Acne care can be divided into three main groups:
- acne requiring only minimal over-the-counter care
- acne requiring topical prescription care products
- Acne requiring topical +/- oral prescription products.
For general purposes, the evaluation of acne also follows division into several main different group types:
- The most minor type of acne is comedonal acne where blackheads and non-inflamed whiteheads predominate.
- The second type is inflammatory acne where red, sometimes painful acne bumps are noted along with inflamed whiteheads.
- The last and most severe type of acne is cystic acne where large inflamed acne nodules are present under the skin.
While prescription acne care determined by your dermatologist is appropriate for all the types of acne, those of you with the first two types of acne may benefit by first trying an over-the-counter regimen. You’ll probably see the best results with a custom treatment plan developed with your dermatologist. However, here is a very simple regimen that may be followed using simple over-the-counter products you can find in your local drugstore.
The first step is always cleansing. The primary cleansing products are generally salicylic acid products (2-6%), benzoyl peroxide products (2-10%), or glycolic acid products (up to 20%). For excellent results, usually a salicylic acid wash is the best first step, especially for those with many blackheads and inflamed whiteheads.
Benzoyl peroxide is helpful for those with inflamed papules, and glycolic acid is helpful for those with both types.
The second step involved the use of a medicated gel, lotion, or cream. Toners and astringents are not any of these and are used for more advanced cleansing. Should that be desired, a toner with glycolic or lactic acid is usually an excellent choice. For a medicated gel, lotion, or cream, using a benzoyl peroxide product over 5% or a glycolic acid lotion should provide excellent relief. These products should stay on the skin and not be washed off for at least 1-2 hours. Thus, the best time for application is both in the morning and in the evening.
In summary, a simple regimen of an over-the-counter salicylic acid wash followed by a benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid gel or lotion is an excellent starting regimen for mild to moderate acne. This regimen is simple and easy to do twice a day. Should this regimen fail, the next step would be to make a visit to your dermatologist’s office for possible addition of topical +/- oral prescriptions.
Don Mehrabi MD, FAAD is a dermatologist certified by the American Board of Dermatology currently practicing in Beverly Hills, California. He is also the creator of the http://bhskin.com website where you can find an extensive resource library covering many common dermatologic problems and aesthetic issues. Visit http://www.bhskin.com/education/ to learn more about skin health and beauty.