The 10 Best Drugstore Products to Use If You Have Acne


Acne is one of the most infuriating skin conditions to deal with, and spending a lot of money trying to treat it comes in a close second. While science hasn’t quite figured out how to alter our genetics and the affect they have on our skin, the science of skincare has shed light on how to minimize the symptoms of problematic skin. 

When we were younger, we were taught that oil was bad, that drying alcohol was good, and that scrubbing your face with crushed up walnut shells would stave off blemishes. Oh, how embarrassingly wrong we all were. Luckily, our understanding of ingredients and how they interact with one another has evolved. 

Not only has this development in knowledge benefitted our oily and acne-prone skin, but we’re finally seeing products in drugstores that help us calm inflammation and treat the appearance and frequency of breakouts more effectively. Acne care products are more readily available than ever, and for way less than what you’ll spend at a cosmetic store for essentially the same ingredients. Here’s a complete regimen of products to help you battle the bumps for cheap. 


Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm

When treating acne-prone skin, the necessity for a double-cleansing regimen increases tenfold. Using an oil-based cleanser before following up with a water-based cleanser ensures that you have effectively removed the full spectrum of known irritants to acne prone skin — like makeup, sweat, sebaceous oil, environmental pollution, etc. BANILA CO. has been a staple in Korean skincare for years, and can now be found on the shelves of your local CVS.

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Hydrating Facial Cleanser

Having a solid water-based cleanser to follow up your oil-based one is an absolute must, and a big mistake that acne sufferers make when treating their skin is assuming that drying and tingling means effectively removing oil. Wrong. Stripping the skin completely of all oil only encourages your skin to produce even more oil, which leads to breakouts — and the cycle continues. Having an extra gentle and hydrating cleanser means that your skin is completely clean without triggering a stress response.

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Glow Tonic

One of the biggest advancements in our understanding of how to better treat our skin comes in the form of acids. Using acid exfoliants rather than physical exfoliants — like scrubs and harsh brushes — allows for dead skin to be dealt with in a way that doesn’t cause microtears on the skin's surface. Scrubbing acne-prone skin means that you’re allowing for even more bacteria to grow under the surface, which will lend itself to blemishes. Instead, use a toner containing an acid. This one by Pixi contains a hefty amount of glycolic acid to exfoliate your skin daily.

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Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment

While retinoids are more typically associated with signs of maturing skin, they’re incredibly effective in minimizing the occurrence of breakouts. Retinoids, when used properly, work to strengthen the deepest layers of our skin. That added resilience allows for our skin cells to turn over more quickly, heal from inflammation faster, and decrease the scarring and dark spots that older acne has left behind. It’s important to note that retinoids are very serious skincare — you should always follow their care instructions and wear SPF every single day. Improper use can cause serious damage to your skin.

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Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum

One of the most significant causes of acne is dehydrated skin, as skin that has not been adequately moisturized will try its best to self-correct by over-producing sebaceous oil that can congest pores and cause breakouts. In order to correctly moisturize, you need to incorporate products that deliver hydrating ingredients at different molecular weights. Hyaluronic acid is the perfect ingredient to incorporate into your acne care routine, as it carries up to 1000x its weight in water and delivers that hydration deep into your skin.

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Peach Slices
Acne Spot Dots

The standard spot treatment for the longest time has included incredibly drying ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, and while those ingredients can be beneficial in washes or masks, using them to spot treat an inflamed blemish can sometimes be counterintuitive. If we wish to treat the infection properly, using drying ingredients can sometimes cause a hard layer of skin to develop over them blemish, trapping the infection and inflammation below the surface. Instead, encourage blemishes to heal more quickly and with minimal scarring and redness by keeping them heavily moisturized with hydrocolloid bandages.

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LiftActive Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector with Hyaluronic Acid

The benefits of Vitamin C in skincare are endless, and this vital ingredient becomes especially important when dealing with breakouts. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that not only helps to minimize the frequency of acne breakouts, but also helps fade the dark spots, uneven tone, and redness that blemishes can leave behind. Vitamin C and retinoids are incredible when used in tandem. Apply your retinoids at night and your Vitamin C (and SPF!) in the mornings. Be patient, these two active ingredients can take several weeks of application before you begin to see results.

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Gentle Peeling Exfoliant

If you just really can’t let go of your need to scrub your skin and need to feel that relief of sloughing away dead skin, the good news is you don’t have to! You can still feel the satisfaction of a weekly treatment without causing physical tears and damage to your skin. This acid peeling treatment by e.l.f. has been flying off the shelves since it launched, and with its incredibly affordable price point and effective gentle treatment, it’s not hard to see why!

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SkinActive Water Rose 24H Moisture Cream

In keeping with the need for as much moisture as possible, having a rich and deeply moisturizing cream for day and night use can help your skin balance oil production and keep skin calm while it is adjusting to retinoids and Vitamin C use. This formula is dense with hyaluronic acid and rose water to achieve both, while also being light enough to wear under makeup and layered with other skincare products.

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La Roche-Posay
Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer UV SPF 30

Even if you don’t plan on using a retinoid, which would make daily SPF absolutely non-negotiable, you really should be using sun protection every single day. Acne sufferers usually shy away from sunscreen because the wrong formulation can cause troubled skin to flare up and pores to become congested. There are plenty of oil-free SPF options on the market, but this does not necessarily mean they are best suited for acne-prone skin, so it’s very important to always look for a “non-comedogenic” formulation of SPF — like this one.

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