Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/18/2021
Having acne-prone skin can be a lifelong physical and mental struggle. When you’re self-conscious about your irritated skin or inflammatory acne, your self-esteem can take a hit.
Spending a fortune on the latest acne spot treatments and acne medicines may seem like the best solution, but just because a product says it will cure your acne doesn’t mean it actually will.
When it comes to treating clogged pores, cystic acne and all of the acne-associated symptoms, there are just a handful of products that stand out as all stars.
These are the type of acne products recommended by board-certified dermatologists and research scientists, because they’re proven safe and effective.
You have an overwhelming number of treatment options available to you in 2021. We’re here to help you make sense of them.
Acne among adult women is fairly common, and more common than it is in men. It’s not just a teen’s disease; acne can affect women well into their fifties.
But just like it is in your teenage years, having acne as an adult can have lasting unpleasant effects.
Because of that, women who struggle with acne can — and often do — spend an inordinate amount of time and money on trying to solve their affliction, and are generally on the look-out for the latest and greatest products.
Acne products are typically designed to treat the various factors that contribute to acne development, including:
The clogging of pores by dead skin cells (follicular hyperkeratinization),
Bacteria and specifically Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes)
Things like genetics, stress, obesity, smoking, sleep problems, medications and endocrine diseases can also play a role in the development of acne.
So now that we have a little background, let’s discuss the best acne products for the year.
You’ll notice while reading that the items we chose to showcase as the best acne products are not new, and they’re not brands.
We know you’re an informed consumer — if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this — and we’re giving you the information to track down the best acne medications and products.
What makes a good acne product are the active ingredients within. If you know the most effective components, you can better weigh the quality of a skin care product and the claims made by its manufacturer.
These acne-fighting ingredients are backed with scientific research proving their effectiveness and safety in fighting acne breakouts.
They’re not some trend or a new product with a slick, viral marketing campaign.
These are the all stars in the fight against acne.
Benzoyl peroxide is an over-the-counter topical acne treatment found in creams, gels, face washes and body wash (for body acne), among other products.
It works to fight acne-causing bacteria and inflammation, as well as prevent the clogging of pores.
It may dry the skin, and is generally recommended for mild to moderate acne.
Topical retinoids include adapalene and tretinoin, among others. These medications are considered the first-line defense against acne, and have been in use for decades.
While some concentrations are now available over-the-counter, others require a prescription from a certified healthcare professional.
Topical retinoids are recommended for mild-to-moderate acne, and may be used in conjunction with other acne medications in more severe cases. Hers offers an acne cream with tretinoin to help stop acne.
Topical antibiotics like clindamycin for acne and erythromycin fight bacteria on the surface of the skin and help reduce inflammation.
These medications are generally prescribed for use in conjunction with others, such as retinoids or benzoyl peroxide.
Prescribed for use against moderate-to-severe acne, oral medications such as tetracyclines are generally used in combination with other medications and are a prescription acne treatment.
Used alone, as a monotherapy, oral antibiotics for acne can lead to antibiotic-resistance over time, so they’re typically prescribed for a limited number of weeks or months.
If hormonal fluctuations play a role in your acne, birth control pills can help resolve your breakouts. They do this by limiting the level of androgens circulating through your body.
Some birth control pills are designed specifically to aid with acne, but the anti-acne benefits aren’t limited to these pills.
The best products for acne year-after-year are those that have a solid and safe track record, backed with reputable scientific evidence.
So, it’s no surprise this year’s best acne treatments are largely the same as last year, and the year before that.
Be wary of new, trendy skin care products.
They may be all the rage and your favorite Instagram influencers might use them, but if you’re a betting woman, your money will always be better placed with those products that have been time-tested and backed by science.
When in doubt, consulting with a healthcare professional about the type of acne you have and the specifics of your skin care woes will help you choose the right acne medicine for your particular situation.