Skincare Stacy

Skincare Stacy
7 Best Skincare Ingredients for Acne

7 Best Skincare Ingredients for Acne

While dealing with acne can be frustrating, we have a many different skincare tools to help fight it, including:

7 Best Acne Fighting Ingredients

  • Salicylic Acid

  • Benzoyl Peroxide

  • Azelaic Acid

  • Retinol

  • Adapalene

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids

  • Niacinamide

This article will explain everything you need to know about the best skincare ingredients for acne.

Salicylic Acid

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant with BowTiedFawn branding

Salicylic acid products are phenomenal for treating acne.

Also known as a beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid is fat soluble unlike most alpha hydroxy acids. This lipid soluble nature allows it to get into clogged pores and dissolve sweat and oil such that it can then be washed away.

I particularly like salicylic acid as it is one of the most gentle acne treatments and unlikely to cause skin irritation, so it can be suitable for even sensitive skin types. Plus, you’ll commonly find salicylic acid in acne spot treatments, along with benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl Peroxide

PanOxyl 4% benzoyl peroxide with BowTiedFawn branding

Benzoyl peroxide is a great acne treatment, especially for people with exercise-induced acne.

Suitable for mild to moderate acne vulgaris, benzoyl peroxide is effective at killing acne causing bacteria.

If you’re new to active ingredients in your skincare routine, you can start with a 2.5% or 4% BP product. Plus, if you deal with back and shoulder acne, you can repurpose 10% PanOxyl as body wash.

Azelaic Acid

Naturium Azelaic Topical Acid 10 with BowTiedFawn branding

Azelaic acid is one of my favorite acne fighting ingredients that can also help:

  • Unclog pores

  • Soothe rosacea

  • Even out dark spots

It’s so gentle and can help reduce redness and it’s unlike to cause irritation or hyperpigmentation which is ideal for darker skin tones.

Plus, azelaic acid is photostable and suitable for use during the day.


SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5 with BowTiedFawn branding

Retinol is a popular anti-aging treatment, but did you know it can also be helpful for acne prone skin?

Some benefits of retinol turning over dead skin cells and controlling excess oil production which can be great for combination skin and oily skin types.

However, retinol can also cause dry skin and irritation which can worsen acne, so be sure to moisturize afterwards.


Adapalene gel with BowTiedFawn branding

Popularized by Differin, adapalene gel is an over-the-counter retinoid that packs a powerful punch against acne that is typically only found in prescription medicine like tretinoin.

Similar to skin care products like retinol and retinaldehyde, adapalene will remove dead skin cells and reduce incidence of acne breakouts.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Stratia Soft Touch AHA with BowTiedFawn branding

Glycolic acid and lactic acid are two examples of popular alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).

These ingredients are effective removing dead skin cells and helping turn over the top layer of your skin which helps reduce acne.

Personally, my favorite AHA is mandelic acid, as found in Stratia Soft Touch AHA.


CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with BowTiedFawn branding

Niacinamide is a wonderful ingredient to help control excess oil product and strengthen your skin barrier. It is most effective in the 2-5% range, so I recommend staying away from those 10% serums popularized by The Ordinary.

Instead, consider using products that are already formulated with niacinamide like the CeraVe PM Moisturizer.

How to Treat Acne Prone Skin

Even the best acne fighting ingredients won’t be super effective if you don’t use them properly or if you overuse them.

If you’re just starting your skincare journey against acne, try picking just one ingredient and see if it works for you.

For example, trying using a 4% benzoyl peroxide cleanser at night and following up with a moisturizer for a month and see if that helps control your acne. If not, you can try adding in a salicylic acid exfoliant or adapalene.

Trial and error is the name of the game here, and what works for you may not work for everyone else.

Summary: Best Ingredients for Acne

In summary, the best ingredients for acne include:

  • Salicylic Acid

  • Benzoyl Peroxide

  • Azelaic Acid

  • Retinol

  • Adapalene

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids

  • Niacinamide

Plus, make sure you’re not using products that clog pores and that you’re eating a healthy diet to reduce acne.

When you finally decide to it's time to improve your health and appearance, you need to sign up for my Substack below. Find specific skin routines and protocols in My Roadmap or start with my Basic Skincare Guide.

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