Are Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments Right for…

Updated April 28, 2014.

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See’s Medical Review Board.

Question: Are Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments Right for Me?


There are probably more over-the-counter acne treatments available now than at any other time in history. Here’s some more good news for you — many OTC acne products are very effective.

But over-the-counter acne products don’t work for everyone. Before you spend a ton of time and money on OTC acne treatments, make sure they are the right choice for you.

Clues that over-the-counter acne products might be helpful:

  • Your acne is generally mild.
  • You tend to have blackheads and/or occasional pimples.
  • Your breakouts aren’t typically deep, large, or inflamed.
  • Acne is not leaving scars.
  • You feel fairly confident choosing an OTC product on your own.

If this describes you and your skin, an over-the-counter product may be just what you need to get breakouts under control. (If not, you’ll get better results with a prescription medication.)

Choose an over-the-counter acne treatment product that contains a proven active ingredient like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Use it consistently (this means every day) as directed on the product label.

Now, the hard part — wanting to see results. This can take several weeks, so stick with it and try to be patient.

Not noticing any improvement after several weeks? Don’t switch to another OTC product. You’ll save yourself some aggravation and get better results by seeing a doctor at this point.

Over-the-counter acne treatments can be very effective. But honestly, they don’t work for everybody. In many cases, a prescription medication is needed.

Still, over-the-counter acne products can work very well. The key is making sure that they are right for your skin.

Read more: How To Choose an OTC Acne Treatment Product