The Independent Pharmacy

8 Best Acne Gels For UK Customers

Daniel Hurley
Daniel HurleyMPharm IPPharmacist Independent Prescriber

Reviewed on 2 Apr 2024

Acne can be a frustrating skin condition. Those small, red pimples seem to appear at the worst times. Luckily, there are acne treatments available that can help keep breakouts under control. The best acne gels use ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. These ingredients go after the bacteria deep in pores that cause acne. They also calm down swelling and help dry up pimples fast.

Finding the right acne gel that works for you can be a journey, but you're not alone in this. We're here to guide you through the process.

First, you have to think about your skin type. Oily and combination skin may need stronger gels. Sensitive or dry skin needs gentler formulas. Look at how bad your breakouts are, too. Mild acne can benefit from over-the-counter gels. Moderate or severe acne may need prescription-strength treatments.

In this guide, we'll talk about popular prescription and over-the-counter options, which ingredients to look for and how to use these gels with the rest of your skincare routine.

Soon, you’ll be on your way to fewer pimples!

Key Takeaways:

  • When shopping for a prescription acne gel, prioritise proven ingredients like retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, acids, and antibiotics to target blemish causes.
  • Honestly and meticulously assess your acne triggers, skin type, sensitivity, past product use, and preferences for regimen complexity - factors that dictate effectiveness.
  • Track usage and progress consistently. It often takes 4-8 weeks of proper application before visible, longer-term acne reduction. Apply twice daily unless irritated.
  • If your chosen acne gel doesn’t meet expectations after appropriate use, consult your dermatologist or our specialists about adjusting your regimen to get the transforming results you deserve.

Top Acne Gels Available in the UK

There are several effective acne gels doctors can prescribe if you see them about your breakouts. Many combine proven spot-fighting ingredients. The right treatment depends on if you have mild or severe acne. Here are some top UK options for clearer skin.

Duac Gel (3% & 5%)

Duac Gel tops the list by mixing benzoyl peroxide and the antibiotic clindamycin. Benzoyl peroxide is a strong medicine – it kills bacteria way down in clogged pores to cut swelling and redness. It also dries up extra oil and pimple gunk. Clindamycin targets inflammation in existing zits on the surface.

Use the milder 3% gel for occasional small breakouts. The 5% works best on lots of regular pimples and nodules from oily or combination skin. Spread a thin layer all over, not just on individual spots. Be patient - it can take 4 weeks of daily use to see less acne.

Duac Gel (3% & 5%)
Duac Gel (3% & 5%)
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Acnecide Gel

Acnecide packs a punch with its active acne-fighting ingredient, benzoyl peroxide. This common over-the-counter ingredient targets breakouts in three key ways - fighting bacteria, reducing swelling and inflammation, and unplugging blocked pores.

The 5% benzoyl peroxide concentration can produce quick results on mild to moderate acne outbreaks. It attacks acne-causing bacteria on the skin's surface and deeper inside congested pores. Redness and irritation associated with acne also start fading.

Apply a thin layer 1-2 times daily after cleansing all blemish-prone areas. It might initially cause some dryness or peeling as it brings pimples to the surface. Push through for at least a month of consistent use for clearer, calmer skin and less prone to annoying breakouts.

Acnecide Gel
Acnecide Gel
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Treclin Gel

Treclin Gel combines a retinoid called tretinoin with the antibiotic clindamycin. Retinoids make your skin cells turn over and refresh faster so dead cells don’t pile up inside pores. Clindamycin attacks redness-causing bacteria in current breakouts. Together, they clear current acne and block future blemishes.

Start every night before bed, then use less if dryness or peeling occurs. Using it correctly for 6-8 weeks results in open pores, balanced oil production, and a more even tone.

Treclin Gel
Treclin Gel
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Differin 0.1% Cream/Gel

Differin helps prevent and treat acne with its active ingredient, adapalene, a synthetic retinoid (a man-made version of a vitamin A compound that's designed to treat skin conditions like acne and ageing). Retinoids keep skin cells turning over rapidly so dead ones don’t clog hair follicles. They also calm inflammation.

Apply a pea-sized amount all over acne-prone areas at bedtime. It works deep in pores to keep them from getting blocked while you sleep. Relieves existing breakouts and stops new blackheads and whiteheads. It might cause some dryness, so moisturise daily. Expect clearer, glowing skin in as little as 6 weeks with steady use.

Differin 0.1% Cream/Gel
Differin 0.1% Cream/Gel
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Epiduo 0.1%/2.5% Gel

Another combo treatment that both treats current acne and prevents new pimples from forming is Epiduo gel. Its main ingredients are the retinoid adapalene plus the proven bacteria-fighter benzoyl peroxide. The adapalene unclogs pores and prompts faster exfoliation of built-up, dead skin cells to make breakouts less likely.

Benzoyl peroxide is added to finish off stubborn pimples. It gives the formula antibacterial and anti-inflammatory oomph that rapidly calms redness and swelling in spots. It also keeps pesky acne-causing bacteria from continuing to cause trouble.

Experts recommend applying a small glob of Epiduo over the entire problem area on clean, dry skin. Apply only a thin layer - otherwise side effects like peeling and irritation could occur. Follow every night for 12 weeks for less clogged hair follicles, reduced oil production, fewer breakouts and smoother-looking skin.

Epiduo 0.1%/2.5% Gel
Epiduo 0.1%/2.5% Gel
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Zindaclin 1% Gel

Can’t tolerate strong doses of benzoyl peroxide or retinoids? Zindaclin is a topical antibiotic gel with the acne-fighting ingredient clindamycin. Dermatologists often prescribe it for mild to moderate inflammatory cystic acne, not handling over-the-counter options well.

Clindamycin works by binding to bacteria on your skin and inside clogged follicles, stopping them from multiplying and causing more swelling, red spots and nodules. It has anti-inflammatory properties, too.

Smooth, just a thin film over the entire affected area twice per day. It may sting temporarily until your skin adjusts. Aim for 8-12 weeks of use for reduced lesions and less frequent breakouts. Works well alongside benzoyl peroxide cleansers.

Zindaclin 1% Gel
Zindaclin 1% Gel
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Freederm Gel (10g)

Freederm Gel offers a different approach to clearing up blemish-prone skin. Instead of heavy-hitting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or retinoids, it relies on a form of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide. This water-based gel formula is gentler but still packs an anti-inflammatory punch.

Nicotinamide tackles acne by controlling oil production, which helps keep pores from getting clogged with oil and dead skin. It also reduces redness and swelling around existing whiteheads and pimples.

Smooth a small amount over clean skin twice daily. It works nicely with other acne treatments if they cause dryness or peeling. Or use it alone for maintenance after you achieve clearer skin. Less irritation makes it a good pick for sensitive areas like the neck and back, too.

Freederm Gel (10g)
Freederm Gel (10g)
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CeraVe Blemish Control Gel

The CeraVe Blemish Control Gel features a gel aimed at clearing current congestion while preventing future flare-ups. It packs acne-fighting favourites niacinamide and salicylic acid, plus soothing ceramides. This lightweight texture won’t clog pores further or overdry areas already prone to tightness.

Niacinamide calms angry breakouts and shrinks excess oil production. Salicylic acid gently lifts away dead cells and unclogs debris to reveal clearer skin. Ceramides repair the protective moisture barrier compromised by acne. All this with a non-comedogenic formula suitable for acne-prone skin types.

Smooth over clean skin morning and night. Avoid mixing with another salicylic acid product as over-exfoliation could occur. Works well layered under oil-free moisturisers. See clearer, more evenly toned skin with regular use over 4-6 weeks.

CeraVe Blemish Control Gel
CeraVe Blemish Control Gel
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Tips for Maximising Effectiveness

Acne gels with active ingredients like salicylic acid or prescription-strength retinoids can greatly improve breakouts when used properly. However, bad application practices might limit how well they can fight visible pores, blemishes, redness and scarring.

Follow these tips for reducing pimples, oil production, bacteria, inflammation and more:

  • Stick with the application twice daily unless otherwise directed by your dermatologist or pharmacist. Skipping days allows acne-causing bacteria to regain a foothold and undo progress. Set reminders if needed.
  • Use a very thin layer and resist applying huge globs assuming it will work better. Benzoyl peroxide and prescription retinoids can dry and irritate the skin if overapplied. Start with a small amount and build up tolerance.
  • Acne gels work best on clean skin, free of dirt, oil, and old makeup. Use a gentle cleanser from a brand like CeraVe morning and evening before applying gels. Don’t combine too many anti-acne actives until you know how your skin reacts, either.
  • Let the gels absorb fully before layering other products over them. 10-15 minutes should suffice. Mixing can dilute the ingredients or cause increased dryness and peeling.
  • Most importantly, give yourself and your skin grace and time. It often takes up to 8 weeks to see significant improvements from prescription treatments. Your journey is unique, and your resilience is admirable.

Carefully following these simple tips while using your acne gel ensures the best possible reduction in current and future breakouts.

Selecting the Best Acne Gel

Narrowing down the best acne gel for your needs is easier when you reflect on a few key factors:

  • Identify your types of breakouts – blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, cysts? Match formulas that are designed for your specific blemish kinds and severity.
  • Consider likely triggers behind your pimples when possible. This helps find targeted solutions that address the root causes like excess oil, clogged pores and bacteria.
  • Assess if sensitivity accompanies your breakouts. Harsher ingredients like benzoyl peroxide may require gentle complementary products to avoid irritation.
  • Reflect on how much effort you can realistically invest in a regimen. Combination gels require diligent use and layering but provide excellent improvements.

Having an open conversation with your dermatologist about these factors helps determine which prescription acne gel is most likely to deliver game-changing improvements in your blemishes, inflammation and oil production.

Take the Next Step With The Independent Pharmacy

Hopefully now you better grasp effective acne gel ingredients and factors to consider when finding the right treatment match. Our next recommendation?

Take The Independent Pharmacy’s online acne assessment.

Thoroughly communicate your unique blemish symptoms, past product use, flare factors and any specifics related to your acne through our questionnaire. This intel helps our team recommend proven prescription formulas likely addressing your root causes.

Soon after completing the assessment, The Independent Pharmacy will contact you to share personalised gel and alternate treatment suggestions based on your responses. We'll happily answer any questions, ensuring you feel fully confident ordering the best initial regimen through our convenient online platform.

As you move forward, don't hesitate to contact us and ask our knowledgeable pharmacists any usage or application questions. Having access to specialised support along the way means you can confidently stick with an acne prescription long enough to achieve amazing improvements in your clarity and confidence.

FAQs

Is acne gel good for pimples?

Yes, when selected and used properly, acne gels with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are very effective at clearing up pimples. Just ensure you choose a formula designed for your unique blemish type and severity level.

How to get rid of acne fast?

No acne treatment clears up stubborn spots instantly, but gels with prescription retinoids or benzoyl peroxide produce visible improvements faster than other options when applied consistently. Avoid trying risky DIY spot treatments. See a dermatologist for medical-grade solutions.

Why isn't my acne clearing up?

If your acne gel hasn't reduced blemishes after 6-8 weeks of consistent use, make an appointment with your dermatologist. You likely need a different formula or treatment method better suited to your unique skin situation.

Sources:

Malwina Zasada and Elżbieta Budzisz (2019). Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6791161/

NHS (2022). About benzoyl peroxide - https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/benzoyl-peroxide/about-benzoyl-peroxide/

Zoe Diana Draelos, Nada Baalbaki, Gene Colon, Brigitte Dreno (2023). Ceramide-Containing Adjunctive Skin Care for Skin Barrier Restoration During Acne Vulgaris Treatment - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37276158/

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