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The best skincare products for acne in 2024

Treat spots and feel good in your skin with these must-have products for every step of your routine

Piecing together the best skincare routine can be puzzling, and when you have acne it can be even more overwhelming trying to figure out which products are helping, hurting, or simply doing nothing for your complexion. For many people, a multipronged approach is best – instead of picking one or two products dedicated to acne-prone skin, creating a whole routine that’s built for targeting spots, clearing away excess oil, and nourishing skin that’s been through the wringer is often a better approach and more likely to bring relief.

This guide will provide you with a whole regimen that prioritises acne-prone skin and its needs. Acne is a finicky beast and doesn’t confine itself to one skin type so whether your skin is oily, dry, or mature, you need products that target spots without sucking moisture or depositing too much oil. From a gentle but effective cream cleanser to a zit-zapping clay mask, here are the essential skincare products for acne-prone skin.

For more permanent acne solutions and medical treatments, consulting a specialist, like a dermatologist or your GP, is always the best course of action. This guide can help you keep pimples under control on a daily basis, but should be used in conjunction with advice from your medical practitioner.

How to choose the best skincare for acne

Though skincare products might not be a cure for acne, creating a routine that’s right for your skin type and needs may help you and your skin feel better in a multitude of ways. Learn more about the most common products available below, and discover what features make the most significant impact.

What types of skincare for acne are available?

While acne products are typically lumped into one group, within the world of acne skincare there are several types of options – moisturisers, serums, masks, cleansers, and toners all specifically formulated for acne-prone skin. There are also exfoliants and spot treatments available for handling pimples.

Depending on the brand, you may find products targeted towards specific skin types – normal, dry, oily, combination (both oily and dry) and sensitive – taking all this into consideration you can build a skincare routine that not only targets acne, but any other skin stresses you may experience.

What features should I look for in good skincare for acne products?

Choosing skincare products for acne is a personal choice, but these features will help guide you in finding the ones that are the right fit for you:

  • Ingredients: Skincare products that aren’t explicitly for acne may still be great for your skin, but there are ingredients out there that are specifically made for treating acne and might produce better results. Ingredients such as niacinamide, acids (like salicylic acid), benzoyl peroxide, and retinol are all popular options for skin with acne.
  • Skin type: Acne can appear on oily, dry, mature, combination and normal skin. It’s caused by a variety of different factors and isn’t beholden to one skin type so, when searching for acne products, make sure they’re a good match for your skin type to avoid causing additional concerns.
  • Concerns treated: Acne skincare products might sound similar, but there are several different types of acne out there. If you have blackheads or whiteheads, you’ll want to find serums, moisturisers or masks that target these. While pustules, cysts and other types of spots may need a different combination of products or formulas.

Find formulas and skincare products that feature these ingredients and work on several skin types up ahead.

How we test skincare products for acne

At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing delivers the most complete information about a product. As such, we test all the formulations designed for fighting acne on review for an adequate amount of time, to discover which ingredients are most helpful. Where skincare products for acne are recommended for a particular skin type or use, we test on those skin types and under the specified conditions to ensure we make an accurate recommendation.

Starting our tests by following the product instructions, we evaluate a product for its overall ease of use, the feel of it on the skin immediately after application, and the results over regular, prolonged use. We also note how well different types of products help with different types of acne. Finally, we confirm the amount of the product.

READ NEXT: The best creams to clear up spots and prevent breakouts

The best skincare products for acne to buy in 2024

1. REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic: The best toner

Price when reviewed: £23 |Check price at LookFantastic

Aside from annoying spots, acne can leave skin feeling dull and looking uneven. This is where a good acid comes in handy. Deliver alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) to your complexion through this toner that will take out spots and help restore your dewy glow. AHA is typically relied upon for smoothing out tone and texture as well as targeting wrinkles. Skin that feels congested or full of clogged pores will find that this can help pull out impurities while smoothing rough and bumpy texture.

Though it’s a bit spenny compared to other toners, one bottle lasts for quite a while. It’s fit for applying morning and night, but can work just as well dabbed on once a day with a cotton pad or clean flannel. AHA is the star of this formula’s show, but it’s not the only acne-fighting ingredient – lactic acid, willow bark extract, and azelaic acid are also part of the toner and provide a little extra exfoliating action.

Key details – Key ingredients: AHA, lactic acid; Format: Liquid; Use: Daily – morning and night if needed

2. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo (+) Moisturiser for Sensitive Blemish-Prone Skin: The best moisturiser

Price when reviewed: £20 | Check price at LookFantastic

Oily and sensitive skin types often have to walk a fine line when finding a moisturiser, and when you bring acne into the picture it’s even harder. There are moisturisers out there that are over-engineered and could be too specialised for acne-prone skin – they don’t provide exactly what’s needed or they feature ingredients that could exacerbate spots. However, La Roche-Posay’s formula won’t cause trouble for oily, sensitive, or acne-prone skin types.

The gel texture is fragrance-free and lightweight enough to boost hydration without making skin feel oily or heavy. (Pilling on your face? No, thank you!) An everyday moisturiser like this is excellent for acne-prone skin as it has ingredients known to be beneficial for treating and healing spots, such as niacinamide and salicylic acid. And clogged pores won’t stand a chance against this moisturiser either, as it’ll keep the skin feeling fresh and supple without causing more blockages.

Key details – Key ingredients: Salicylic acid, niacinamide and glycerin; Format: Gel; Use: Morning and night

3. Paula’s Choice SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant: The best exfoliant

Price when reviewed: £35 | Check price at Space NK

More potent than a toner, exfoliants provide the deep cleansing and detoxifying action acne-prone skin often needs. Though it feels gentle, these skincare products are powerful when it comes to sucking out impurities and ridding the skin of dead cells, grime, and oil. You need to be careful though as physical exfoliators can cause more harm than good. One exfoliant that’s particularly useful for acne, and won’t cause tears or irritation by beads or scrub particles, hails from Paula’s Choice.

In the arena of acids that create a clean slate for your skin, beta hydroxy acid (BHA) is another top contender and this exfoliant has it. BHA unclogs and brightens without causing dryness. Salicylic acid is part of this lineup too and assists in clearing the skin. As well as treating spots, it’s great for faces prone to clogged or enlarged pores and complexions with wrinkles. This is a leave-on format, so it doesn’t need to be rinsed afterwards.

Key details – Key ingredients: BHA and salicylic acid; Format: Liquid; Use: Every other day, one to two times

4. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%: The best serum

Price when reviewed: £5 | Check price at LookFantastic

We all know that vitamins are good for us (though whether we get enough is a different story), but outside of supplement tablets and a healthy diet, there are topical versions worth trying too. Vitamin C, retinol (aka vitamin A) and other antioxidants have all gained popularity in skincare and now niacinamide – otherwise known as vitamin B3 – is having its moment in the spotlight. The Ordinary’s fan-favourite niacinamide serum is proof.

Shoppers with acne-prone skin will appreciate niacinamide’s ability to treat breakouts, smooth skin, and create an appearance that looks and feels more even. This serum also contains zinc which is another helpful mineral for banishing bacteria and calming the appearance of blemishes. If you do use vitamin C skincare products, it’s best to alternate them with this serum to prevent any issues, and working in a thicker moisturiser after applying the serum can also help counteract any dryness.

Key details – Key ingredients: Niacinamide and zinc; Format: Liquid; Use: Morning and night

5. Acnecide Gel: The best spot treatment

Price when reviewed: From £7.99 | Check price at AmazonSpot treatments have the power to target acneic areas and reduce their appearance – hopefully encouraging them to heal faster too. This tried-and-tested gel works wonders for tackling large spots thanks to the generous addition of hydrous benzoyl peroxide – one of most well-known ingredients in acne products, it can wipe out up to 95 percent of the acne-causing bacteria, which should slow down zits trying to make an appearance and quickly treat ones that have erupted.

A formula as strong as this one may require a pharmacist or doctor’s approval just to make sure it’s suitable for your complexion. After washing your face, gently dot the product on visible spots (twice a day if needed). It should be used together with a good moisturiser as these types of products tend to dry out skin more than others. As it’s meant for specific areas and not the whole face, the tube won’t run out quickly either.

Key details – Key ingredients: Hydrous benzoyl peroxide; Format: Gel; Use: As needed on spots

6. CeraVe Blemish Control Cleanser: The best cleanser for acne

Price when reviewed: £13 (236ml) | Check price at LookFantastic
Cleansing your skin is the first step in any skincare routine and creates the ideal foundation for the rest of your products to work effectively. Without any doubt, this highly-rated cleanser from the experts at CeraVe should be a staple on the bathroom shelf of any shopper with pimples.

It contains a potent mix of salicylic acid and niacinamide – the celebrity duo of the acne-care world – alongside hyaluronic acid and ceramides to ensure the delicate skin barrier isn’t compromised and moisture is retained. That means it effectively removes dirt, grime, and sebum deep within the pores without over-drying, so there’s no tight feeling. Since this is a foaming cleanser, we recommend using this for a second, deeper cleanse rather than using it to remove makeup.

You won’t find fragrance in this either – fragrance can often lead to further breakouts and irritation, so this is also a suitable choice for those with sensitive skin.

Key details – Key ingredients: Salicylic acid, niacinamide, ceramides; Format: Gel-to-foam; Use: Morning and night

7. Zitsticka Megashade Sunscreen Serum: The best SPF for acne

Price when reviewed: £28 (50ml) | Check price at LookFantastic
SPFs are so sophisticated nowadays that you don’t even know you’re wearing them, especially non-comedogenic formulas combined with ingredients that work to hydrate the skin and boost texture, without compromising efficacy. One such product is Zitsticka’s Megashade Serum, which is by far one of the best SPFs for acne we’ve come across.

This ultra-light fluid is a mineral-chemical hybrid sunscreen, which means it uses zinc oxide to create a physical barrier between UV rays and skin and chemical filters to absorb the rays and turn them into heat. This also means there’s no white cast – something that can be common with physical (or mineral) SPFs. To beat spots, it contains niacinamide and tea tree which soothes and fights bacteria, and ceramides, oatmeal, and our old friend hyaluronic acid to keep skin soft and supple.

We love the glow Megashade offers; it’s dewy, weightless and feels great on the skin and under makeup.

Key details – Key ingredients: Niacinamide, ceramides, tea tree, hyaluronic acid; Format: Light fluid; Use: Morning, after cleansing and moisturising

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