If you walk through any drug store you will find a wide variety of topical acne medications available without a prescription. They all declare a similar message about clear skin. If you examine the ingredients closely you will find that they all contain varying degrees of different medications and this can be very confusing. In today\u2019s post I\u2019m going to cover the common acne medications that are available over the counter and provide some specific recommendations about what products work best for which types of acne.Before we jump into this, I want to take a minute to refresh the topics that I have already covered in this\u00a0blog series.\u00a0 We started with the most important step \u2013 making the diagnosis.\u00a0 There are four types of acne and knowing the type of acne that you have will be key in determining the best treatment options.\u00a0 Next up was the best face wash for acne prone skin.\u00a0 Keeping your skin clean is important and in this post we covered the types of cleansers available as well as how to properly clean your face.\u00a0 The third post was all about oily skin \u2013 the cause of oil and what you can do to help control it.\u00a0 If you are new here, enter your email address below and I\u2019ll send the prior posts to you.\u00a0Knowing the type of acne you have will help determine what products will best treat that acne. A quick review of the four types of acne: 1) comedonal acne (non-inflammatory); 2) inflammatory acne (pustular and cystic); 3) combination acne (both comedonal and inflammatory); and 4) hormonal acne.The two main ingredients in OTC acne medications are Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide. This summer, the Federal Drug Administration approved adapalene (aka differin), which is a topical retinoid, for over the counter sales. This is huge in the acne world, because prior to this you usually needed a prescription to procure a retinoid. Update: In January, 2017 Adapalene became available over the counter. Read on below for how to purchase. If you remember back to the 2nd post in this series, we discussed these same ingredients in face washes. It\u2019s important to find a balance of products that will treat your acne without causing irritation. Too much of any ingredient could leave you with dry, irritated skin. The ingredientsFirst up, Salicylic Acid. This is probably the most common solution when it comes to treating acne. Salicylic acid is comedolytic meaning that it helps declog blackheads and whiteheads so it\u2019s great when treating comedonal acne. Salicylic acid also works as a powerful exfoliator and will slough off dead skin. Products that contain 0.5 to 2 percent salicylic acid would be recommended \u2013 anything stronger will likely cause irritation. Salicylic acid is best used as a face wash. There are many OTC salicylic acid spot treatments, but I do not believe that spot treating acne works very well. Salicylic acid can also be used in much higher strengths in chemical peels. I use these often in my acne patients. However, these peels should be performed in a doctor\u2019s office.cSalicylic is an aspirin based product so if you are allergic to aspirin, products that contain salicylic acid should be avoided.\u00a0 If you are looking for a face wash that contains salicylic acid to help clear up comedonal acne, I recommend Neutrogena Acne Wash\u00a0or Hydropeptide Purifying Cleanser\u00a0(order from Hydropeptide with code Doctor-Ip for 15% discount!).\u00a0Next is Benzoyl Peroxide.\u00a0 If you have inflammatory acne, this is the product for you. Benzoyl Peroxide unclogs pores and stops bacteria (which is the cause of inflammatory acne).\u00a0 Typically available in strengths that range from 2.5% to 10%, starting with a low strength is recommended until you know how your skin will react to the product.\u00a0 People often report dry skin and some slight burning or tingling when starting to use this product.\u00a0 After applying the medication, I recommend using a thick cream to help retain moisture and prevent dryness.\u00a0 My personal favorite is OTC benzoyl peroxide is Obagi Clenziderm Therapeutic Lotion.Finally, a new introduction to the OTC acne treatment options is\u00a0Differin. In July, 2016 the FDA approved Differin for OTC use.\u00a0 Differin is a retinoid that treats mild to moderate acne. Topical retinoids are powerful comedolytics, which means that it can help knock blackheads out of the water.\u00a0 They help to encourage cell turnover and reduce inflammation.\u00a0 Differin is usually very effective on blackheads and whiteheads (comedonal acne) and tends to be less irritating than other prescription based retinoid treatments.\u00a0 Only a small amount is needed nightly, a pea-sized amount for the entire face. \u00a0\u00a0In January, 2016 Differin was released for sale over the counter.\u00a0 I\u2019ve seen it on shelves at Target, Walgreen\u2019s, CVS and on\u00a0Amazon.com.\u00a0Woman touching her faceIf you remember back to Step 2 of the\u00a0Cure Your Acne blog\u00a0(The Best Face Wash For Acne Prone Skin), there are many facial cleansers that contain Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide (two of the ingredients that I\u2019ve covered above).\u00a0 The key to clearing your skin is finding the correct balance of ingredients for your skin type.\u00a0 Below I\u2019ve summarized my suggested routine for each type of acne.\u00a0 Often, I find that the best combination is a gentle cleanser with treatments applied after washing.\u00a0 Too much of any one ingredient could cause excessive dryness and further irritate the skin.\u00a0Comedonal acne \u2013 Wash with a gentle cleanser twice a day, followed by a moisturizer. In the evening, use a pea-sized amount of a topical retinoid (Differin) before applying moisturizer.Inflammatory acne \u2013 Wash with a gentle cleaner and use a mild OTC benzoyl peroxide cream twice a day, followed by a moisturizerCombination acne \u2013 Wash with a gentle cleanser twice a day. A mild OTC benzoyl peroxide cream can be used during the day and a topical retinoid like Differin can be used at night. After medication is applied a moisturizer should always be applied.Hormonal acne \u2013 A combination of products may be effective but you will likely need a hormonal remedy.Product RecommendationsGentle Cleanser: Hydropeptide Cleansing Gel or Vanicream Facial CleanserOTC Retinoid: DifferinOTC Benzoyl Peroxide: Obagi Clenziderm Therapeutic Lotion or La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne TreatmentMoisturizer: CerAve AM and Cerave PM add Vanicream if you experience excessive drynessAs with most products that are applied topically, a small amount of the drug can enter your bloodstream.\u00a0 If you are pregnant or breastfeeding these products are not safe to use and should be avoided.\u00a0 When starting a new treatment for acne it is important to ease into the new routine.\u00a0 Start off by applying any new medications every other evening as part of your skincare routine and only increase to daily if you find that you need it.\u00a0 Also, these treatments tend to be very drying so you will want to make sure you are moisturizing well when using.\u00a0 My preferred facial moisturizers are\u00a0Cerave AM,\u00a0Cerave PM\u00a0and\u00a0Vanicream.\u00a0Looking for more skin tips & advice? 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