolloid
Salicylic Acid Moisturizer
You’ll notice that many dermatologist-recommended acne treatments rely on salicylic acid, as the beta-hydroxy acid helps fight pore congestion, blackheads, whiteheads, and even post hyperpigmentation. -inflammatory (i.e. dark spots), says Liu. This lightweight, soothing moisturizer also contains niacinamide (a skin soother) and tranexamic acid, which also help reduce post-acne scarring.
Active ingredients: 1% salicylic acid, niacinamide, glycerin, tranexamic acid, allantoin, sunflower seed oil
AHA/BHA Exfoliating Pads
Board Certified Dermatologist, Dr. Papri Sarkar. MD considers these pads a simple and effective treatment for acne, dark spots and blackheads. They contain both alpha and beta hydroxy acids for exfoliation as well as antioxidants for brightening. A tip courtesy of Sarkar: “Just be sure not to overdo it, as too much use can lead to irritation, dryness or a compromised skin barrier.”
Active ingredients: glycolic acid, witch hazel, salicylic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, malic acid, camellia leaf extract, ascorbic acid, retinol, glycerin
The Body Scrub
Acne doesn’t just show up on your (sad) face. If you’re dealing with acne on your back, butt, shoulders, or breakouts anywhere else on your body, consider this all-over scrub. It contains an AHA/BHA complex of glycolic acid and salicylic acid to unclog pores, exfoliate and treat post-acne marks and discoloration.
Active ingredients: glycolic acid, salicylic acid, vitamin E
The Retinol Serum
Whether you’re dealing with cystic acne, hormonal pimples, or more moderate breakouts, Bhanusali calls retinol a star player in any acne-fighting game. The ingredient speeds up cell turnover, which helps keep pores clear and also treats hyperpigmentation for a more even skin tone. This retinol serum balances the powerhouse ingredient with hydrating hyaluronic acid — and costs just $13.
Active ingredients: retinol, hyaluronic acid, witch hazel, aloe
The oil-free FPS
Everyone should wear sunscreen daily, including those with rash-prone skin. But you’ll never be afraid of pore-clogging sunscreens again when you discover this lightweight, oil-free, and non-comedogenic (meaning its molecules are too large to clog your pores) SPF. Plus, it contains hyaluronic acid and glycerin for extra hydration that protects the skin barrier.
Active ingredients: avobenzone (2.7%), homosalate (9%), octisalate (5%), octocrylene (9%), oxybenzone (4.5%), glycerin, hyaluronic acid
Benzoyl peroxide treatment
To zap your breakouts, try this benzoyl peroxide skin cleansing treatment. Just remember that benzoyl peroxide can be irritating as a leave-in treatment, notes Liu, but this one has a lower concentration of 2.5% (Liu recommends 2.5%-5%). It’s a lightweight formula that can help fight pimples while preventing future breakouts. Simply apply after cleansing to treat inflamed skin.
Active ingredients: benzoyl peroxide, allantoin, bisabolol
This brightening serum is a true multitasker that has become a cult favorite among beauty aficionados. It uses a blend of Tranexamic, Niacinamide, and Azelaic Acid to help reduce the appearance of active blemishes, fight free radical damage, fade dark spots, and even out skin tone and texture. in a single tube.
Active ingredients: tranexamic acid, niacinamide, azelaic acid, glycerin, jojoba seed oil, squalane
Patient favorite benzoyl peroxide cleanser
You can recognize this baby as early as your teenage years. Woolery-Lloyd calls the creamy acne cleanser a favorite among its patients. “It’s an extremely effective acne cleanser for stubborn acne,” she says. That’s because it’s packed with powerful 4% benzoyl peroxide along with a host of humectants and emollients to hydrate while killing bacteria and controlling oil on your face and body.
Active ingredients: 4% benzoyl peroxide, glycerin, propanediol
The Charcoal Mask
Deep clean your pores and remove problem-causing impurities, dirt and grime with these charcoal-based peel-off masks. Charcoal, BTW, is a natural ingredient that has the power to remove acne-causing gunk from the surface of the skin. To balance the dryness, these masks also contain honey – a popular humectant that helps draw moisture out of the air and into your skin.
Active ingredients: glycerin, honey extract, willow bark extract, clary extract
The Exfoliating Mask
If you love physical exfoliators, try this much-loved scrub. It improves the appearance of pores, gently removes blackheads, reduces blemishes and fades acne scars with its anti-zit formula that mimics microdermabrasion as a scrub. Along with tiny pumice granules for exfoliation, it also contains sugarcane, apple, lemon, and green tea extracts to gently brighten and brighten the skin.
Active ingredients: pumice granules, sugar cane extract, lemon extract, apple extract, green tea leaf extract, glycerin
Azelaic acid topical
For an ingredient that fights acne and rosacea that is also safe to use during pregnancy, turn to azelaic acid, says dermatologist Dr. hyperpigmentation left over from acne,” he says of the powerful ingredient. This lightweight serum also contains niacinamide and vitamin C for extra brightening.
Active ingredients: 10% azelaic acid, niacinamide, ascorbic acid, coffee seed extract, sodium hyaluronate
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