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Acne Treatment Features

Acne Product Ingredients.

For the record, acne breaks out when oil glands in the skin get clogged, forcing dirt and debris to push through the skin's surface. The result: nasty bumps on your face, chest, or back.
This is why people with oily skin seem to struggle with acne more than others. Hormonal fluctuations also take a toll on glands, which explains why acne also affects teens going through puberty and women about to menstruate.

The best cheap acne products available over-the-counter contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. As described by experts at the Mayo Clinic, benzoyl peroxide kills the acne bacterium while helping to remove the dead skin cells and excess oils that clog pores; benzoyl peroxide can be irritating and drying but seems to be well-tolerated by many people. Salicylic acid, the site continues, helps prevent clogged pores by slowing the rate at which cells are shed and can help break down whiteheads and blackheads; salicylic acid is less irritating than benzoyl peroxide and works well for dry skin. Other ingredients often found in acne products include alpha hydroxyl acids and sulphur.

It's always a good idea to start off with the lowest strength available -- that would be 2.5% for benzoyl peroxide and 0.5% for salicylic acid -- and at the minimal dosage -- that would be once a day. If this routine doesn't work, increase strength and/or dosage as needed, but make sure to read the directions for proper use. Maximum strength for benzoyl peroxide is 10% and for salicylic acid it's 2%. For some people, Mayo Clinic notes, a regimen involving two products with different active ingredients is most effective.

Of the cheap acne products that we researched, Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Redness Soothing Cream Cleanser (starting at $7), Noxzema Triple Clean Anti-Blemish Pads (starting at $4) and Clean & Clear Cleansers Blackhead Eraser Scrub (starting at $5) all contain 2% salicylic acid. Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10, Maximum Strength 1 (starting at $5) contains 10% benzoyl peroxide while Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment Vanishing Formula (starting at $6) contains 2.5% benzoyl peroxide.

So-called "natural" ingredients, like ginkgo seed, powdered pearl lemon, eucalyptus, willow extract, and tea tree oil, are found in pricier anti-acne products made by companies such as Lalisse and Burt's Bees. (The Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash on our list contains aloe and chamomile.) Some natural acne treatments may also include acne-fighting chemicals, and user reviews for such products range from mixed to good.

Skin Type.

Which cheap acne cure you choose depends largely on your skin type. People with dry skin may want to avoid products with benzoyl peroxide because they're likely to dry it even more. If treatments like Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 and Neutrogena On-The-Spot Vanishing Cream are somewhat irritating but helping to reduce breakouts, cut back on the frequency of application. Products with salicylic acid, like Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Redness Soothing Cream Cleanser and Noxzema Triple Clean Anti-Blemish Pads, tend to be gentler on the skin but can still be irritating.

Review continues below

We read many reviews written by consumers who immediately stopped using an acne treatment after a strong negative reaction or because of no noticeable effect. Although some very satisfied users report quick and positive results with these cheap acne products, experts note that it often takes up to two months for a product to do its thing. Even so, if an acne therapy causes you distress, go cold turkey and try something else.

When choosing the best cheap acne treatments, we looked for products that shouldn't further aggravate acne in people with oily skin or a mix of oily and dry patches. Three of our top picks -- Neutrogena On-the-Spot Vanishing Cream, Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Redness Soothing Cleanser, and Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 -- are oil-free. Noxzema Anti-Blemish Pads are alcohol-free.

Race is a factor that can affect the course of treatment. Everyday Health notes that some acne therapies can cause temporary skin discoloration in people of color, in addition to the dryness and irritation that sometimes accompanies use of cheap acne products. Should you notice some discoloration, the site suggests using the product less often, applying moisturizer, getting chemical peels, or switching to a topical prescription obtained from your medical provider.

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