The best skincare products for getting rid of acne once and for all
Whether you’re battling full-on acne, or trying to clear your skin and reduce blemishes and imperfections, we’ve put together a list of the best skincare for acne in the UK
C hoosing the best skincare for acne is an absolute minefield. Get it wrong and you can make breakouts worse. Get it right, though, and you can finally clear blemishes, balance oil and rebuild confidence.
From cleansers to moisturisers, face masks, and more, each of the products in this list has been proven to be effective on acne-prone skin.
We’ve also explained more about the causes of acne, the ingredients to look out for – and which to avoid.
Feel free to browse the list and advice below, or click on the links in the box to the left if you want to jump straight to the most relevant section. If you feel like you’ve exhausted all skincare for acne products, we’ve also listed the medical options (and when to know if you should get medical help) at the bottom of this page. Click here to jump straight there.
Best skincare for acne UK
– Cleanser: CeraVE Foaming Cleanser – £10
– Toner: Pixi Glow Tonic – £18
– Face mask: Murad Clarifying Mask – £40
– Moisturiser: Face Theory Supergel – £13.99
– Exfoliator: Paula’s Choice Skin BHA Exfoliant – £31
Best cleanser for acne-prone skin: CeraVe
£10 | Buy now
Using this CeraVe cleanser for acne-prone skin is a great idea because it’s been developed to help kill acne-causing bacteria and is comedolytic, meaning it unclogs pores. It can also help to reduce redness because it has anti-inflammatory properties.
CeraVe products are developed by dermatologists and are fantastic for your skin because they are fragrance-free, paraben-free, and allergy-tested. This makes them nice and gentle for acne-prone skin. Best of all the CeraVe products are non-comedogenic, which means they won’t block your pores.
The reason you want to go for the foaming cleanser option is that it’s better at getting deep into your pores to remove the excess oil and sebum. It cleanses your skin and removes oil at the same time.
This foaming cleanser also contains three essential ceramides that will help restore your skin’s moisture and prevent germs from entering by maintaining your skin’s natural protective barrier. All amazing ingredients to have when treating acne-prone skin. And all for a tenner.
Buy now from Boots
Best toner skfor acne-prone skin: Pixi Glow
£18 | Buy now
Toner penetrates skin quickly, hydrates it, and removes dead skin cells as well as any leftover cleanser.
Using a toner for acne-prone skin will also help balance your skin’s pH levels, which is vital if you suffer from blemishes, irritation, and inflammation. This is because, with acne, your skin can end up producing too much oil in an attempt to rebalance itself. Especially after a face wash that’s disrupted things.
With this in mind, we recommend the Pixi Glow Tonic as the best toner for acne because it helps tighten your pores, as well as remove dead skin cells. This is helped by the addition of ginseng, which increases circulation and oxygen to give your skin a boost in collagen production.
It’s also gentle on your skin because it contains aloe vera to help hydrate your skin and minimise the appearance of any enlarged pores you have.
Buy now from Boots
Best face mask for acne-prone skin: Murad
£40 | Buy now
Introducing a face mask into your weekly skincare routine is a great idea for acne-prone skin. This is because it helps draw out any impurities, stops oil building up, and makes your skin tone more even.
This acne face mask from Murad has lots of ingredients to benefit your acne-prone skin, including salicylic acid and earth clays kaolin and bentonite.
This face mask not only absorbs dirt and impurities, but also unclogs your pores and controls oil production meaning you should have fewer breakouts over time. The licorice root extract additionally helps calm and relieve your skin, so there’s less inflammation, and the use of sulphur helps dry out excess oil. So much so, Murad claims that 95% of sebum is removed after just one use.
Be warned though – clarifying masks are so effective that your condition may get temporarily worse before it gets better. This is a good thing, we promise (!), and is known as skin purging. This mask is really easy to put on and you just leave it on your face for 10 minutes before rinsing off.
Buy now from Murad
Best moisturiser for acne-prone skin: Face Theory
£13.99 | Buy now
Many moisturisers on the market will be too heavy for acne-prone skin and full of stuff that clog your pores and make your breakouts worse. This moisturiser, from acne experts Face Theory, however, has been specifically designed for oily skin.
In particular, this moisturiser for acne-prone skin contains niacinamide to reduce pore size and salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells.
Salicylic acid helps regenerate your skin cells and resurface your skin to leave it softer and brighter. It has chamomile to soothe irritated skin; aloe vera; and green tea extracts in its ingredients. Although it only comes in a small tube you won’t need to use it much each time and it should last you a while. Relatively, it’s not too pricey either.
Buy now from Face Theory
Best exfoliator for acne-prone skin: Paula’s Choice
£31 | Buy now
This exfoliator has a gentle formula that helps reduce blackheads. It’s a non-abrasive formula with BHA salicylic acid meaning it will help remove your dead skin cells on the surface, as well as from deep within the pores. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe the skin and give you a better overall complexion.
We recommend introducing an exfoliator, let alone one for acne-prone skin, gradually to make sure your skin doesn’t react and to give any irritation time to calm.
That said, of all the many exfoliators for acne-prone skin, this is one of the most gentle. So much so that you can leave this on your skin after application rather than wash it off.
Buy now from Cult Beauty
Best skincare for acne: What ingredients to look for
The key ingredients you need to look out for when buying skincare for acne are as follows:
- Salicylic acid: Works as an exfoliant and breaks down the “glue” that holds your dead skin cells together
- Charcoal: Charcoal removes oil and pore-clogging sebum from your skin. If you find regular charcoal is too drying, try using white charcoal instead because it’s softer and gentler.
- Lactic acid: This is an acid that’s more suitable if you have sensitive skin. It helps break the dead skin cells away from your skin
- Zinc: If you have papules and cystic blemishes (and not blackheads and whiteheads) then you’re going to want to use a product with zinc. It works as both an anti-inflammatory and an anti-bacterial agent, which helps calm down your blemishes.
- Retinol: Retinol for acne helps stimulate cell turnover in the lower layers of your skin, which means your pores will become clogged less with dead skin and sebum.
- Tea Tree: Tea tree for acne helps soothe and reduce breakouts because it has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Tea tree also helps trigger white blood cells, which speed up healing.
- Probiotics: Probiotics help strengthen your skin barrier and prevent future breakouts. That’s because they calm and balance your skin inflammation.
- Squalane: Squalane for acne replenishes your skin’s moisture levels and strengthens its moisture barrier
Best skincare for acne: What ingredients to avoid
When buying skincare for acne, try to avoid skincare products that increase the amount of oil on your face or those that risk blocking your pores. That doesn’t mean you need to avoid oil completely – in fact, failing to properly hydrate your face can actually lead to more sebum as your skin tries to compensate.
Instead, you’re going to want to avoid moisturisers that contain ingredients like petrolatum or mineral oils because they’re heavy and may block your pores.
Coconut oil similarly shouldn’t be used because it can block your pores, thus trapping dirt, sebum, and dead skin cells inside. Lanolin is an ingredient you’ll regularly find in moisturisers and another one to avoid where possible because it has been known to clog your pores.
You may also want to avoid harsh exfoliators. Particularly avoid the ones with beads or alcohol, and never use rough cleansing pads and cloths.
When to get medical help for acne
There will be times when it’s recommended you seek medical help for acne. Often this is the case when you’ve tried skincare for acne and it’s not helped, or when you’re acne is caused by hormones making it hard to control with a standard skincare routine. The choices depend on what type of acne you have.
Mild acne: While any spots or blemishes can feel severe and knock your confidence, there are different levels of acne. According to Chris Newbury (BPharm IP) of The Independent Pharmacy, “Mild acne typically consists of small concentrations of blackheads and whiteheads on the skin of the face.”
In the case of mild acne, the spots aren’t usually accompanied by inflammation or skin redness, and breakouts will not necessarily occur on a daily basis. For mild acne, over-the-counter options include:
- Acnecide Face Wash: a medicated wash-off treatment that kills up to 95% of the bacteria responsible for acne-related breakouts.
- Acnecide Gel: a leave-on treatment for facial acne that contains an antiseptic ingredient called benzoyl peroxide.
- CeraVe Blemish Control Cleanser: a facial cleanser for blemish-prone skin that helps to reduce the appearance of whiteheads and blackheads.
Moderate to severe acne: Moderate to severe acne means your skin is frequently inflamed, red, sore, or irritated. You may also have cysts, papules, and nodules and breakouts appear much more regularly.
In this case, Newbury advises that you make an appointment with your GP or pharmacist because it usually requires stronger, prescription-only treatments.
Moderate to severe acne is typically treated using either topical medications (which include antibiotic creams) or oral antibiotics. Some popular options include:
- Skinoren Cream: a topical treatment that reduces the growth of the cells that block the pores and sebaceous glands.
- Duac Gel: a topical antibiotic that works by killing the bacteria responsible for the spread of acne.
- Tetralysal Capsules: an oral antibiotic taken to treat skin infections and inflammations caused by bacteria.
- Oxytetracycline Tablets: an oral antibiotic prescribed for the treatment of acne, rosacea, and other bacterial skin infections.
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