Last updated: September 11, 2020

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Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in both adolescents and adults. It occurs when hair follicles become blocked, inflamed, and in the worst case, infected. Not only is it a dermatological problem, but, depending on its severity, it can also have emotional repercussions on those who suffer from it.

In the process of writing this shopping guide, we have analyzed the very best acne creams currently available on the market based on their ingredients, efficiency, and price, among other factors. We have also answered the most frequently asked questions regarding this skin condition and acne creams. In addition, the final section of this article will detail the primary purchasing criteria you should keep in mind when buying one of these products.

Key Facts

  • While many people still believe that acne only affects teenagers, adults of all ages suffer from it as well.
  • Acne creams are useful in cases of mild to moderate acne, while also supporting topical treatments for severe acne.
  • There are various factors to take into account when searching for your acne cream. These include both your type of acne and skin, the formulation of the product, or whether it contains a sun protection factor or not.

Our Selection: The Best Acne Creams on the U.S. Market

With such a wide array of acne creams available on the market, you may feel like most are similar. However, they do not all act in the same way, nor are they all as efficient as you might think. The active ingredients will vary from one product to the next, which in turn influences the price. In the following section, you will discover our selection of the best acne creams currently available out there:

Best Acne Cream for All Skin Types

Neutralize Renewal Complex is a cruelty-free moisturizing cream designed to keep your pores clean, control blemishes, and prevent future onsets. In fact, it is FDA-registered as a treatment for acne. Suitable for every skin type, this product is also helpful in fighting other conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, or psoriasis. This powerful moisturizer contains both salicylic and mandelic acids, which help break down excess sebum and dirt.

Best Organic Acne Cream

Depending on the type of acne you suffer from, or if you prefer using all-natural products on your skin, then this face cream by Era Organics might just be the right one for you. Designed for oily and acne-prone skins, it contains tea tree oil, St John’s wort, and salicylic acid, among other ingredients. This non-comedogenic blend creates a powerful product to fight acne and nourish your skin without irritating it.

Best Acne Cream for Everyday Use

Clinical trials have proven that Essy’s acne treatment cream can improve the condition of acne-prone skins in the long run, making it ideal for those looking for a slow and steady solution to their dermatological problems. With natural ingredients like ginseng root, aloe, and honeysuckle, this cream controls excess sebum while reducing acne-induced redness. Use 3 to 6 times a day, depending on the severity of your acne.

Best Acne Cream with Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a very common active ingredient in acne treatment products. By controlling excess sebum and preventing bacterial growth, it combines perfectly with natural ingredients – tea tree oil, shea butter, or jojoba oil, among others – for fast results. Suitable for all skin types, this cream is particularly useful if you suffer from cystic or hormonal acne. Besides, it may contribute to removing acne scars.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Acne Creams

Treating acne is a delicate matter because using the wrong product can make it worse and turn it into a more serious problem. That is why, in the section below, we have tried to answer the most common questions asked by consumers looking for an acne cream.

Acne is an inflammatory skin disease that occurs when the sebaceous glands produce an excess of sebum, blocking the pilosebaceous unit in the process.
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What is acne exactly?

This inflammatory skin disease occurs when the sebaceous glands produce an excess of sebum, in turn blocking the pilosebaceous unit formed by the hair follicle and the sebaceous gland. On the other hand, Cutibacterium acnes bacteria break down the sebum and irritate the skin. The most common causes are:

  • Heredity: Acne is a hereditary condition. If your parents or siblings have suffered from it, you are more likely to have it too. This type of acne isn’t easy to fight but can be counteracted.
  • Hormonal changes: They are one of the leading causes of acne, especially when experienced during adolescence. These changes affect sebum production, which can trigger the process of inflammation and infection.
  • Diet: A poor diet can also favor the appearance of acne, although this is less common than the two previous factors. Try to avoid saturated fats and very spicy foods.
  • Infection of hair follicles: These can often become infected in areas of the body that have hair – armpits, pubis, legs, or chest and back in men – especially after hair removal.

How does acne manifest it?

Acne can manifest itself in different ways depending on its cause, although the most common are blackheads and pustules with pus or pimples. In the most severe cases, it can also present as cysts or abscesses that must be treated by a professional. Consequently, its type determines its appearance:

Type of acne Characteristics
Hormonal-related acne Inflammation, especially in the chin and jaw area.

Cyclical occurrence linked to the menstrual cycle in women.

It can be treated with antibiotics or contraceptive drugs.

Subclinical acne Few blackheads and pus-filled pimples that are barely visible.

Small skin blemishes.

Comedonal acne Blackheads and pus-filled pimples that may appear reddened.

Visible blemishes.

Mild acne Several inflamed pimples.

Less than 20 pus-filled spots or blackheads.

15 inflamed pimples or less.

Less than 30 non-inflamed pimples.

Moderate acne Numerous pimples and pustules.

Between 20 and 100 pus-filled spots.

15 to 20 inflamed pimples.

20 to 125 non-inflamed pimples.

Severe nodular acne Inflamed pimples and pustules, as well as deep nodules that can be felt under the skin.

More than five cysts on the face (areas hardened by subcutaneous acne).

Severe cystic acne Many cystic nodules that leave scars.

What are the most common active ingredients in acne creams?

The efficiency of any acne product depends on the active ingredients it includes in its formula. Certain creams are designed to eliminate the bacteria that cause inflammation, while others get rid of excess sebum in the skin or encourage the spread of new cells at the same time as they remove dead cells. Here is a list of the most common and effective active ingredients:

  • Benzoyl peroxide: It is one of the most common ingredients in this type of cream because it prevents bacterial growth and controls excess sebum.
  • Salicylic acid: It works as a chemical exfoliant by breaking down accumulated dirt and sebum, thus preventing pores from clogging.
  • Alpha-hydroxy acids: They help remove dead cells and stimulate new skin growth, significantly improving the appearance of pores and scars.
  • Sulfur: Sulfur will also remove dead cells and excess sebum. While it is efficient, sulfur can cause dry skin and has a pungent odor that can be unpleasant to some.
  • Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil has powerful antibacterial properties. Note that it can cause irritation or even allergies if it is not diluted in water or carrier oils.

The efficiency of any acne cream depends on its active ingredients.
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What types of acne creams are there?

As their name indicates, these products are designed to put an end to this skin condition. They come in various forms, and your choice will mainly depend on your habits and personal preferences. The most common types are:

  • Moisturizing cream: This type of lotion moisturizes the skin while preventing the spread of bacteria on the face. They are recommended in cases of mild to moderate acne.
  • Exfoliating cream: Exfoliants contribute to cleansing your face by removing dead cells and blemishes.
  • Local cream: These creams are applied only on pimples and blackheads. They are quite powerful, which is why their use on the whole face or other areas of the body is not advised.
  • Face mask: They are generally applied at night and often include clay in their formulas, which can reduce blackheads and control sebum production.

Acne can manifest itself in different ways depending on its cause, the most common being blackheads and pustules with pus or pimples.
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What are the benefits of acne creams?

These types of creams have very positive effects on both the appearance and the general well-being of individuals affected by acne. Since this condition often occurs during adolescence – a very delicate time in a person’s development, acne can lead to anxiety, emotional harm, or even depression.

  • Acne creams moisturize the skin, hindering the mobility of bacteria.
  • They decrease swelling to notably improve the aspect of the face.
  • Products containing antibiotics not only fight acne but any disease or bacteria present in the face.
  • Creams act directly on the pimples and are therefore a localized treatment, in contrast to pills.

Do acne creams have any contraindications?

While this is very infrequent, acne creams can have adverse effects in certain cases. This doesn’t mean that the product is bad in itself, but simply that the user experiencing such problems has not found the right product for their skin. When using acne creams, keep in mind that:

  • They can’t be used forever. If they don’t work, it is best to discontinue use or try a different product. Once your situation has improved, it is also recommended that you stop using them, as they may irritate your skin or create a dependency.
  • Tolerance is one of their main problems. Dermatologists often advise their patients to change cream every few months so that their skin does not get used to it.
  • As various specialists have pointed out, not all spot-drying cosmetic products work because you should pay attention that they are non-comedogenic and free of fat and alcohol.
  • Acne creams are not effective for all types of acne and are only indicated for mild to moderate acne. In severe cases, they are a support method but not a treatment on their own.

As their name indicates, acne creams are designed to put an end to this skin condition.
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Why doesn’t my acne cream work?

First of all, the cream you have chosen may simply not be effective for you. In that case, you should try a product with a different formula. This skin treatment product is usually applied to the entire acne-affected area and not just the pimples – although this depends on the manufacturer, so be sure to check the package insert before you start using it.

We also recommend that you be patient, as these products are rarely effective overnight. Some creams can even take up to four months to deliver their full potential. As we mentioned earlier, always read the instructions and follow the indications of the manufacturer or your health professional.

These creams have very positive effects on both the appearance and the general well-being of individuals affected by acne.
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Shopping Criteria

With so many different acne creams on the market, it is important to remember that they are not all suitable for everyone. Just like any cosmetic or health product, it is essential that you evaluate several factors to choose the right cream for you. We have detailed these criteria in the following section:

Skin Type

This is the most important factor. All skins are different, and each cream is specially formulated for a particular skin type. People with oily skins that don’t need moisturizing will use creams with salicylic acid, while lower concentrations are recommended for dry skins.

On the other hand, sensitive skins require acne creams with milder active ingredients. These are some examples to show you how much your skin type should influence your final decision. If you have any doubts, please check with a specialist.

Benzoyl peroxide prevents bacterial growth and controls excess sebum.
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Acne Type

As you may have realized, the type of acne you suffer from also determines the product you should buy. Creams are only suitable as standalone treatments in cases of mild to moderate acne. For severe acne, they are considered a support method for the primary treatment.

You should also find out whether the acne you suffer from is hormonal – such as that suffered during adolescence – or whether there are other causes behind it. It may be related, for instance, to medications you are taking. Depending on the cause of your acne, you should use a specific type of cream or none at all.

Formulation

The ingredients present in the acne cream are what differentiates one product from another, which is why this is a critical factor in your purchase. While the packages vary from each other, what really matters is what’s inside the cream. Any acne product – including creams – should be non-comedogenic and minimally oily.

That way, it will not contribute to clogging your pores. Also, the active ingredient should be one of those we discussed earlier: benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids, sulfur, tea tree oil, or clays of different types are the most common ingredients for acne creams.

These dermatological creams are designed for topical use, and their application should most often be limited to the area(s) affected by acne.
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Application

As we mentioned in the previous section, most creams should be applied to the entire area affected by acne. However, there are also local options that should only be used on blackheads and pus-filled pimples. In that regard, you must read the instructions of the manufacturer of the product carefully to confirm its indicated use.

It is essential that you follow these instructions since localized creams often have stronger formulas that can cause irritation when used on healthy skin. Similarly, if a cream is meant to be applied over the whole affected area, you should do so in order to maximize its effectiveness.

Summary

Acne is a skin condition that affects a vast majority of us at some point in our lives. While it is more common among teenagers, it also occurs in adults of all ages. Severe cases of acne not only affect the skin’s health but can also cause mood swings, low self-esteem, anxiety, and even depression.

We all know how difficult not looking at our best can be. The good news is that you have solutions available if acne is the cause. These creams are very effective, especially in cases of mild to moderate acne. If you suffer from severe acne, they are also a very useful support to other treatments, such as hormonal methods or pills.

If you found our guide on acne creams helpful, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share it on your social media!

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Why you can trust me?

Charlotte Steward Beauty Expert & Cosmetologist
Charlotte became interested in the subject of beauty at an early age. It is her passion to improve the beauty industry. She now has her own small beauty salon and many regular customers who appreciate Charlotte's expertise.