The Independent Pharmacy

The Best Ingredients For Acne Prone Skin

Daniel Hurley
Daniel HurleyMPharm IPPharmacist Independent Prescriber

Reviewed on 2 Apr 2024

If you're struggling with acne-prone skin, know that you're not alone. We understand how frustrating and disheartening those persistent breakouts can be. Rest assured, we're here to guide you through every step of the way.

These best ingredients for acne-prone skin will help you win the battle against breakouts by doing things like unclogging pores, killing bacteria, reducing inflammation and keeping skin hydrated.

The ingredients are: salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, niacinamide, azelaic acid, hyaluronic acid, tea tree oil, green tea extract, and aloe vera.

Let's explore what makes each of these ingredients so effective and how they can help get your acne under control.

Key Takeaways:

  • Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, niacinamide, azelaic acid, and hyaluronic acid are scientifically proven ingredients that help treat acne. They work by unclogging pores, killing bacteria, controlling oil, speeding cell turnover and hydrating skin.
  • Natural options like tea tree oil, green tea extract and aloe vera can also help fight acne with their antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. They are generally well-tolerated.
  • When choosing acne products, consider your skin type, ingredient concentrations, formulations, and potentially irritating ingredients. Avoid over-drying your skin.

9 Best Ingredients for Acne-Prone Skin

Salicylic Acid

If acne's got you feeling prickly, salicylic acid can help smooth things out. Salicylic acid helps by getting deep into your pores to clean out dead skin, extra oil, and other stuff that can lead to pimples. It also helps soothe red and swollen areas on your skin.

Studies show salicylic acid performs well against non-inflamed whiteheads and blackheads, along with inflammatory acne lesions like pustules and papules. It works on acne that's caused by clogged pores.

Salicylic acid is ideal for oily, acne-prone skin types. It can be found in cleansers like CeraVe Blemish Control Cleanser, toners, spot treatments and other leave-on products. Using it too often or in very high concentrations can lead to dryness, so start slowly and adjust as needed.

Benzoyl Peroxide

If bacteria is the source of your acne woes, benzoyl peroxide can kick those trouble-making germs to the curb. Benzoyl peroxide fights the bacteria on your skin that can cause acne.

In addition to its bacteria-busting abilities, benzoyl peroxide can prevent future breakouts by keeping pores clear. It's commonly found in acne treatment cleansers, creams and gels like Acnecide.

Acnecide Gel
Acnecide Gel
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Research shows benzoyl peroxide works well for mild to moderate inflammatory acne. It can cause dryness and irritation when used in high concentrations, so start with a low percentage and increase cautiously as tolerated. Using it with moisturiser can help.


If you want to hit reset on acne-prone skin, retinoids should be part of the plan. This form of vitamin A helps speed up cell turnover to prevent dead skin cells from clogging pores.

Retinoids, which are strong acne-fighting ingredients, include prescribed types like tretinoin or adapalene. Over-the-counter options contain retinol, which is gentler but still effective.

These ingredients encourage your skin to shed built-up layers more rapidly. This helps clear existing breakouts and keeps new ones from forming. Retinoids also improve texture and reduce acne scars over time.

Studies show retinol and prescription retinoids significantly improve both non-inflammatory and inflammatory acne. Starting slow and using retinoids at night can help avoid irritation.


For acne-prone skin that's oily and shiny, niacinamide can help restore a healthy balance. This vitamin regulates oil production to keep excess oil in check.

Studies show that creams or gels with niacinamide can help control oil production, reduce acne, and make your skin smoother. It also strengthens the skin barrier against environmental damage that can trigger breakouts.

Niacinamide is gentler than many common acne treatments, so it's a good option for sensitive skin. This versatile vitamin is worth adding to your acne-fighting lineup.

Azelaic Acid

Got painful cystic acne? Azelaic acid could be your new best friend. Azelaic acid fights acne by killing bacteria and helping to unclog pores.

Azelaic acid in creams like Skinoren reduces swelling and inflammation caused by acne bacteria. It also helps prevent keratin from abnormally building up and blocking follicles.

Azelaic acid is well-tolerated by most, but use a lower concentration if dryness or stinging occurs.

Hyaluronic Acid

Battling breakouts doesn't mean you have to lose your glow. That's where hyaluronic acid comes in. This hydrator provides essential moisture without clogging pores or causing new pimples.

Hyaluronic acid can hold a lot of moisture, up to 1000 times its weight, which helps keep your skin hydrated and protected against things that can cause acne. Properly hydrated skin heals faster with less scarring, too.

Look for hyaluronic acid serums like CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum to layer under your acne creams or medicated SPF. Its lightweight hydration plays nicely with other ingredients. Your skin will thank you!

Tea Tree Oil

If you want to go the natural route for acne relief, tea tree oil is a solid contender. This essential oil has been used for centuries to treat skin ailments.

Research shows that tea tree oil can help fight acne because it kills germs and reduces swelling. It helps kill acne bacteria and reduces red, swollen breakouts.

Use tea tree oil safely by diluting it first - try mixing 3-5 drops with a teaspoon of carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil. Apply it as a spot treatment to affected areas 1-2 times per day. Some people experience skin irritation, so test it on a small area first.

Green Tea Extract

Sipping green tea has health perks, but applying it topically boosts acne-fighting benefits. Green tea is chock-full of antioxidants that quell inflammation and free radical damage.

Studies indicate green tea extract helps regulate oil production and reduces acne bacteria counts. Both of these actions can prevent acne flares before they start. It may also help fade post-acne marks.

Look for acne products that contain green tea extracts, like cleansers, toners and spot treatments. It tends to be well-tolerated, but start slowly if you have very sensitive skin. Harness the power of green tea to zap zits naturally.

Aloe Vera

Got acne and dry, irritated skin? Aloe vera should be on your radar. This succulent plant is packed with a cooling, soothing gel that calms inflammation and provides hydration that won't clog pores.

Research indicates aloe vera gel can help heal acne lesions and scars more quickly. It may also reduce redness and skin discolouration associated with past breakouts.

Look for aloe-based cleansers, creams or serums to complement your acne regimen. The added moisture can counterbalance drying ingredients like benzoyl peroxide. Or simply apply pure aloe gel post-cleansing to soothe and calm.

Use caution with aloe if you have an open wound - it may delay healing. Otherwise, aloe is considered very low-risk and well-tolerated. Harness its soothing powers to take down acne while keeping skin calm and comfortable.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Products

Now that you're armed with intel on the best ingredients for acne-prone skin, here are some tips for picking the right products:

  1. Consider your skin type - oily, dry or sensitive. Choose ingredients that align with your specific needs. Salicylic acid for oily skin, hyaluronic acid for dry skin, etc.
  2. Read the entire ingredient list, not just active ingredients. Make sure other components, like fragrances, don't irritate your skin.
  3. Look for simple formulas without pore-clogging ingredients like cocoa butter, coconut oil or beeswax.
  4. When using more than one acne product, make sure they can be used together. Some ingredients, like benzoyl peroxide, might not work well with others.
  5. Avoid over-drying your skin, which can worsen acne. Use hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and limit the use of drying agents.
  6. Remember, it's perfectly okay to seek help. If over-the-counter options haven't cleared your acne after 2-3 months, seeing a dermatologist can be a game-changer. You deserve the best care and support.

Take the Next Steps With Independent Pharmacy

Now that you know the best ingredients for fighting acne, it's time to take action. Explore science-backed treatment options containing these all-star acne fighters with The Independent Pharmacy.

Our online consultation makes it easy. Just complete a quick self-assessment, and one of our experts will recommend products that are personalised to your unique situation.

You'll get tailored recommendations for prescription and over-the-counter acne creams, gels and cleansers packed with the ingredients we've discussed.

The Independent Pharmacy ships everything needed for your personalised acne regimen right to your door. Our licensed pharmacists and caring team can provide answers to any questions that pop up along your journey to clear your skin.

Don't wait - get in touch with us today, complete your skin assessment, and get custom product recommendations to zap zits for good! With the right ingredients and a little patience, you'll find your way back to feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin. We're with you every step of the way.


Is vitamin C serum good for acne?

Yes, vitamin C serum can be helpful for acne-prone skin! Vitamin C has antioxidant properties that help protect skin from acne triggers like pollution and sun damage. It also encourages collagen production, which can improve skin texture and fade acne scars over time. Look for a vitamin C serum that won't clog your pores and is formulated for acne-prone skin. Start by applying it once per day and increase frequency slowly as tolerated.

What ingredients should you avoid if you have acne-prone skin?

It's best to avoid thick, greasy ingredients that could clog pores, like coconut oil, cocoa butter, beeswax, and heavy creamy moisturisers. Limit oils high in oleic acid like olive, almond, and avocado oil. Avoid irritants like alcohol, menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus, and fragrances. Always check the ingredient list for ingredients that could clog pores.

How can you get rid of hormonal acne?

Treatments that balance hormone levels can help clear hormonal acne. Oral contraceptives and spironolactone are commonly prescribed. Diet changes may also help, like limiting dairy and high-glycemic foods. Lifestyle factors like stress management are important, too. Topically, look for acne products with ingredients like niacinamide and azelaic acid. Seeing a dermatologist can help determine the best treatment plan for your hormonal acne.


Șoimița Emiliana Măgerușan, Gabriel Hancu, and Aura Rusu (2023). A Comprehensive Bibliographic Review Concerning the Efficacy of Organic Acids for Chemical Peels Treating Acne Vulgaris -

NHS (2022). Common questions about benzoyl peroxide -

Tânia Nascimento, Diana Gomes, Ricardo Simões, and Maria da Graça Migue (2023). Tea Tree Oil: Properties and the Therapeutic Approach to Acne—A Review -

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