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Which corrector for acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that affects people of all ages. It manifests as different types of blemishes on the skin, including whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, and cysts. Acne most often occurs on the face, back, chest, and shoulders. While acne is not dangerous, it can cause emotional distress and in some cases lead to scarring. Fortunately, there are many effective over-the-counter and prescription correctors available to treat acne.

What Causes Acne?

Acne forms when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and oil. This allows bacteria like Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) to grow inside the follicle and cause inflammation. There are several factors that contribute to this process:

  • Excess oil production – This is driven by hormones during puberty but can continue into adulthood.
  • Buildup of dead skin cells – Cells shed but clump together and don’t properly slough off.
  • Bacteria – P. acnes proliferates in the clogged follicle.
  • Inflammation – The bacteria triggers the immune system, leading to swelling, redness, and pus.
  • Genetics – Some people are predisposed to acne.

Acne often flares up during times of hormonal changes like puberty and menstruation. Stress, oils and irritants in cosmetics, and sweat/friction can also worsen acne.

Types of Acne

There are several types of acne blemishes:

  • Whiteheads – Pores get clogged and plugged up under the skin’s surface.
  • Blackheads – Pores get clogged with debris that is open to the air, causing oxidation and a dark appearance.
  • Papules – Small, tender, pink bumps that may feel sore.
  • Pustules – Pus-filled lesions with redness around the base. Also called pimples.
  • Nodules – Large, painful, solid lesions lodged deep within the skin.
  • Cysts – Severe, pus-filled lumps that can cause scarring.

Mild acne consists of a few blemishes. Moderate acne involves multiple non-inflamed and inflammatory lesions. Severe acne is characterized by many inflamed lesions, nodules, and cysts that can lead to scarring.

How to Choose an Acne Corrector

There are many acne correctors on the market that can help treat breakouts. Here are some tips for choosing the right product:

  • Identify your skin type – Consider if you have oily, dry, sensitive, or combination skin. This will help narrow suitable correctors.
  • Choose the active ingredient(s) – Look for proven ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, adapalene, etc. based on your specific concerns.
  • Select the correct formulation – Gels, creams, cleansers, toners, etc. Different formulations work better for some skin types.
  • Consider added skin benefits – Some correctors also contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and vitamins to nourish skin.
  • Avoid irritants – Steer clear of correctors with sensitizing ingredients like alcohol, menthol, peppermint if you have sensitive skin.
  • Compare brands and prices – Shop around for the best value from reputable brands.

It’s advisable to try over-the-counter correctors first before considering prescription treatments which can have greater side effects. Using the right acne corrector for your skin can significantly improve breakouts without causing excess dryness, peeling, or irritation.

Over-the-Counter Correctors

Here is an overview of some popular OTC correctors for acne:

Corrector Key Ingredient(s) How It Works Best For
Benzoyl Peroxide Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5-10% Antibacterial, reduces oils and inflammation Mild to moderate acne
Salicylic Acid Salicylic Acid 0.5-2% Exfoliates, unclogs pores Blackheads, whiteheads, mild acne
Sulfur Sulfur 2-10% Antibacterial, exfoliates Whiteheads, blackheads
Azelaic Acid Azelaic Acid 10-20% Antibacterial, reduces inflammation Mild to moderate acne
Glycolic Acid Glycolic Acid 4-10% Exfoliates, unclogs pores Blackheads, whiteheads
Retinoids Adapalene, Tretinoin, Tazarotene Normalizes skin cell turnover and reduces inflammation Whiteheads, blackheads, inflammatory acne
Nicotinamide Nicotinamide 4% Reduces inflammation Inflammatory acne

Benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids tend to be among the most effective over-the-counter ingredients for acne. They come in many different formulations like gels, creams, cleansers, spot treatments, etc.

Prescription Correctors

For more stubborn moderate to severe acne, dermatologists may prescribe stronger topical or systemic correctors. Here are some prescription options:

  • Topical retinoids – Adapalene, tretinoin, tazarotene – Help normalize skin cell development and reduce inflammation.
  • Oral antibiotics – Doxycycline, minocycline, erythromycin – Fight acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation.
  • Oral contraceptives – Help regulate hormones and reduce oil production and inflammation in women.
  • Spironolactone – Anti-androgen that blocks effects of testosterone and reduces oil production in women.
  • Isotretinoin – Strong oral retinoid (Accutane) that addresses all major causes of acne. Reserved for severe acne due to side effects.

Prescription treatments should only be used under the guidance of a dermatologist since they carry greater risks of side effects. Topical retinoids are often the first choice for mild to moderate inflammatory acne that doesn’t respond sufficiently to OTC correctors.

How to Use Acne Correctors

Using acne correctors properly is key to getting good results. Here are some best practices:

  • Cleanse skin before applying corrector.
  • Use a pea-sized amount and apply a thin layer to affected areas.
  • Start with applying every other day, then daily if tolerated.
  • Use oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer if skin gets dry or irritated.
  • Avoid picking/popping pimples as this can worsen acne.
  • Protect skin from sun exposure which can darken acne marks.
  • Give the corrector 6-8 weeks to see full results.
  • See a dermatologist if your acne is not improving or getting worse.

Using correctors at night can help prevent skin irritation. Always follow the product directions. Combining correctors like benzoyl peroxide with salicylic acid may enhance efficacy, but start one product first to assess tolerance.

Lifestyle Tips for Better Results

In addition to topical and oral correctors, making some lifestyle changes can also improve acne:

  • Wash face twice daily with gentle cleanser and lukewarm water.
  • Avoid excessively washing face as this can irritate skin.
  • Shampoo regularly to keep hair oils and products from aggravating acne on the forehead and along the hairline.
  • Avoid oily cosmetics, sunscreens, and hair products.
  • Apply oil-free moisturizer to avoid dryness that signals the skin to overproduce oils.
  • Choose oil-free, non-comedogenic makeup labeled “won’t clog pores.” Remove makeup before bed.
  • Avoid picking, popping or touching breakouts as this can spread bacteria.
  • Shower after exercise, sweaty activities to rinse away dirt and bacteria.
  • Avoid tanning which can darken acne spots.
  • Manage stress which can worsen acne.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay hydrated.

Complementary Treatments

Some additional remedies may help improve acne when combined with standard correctors:

  • Azelaic acid – Natural derivative of grains that fights acne bacteria and inflammation.
  • Tea tree oil – Natural antibacterial/antifungal agent that helps unblock pores.
  • Aloe vera – Reduces inflammation and soothes irritated skin.
  • Green tea – Antioxidant that may reduce sebum production.
  • Zinc – Mineral with anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce acne.
  • Probiotics – May help regulate gut bacteria and reduce inflammation.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Anti-inflammatory effects that may aid acne treatment.

Some chemicals used in professional chemical peels may also minimize acne lesions. There is limited evidence that light and laser therapies are effective for treating acne.

When to See a Dermatologist

Consult a dermatologist if you experience:

  • No improvement after 6-8 weeks of proper over-the-counter treatment
  • Moderate to severe inflammatory acne
  • Painful nodules or cysts
  • Acne leaving dark spots or scars
  • Significant emotional/psychological distress from acne

A dermatologist can prescribe stronger topical medications, oral antibiotics, hormonal therapies, isotretinoin, or chemical peels to clear up stubborn acne. They may also perform extractions or cortisone injections to reduce large, painful lesions fast.


Acne is a widespread concern, but there are many effective over-the-counter and prescription correctors available. Look for proven ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids. Read directions carefully and give products adequate time to work before trying something new. See a dermatologist if acne is not improving or causing psychological distress. With consistent proper treatment, most people can achieve clear healthy skin.