If you are suffering from acne, it can be tricky to know which products are helping your skin and which are only making your skin condition worse. To get the fact, we turned to Neutrogena expert, Toronto dermatologist, Dr. Paul Cohen. Get ready to take notes and hit the stores to stock up!
Q: When choosing skin care lines, are there ingredients that people with acne should look for?
A: It really depends on your skin type and on the severity of your acne. Most people who get acne will develop mild acne and this can usually be treated with OTC (over-the-counter) medications. OTC medications can be bought at a pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription and they are usually applied to the skin (e.g. topical medicines that most commonly contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid).
Benzoyl Peroxide helps kill bacteria and slows down your glands’ production of oil, and is a very commonly used antibiotic agent found in acne treatments. While benzoyl peroxide is a topical antibiotic, it is not something to which we can develop a resistance. Although Benzoyl peroxide can be very drying to sensitive skin types, it’s usually well-tolerated; however, the main downside is it can bleach clothing, pillow cases, sheet, towels, etc. and I usually like to warn my patients in advance of this.
Salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory topical acne treatment derived from aspirin. Salicylic acid is good for cleaning the skin, and takes excess oil off when used for cleansing. It is good for the face and body too – especially since it doesn’t bleach clothing or towels. It can be drying and slightly irritating for people with sensitive skin, particularly people who have a condition like rosacea. I recommend the NEUTROGENA® Oil-Free Acne Wash for the face and body (it comes in a body wash that is great for the chest and back). The Pink Grapefruit version is great.
If your acne is more severe, you should see a derm. You should visit a derm when traditional over the counter products aren’t working, and when all of the “best practices” are being taken into account (wearing oil-free makeup, practicing proper hygiene, etc.) – but you are still having issues with acne flare-ups. Prescription medications for acne come in many forms, such as creams, lotions, etc. – and your dermatologist will decide what is best for you. You may be prescribed an oral or topical antibiotic for inflammation, or birth control pills if it’s hormonal.
Q: Are there ingredients that they should avoid?
A: For some acne-sufferers, it can be helpful to avoid oil-based makeups, moisturizing creams or lotions, as these contain oil, which can speed up the blocking of your pores. Always look for products that are non-comedogenic, which will not block pores.
Q: There are many different types of skin care products (creams, foams, gels). Is there a type of skin care product people should use?
A: Look for oil-free, non-comedogenic skincare products. People with acne-prone skin tend to have oilier skin and tend to do better with gel-based products and more watery formulas, versus thick, rich creams. Gel-based products and foaming cleansers tend to have more alcohol in them, helping with drying the oil build-up in pores.
Q: What are the top products someone with acne should use regularly?
A: A mild cleanser, a light and oil-free moisturizer. NEUTROGENA Oil-free Moisture SPF 15 is one of my favourites. Sunscreen – the sun can aggravate acne-prone skin – use sunscreen regularly. For acne-prone skin, look for oil-free sunscreens with a light, watery and fluid formula. One of my favourites is the NEUTROGENA ULTRA SHEER WATER-LIGHT Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 60. I would say to avoid clogged pores that lead to break outs, consistency is most important. I would also recommend a gel based or spray sunscreen that has alcohol and works well on more oily skin types.