After dragging your groggy self out of bed in the morning, the last thing you need to feel on your face as you wash is acne. You immediately wake up and think of a zillion ways to try and camouflage it, from toothpaste (it doesn’t work by the way) to popping it (this may work) to make-up (ah concealer, what would we do without you?) Well, I know the feeling and that is why, I bring you two effective over-the-counter treatments that need to be in your anti-acne arsenal stat! Quickly add these to your routine and watch those pesky zits shrivel up. A welcome bonus is that you can easily find these treatments at the neighborhood pharmacy!
Benzoyl peroxide is an effective topical anti bacterial used in the treatment of acne. When you understand the causes of acne, you realize that the acne causing bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes can infect the clogged follicle quickly leading to painful inflammatory forms of acne like cysts, nodules, papules and pustules. So with acne, time is of the essence, the earlier you treat it, the better.
Benzoyl peroxide penetrates the pore and triggers free radical formation which kills this bacterium preventing any further inflammation. This dries out the pimple. Since it triggers free radical formation, benzoyl peroxide should only be used as a spot treatment – don’t go slathering your face with it, lest you end up with dry irritated skin.
Studies also show that a prescription treatment gel or cream that combines the antibiotic erythromycin and benzoyl peroxide can be even more effective at treating acne than either agent on its own. This is because there’s less likelihood of the bacteria developing resistance to the antibiotic, making the antibiotic effective for longer.
The concentration of benzoyl peroxide treatments usually ranges from 2.5% to 10%. Start with the lowest concentration and determine how your skin responds before using a higher concentration. Since it does its job really well, higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide can result in dry, flaky, irritated skin.
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Salicylic acid is a BHA – Beta Hydroxy Acid that is a derivative of aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid. This BHA is oil soluble so it can easily penetrate the skin, unclog the pore, dry up any excess oil and kill the acne causing bacteria. It’s also anti-inflammatory so after reducing any swelling it will help the skin heal and prevent scarring.
Salicylic acid is also a great exfoliant, getting rid of dead skin cells that accumulate and otherwise block pores. This increases cell turnover, revealing clearer, acne-free skin underneath.
Well formulated over the counter BHA treatments should have an optimal acidic pH of 3-4 and concentrations of 0.5% to 2%.
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If you are allergic to aspirin, I wouldn’t advise using a BHA.
Whatever treatment you choose, just make sure that the formulation does not have any irritants that have the potential to make the problem worse. A list of potential irritants can be found here. If you don’t see any results from the OTC treatments, make sure to visit a dermatologist and discuss your options.