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Skincare products for acne-prone skin are largely differentiated based on the ingredients they’re formulated with. For example, benzoyl peroxide is one proven acne-fighting ingredient that has been used safely and effectively for decades. It works by minimizing the bacteria that play a role in acne breakouts, which allows it to clear existing acne and help prevent new breakouts. Although you can find benzoyl peroxide in a wide range of concentrations and different product formulations, it’s not the only acne treatment available. In this guide, we’re taking a deep dive into acne-clearing ingredients and products with the help of Dr. Ted Lain.

How To Choose Ingredients for Acne-Prone Skin

  • Consult with a board-certified dermatologist for personalized advice on how to treat acne, as well as how to choose the right acne treatments for your skin.
  • Benzoyl peroxide is an ingredient that can treat acne and help prevent new acne breakouts from forming. Dr. Lain recommends a 4% concentration of benzoyl peroxide for most people to help treat acne and allow skin to heal.
  • Salicylic acid promotes the natural shedding of dead skin cells. Products formulated with salicylic acid can help treat acne and penetrate pores to help prevent new breakouts.
  • Other beneficial ingredients to consider including in your skincare routine for acne-prone skin include retinol, glycolic acid, ceramides, and niacinamide. While these ingredients do not treat acne, they can still be beneficial for those with oily or acne-prone skin.

Which Ingredients Are Best for Treating Acne?

Managing acne breakouts is not a one-size-fits-all approach. This common skin concern affects up to 50 million Americans each year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).1 It can occur in both teens and adults and is primarily caused by bacteria, excess oil (sebum), inflammation, and/or clogged pores. “The best ingredient for your skin really depends on your age, gender, skin type, and environment,” says Dr. Lain. “So the first thing I’d like to tell you is to work with your dermatologist to determine the right ingredient for you.”


With that being said, one of Dr. Lain’s most-frequently recommended ingredients for acne-prone skin is benzoyl peroxide. Keep reading to learn more about why this is, along with other ingredients you might want to consider in your clear skin routine.

What Is Benzoyl Peroxide and How Does it Fight Acne?

”Benzoyl peroxide is a tried-and-true acne-fighting ingredient,” says Dr Lain. “It helps kill acne-causing bacteria, as well as exfoliate, which helps remove the debris from the skin’s surface to prevent the formation of blackheads and whiteheads.” Research has found that benzoyl peroxide decreases a type of acne-causing bacteria known as propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes).2

Benzoyl peroxide has been used as a skincare ingredient for over 50 years and continues to be one of the most popular ingredients used in acne treatments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified benzoyl peroxide to be both safe and effective for the treatment of acne.3

How do I know what percentage of benzoyl peroxide is right for me?

Different types of acne products advertise various percentages of benzoyl peroxide. “I find that most of my patients do well with the 4% concentration that’s included in CeraVe’s Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser,” advises Dr. Lain. CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser is formulated to help dissolve dirt and excess oil, while clearing acne breakouts and helping to prevent new acne blemishes from forming.

What Is Salicylic Acid and How Does it Fight Acne?

Salicylic acid (SA) is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps promote the skin’s natural exfoliation process. This shedding of dead skin cells can help to prevent pores from becoming clogged with acne-causing materials and help to prevent new breakouts as a result. Salicylic acid can also promote a smoother skin texture with pores that appear smaller.

It’s best to look for salicylic acid skincare products that are formulated to be gentle enough for daily use—such as CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser. This 2% salicylic acid treatment is formulated to clear acne, reduce blackheads, and improve the appearance of pores—while purifying clay helps absorb excess oil.

Other Ingredients To Consider in Your Routine for Healthy-Looking Skin

If you’re concerned about skin breakouts from acne, it’s important to remember that a consistent skincare routine is essential. The right products can help promote a clear complexion, without dryness or flaking, and help maintain your skin’s protective barrier. Here are a few beneficial ingredients to consider when looking to build a skincare routine for radiant, healthy-looking skin.


Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A that can help encourage the shedding of dead skin cells. This helps to visibly refine your skin’s surface and improve the appearance of uneven texture and tone. For acne-prone skin, retinol is an effective ingredient for helping to minimize the look of post-acne marks and discoloration left behind after the skin has healed.

Dr. Lain often recommends CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum to his patients. “It contains microencapsulated retinol, which is a tried-and-true ingredient to help reduce the appearance of discoloration,” he says. “Retinol can be irritating to the skin, so we have to find ways to make it easier, and that’s what the encapsulated retinol does.” He also adds that using gentle retinol products may help support consistent use, since ”you’ll use it more frequently and frequent use leads to better outcomes and better success.”

Alpha-hydroxy acids

Lactic acid and glycolic acid are two of the most well-known alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) used in skincare. Similar to beta-hydroxy acids, they offer exfoliation benefits that can be used to help soften and smooth your skin by removing dead skin cells. Using AHAs in your skincare routine can help promote brighter-looking skin, visibly reduced pore size, and smoother skin texture.

For a hydrating daily acne treatment with 2% salicylic acid and AHAs (glycolic and lactic acid), we recommend CeraVe Acne Control Gel. When used consistently, this mild yet effective acne face wash helps clear acne, while also minimizing the look of pores, improving skin texture, and helping to prevent new breakouts from forming.


Individuals with acne have been shown to have a deficiency in ceramides—the lipids that make up a large portion of your protective skin barrier. According to research, applying a face moisturizer with ceramides can help support a strong skin barrier and a healthy-looking complexion.4 You can find ceramides in all CeraVe products, like our AM Facial Moisturizer With Sunscreen—a fragrance-free, non-comedogenic face moisturizer formulated with broad-spectrum sunscreen and three essential ceramides. To learn more about ceramides, visit The Ceramides Difference.



Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 needed by your body to help maintain healthy-looking skin. It has antioxidant properties and may help calm your skin and reduce the look of red blotchiness. “Niacinamide is an ingredient used for decades in acne products to help soothe the skin,” says Dr. Lain. You can find niacinamide in CeraVe products like our Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser and Resurfacing Retinol Serum.

Remember: Acne treatments can take time to work and may require a bit of patience. Always consult with a board-certified dermatologist if acne breakouts are severe, painful, or don’t clear up on their own with dermatologist-recommended acne treatments.

To learn more about what causes acne and how to treat acne at home, check out our guide to understanding and treating different types of acne.

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