Rodan + Fields / Blog / Science of Skincare

Best Acne-Fighting Ingredients

Texture samples of acne-fighting skincare ingredients benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), acne is the most common skin condition in the US. Acne can often be a debilitating skin condition, having a big impact on confidence with teens and adults alike.   

A common myth is that acne goes away as we age. While some may experience their acne subsiding in age, that is not always the case. In recent years, adult acne has gained almost as much attention as teen acne. Before we talk about how to treat acne, it’s important to understand the underlying causes of acne. 

What is acne + what causes it? 

Acne occurs when the skin’s pores become blocked with excess oil, dead skin or bacteria. Each skin pore is essentially an opening or follicle, which includes hair and an oil gland. When the oil gland releases sebum, it travels up to your pore through the strand of hair. This necessary process helps keep your skin soft and lubricated. However, there are several underlying issues problems that can occur during this natural process, which can lead to acne:  

  • The hair follicles are producing too much oil 
  • Pores are clogged with dead skin cells 
  • Pores have C-acne bacteria build up 
  • Lack of oxygen in the skin 
  • General inflammation 

In addition to these issues, there are other risk factors that can lead to acne, such as:  

  • Hormonal changes during puberty or pregnancy 
  • Certain medications 
  • Diets high in refined sugars or carbohydrates 
  • Genetics and family history, especially with parents who experience/experienced acne 

Importance of Acne Treatment and Prevention vs. Spot Treatment  

Spot treatments can be helpful if you have an occasional zit. They work by delivering acne-fighting ingredients directly to the targeted blemish. Spot treatments can help reduce redness, swelling and pain.   

However, if you suffer from more frequent or regular breakouts, spot treatments aren’t as beneficial as acne treatments and prevention. It is more effective to take a full-face treatment approach. By doing so, you can address the skin concern head-on before the blemish even appears.   

By using a full-face acne treatment and prevention routine, instead of just spot treatments, you can take steps to prevent acne from forming. 

Since an acne cycle is typically 28 days, it takes around 6 to 8 weeks to see real results and clear skin. Rodan + Fields SPOTLESS Regimen uses breakthrough BPO2 Technology to clear existing acne and prevent new blemishes from forming in two simple steps.  Rodan + Fields SPOTLESS Regimen is a specifically formulated to treat teen acne and young adult acne.  

What are the Best Acne-Fighting Ingredients? 

Benzoyl Peroxide  

Benzoyl Peroxide is the gold standard of acne treatments. It works as an antiseptic to reduce the number of bacteria on the skin’s surface. Benzoyl Peroxide works so well, acne bacteria are unable to build a resistance to it. 

Both Rodan + Fields SPOTLESS Regimen and Rodan + Fields UNBLEMISH Regimen contain Benzoyl Peroxide as an active ingredient. Although Benzoyl Peroxide may often irritate skin with daily use, patent-pending BPO2 formula maximizes the benefits of Benzoyl Peroxide while minimizing the potential irritation. 

Benzoyl Peroxide is available in various strengths 2.5% vs 5%. In some instances, a product with less strength works better than those with more substantial concentrations. The less concentrated formulas also often minimize the potential side effects. When using Benzoyl Peroxide, it’s best to build up tolerance to this powerful ingredient over time. Benzoyl Peroxide comes in variety of forms and delivery systems, such as a cleansing bar, lotion, cream, gel or mask.  

Dryness is one of the most common concerns when using Benzoyl Peroxide. Add in a moisturizer to keep skin hydrated and help limit the potential of dryness caused by Benzoyl Peroxide. Select a moisturizer like RECHARGE Ultra Boost Moisturizing Treatment, a weightless, fast-absorbing gel cream helps restore skin’s moisture and defends against visible signs of stress.  

Salicylic Acid 

Salicylic acid is well-known for helping the skin remove dead cells from the surface layer, keeping pores clear. It also decreases redness and swelling (inflammation), which prevents pimples from forming. It can take approximately four to six weeks of use for you to see its full effect. 

 It’s a great first step product, as it prepares your skin for stronger acne treating ingredients, like Benzoyl Peroxide. 


Sulfur helps absorb the excess oil on your skin’s surface that creates acne. Sulfur also dries dead skin cells to help unclog your pores. The Sulfur you use as your topical cream ingredient works similarly to Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid. Unlike the other components, Sulfur is a gentler ingredient. 

Sulfur can be found in cleansers, face masks, creams, exfoliants, washes and foams, lotions, soaps and spot treatments. 

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) 

AHAs are water-soluble acids generally found in plant and animal-based acids. Although AHAs are mostly used to exfoliate, they can also prevent acne breakouts and even have anti-aging properties. 

AHAs may also reduce the size of larger pores over time. As acne-prone skin commonly has larger pores, minimizing the pores’ size is a great way to preventing acne. Clogged pores are one of the biggest reasons we get acne in the first place.  

Exfoliating with Glycolic and Lactic Acids (types of AHAs) can reduce visible discoloration caused by acne. Some specific acne products have additional AHAs, such as Citric and Malic acids, to help soothe inflamed skin. 

Like with any skin concern, it can take up to two to three months of consistent use of a skincare routine to see visible results. Acne is no different. Patience and compliance are key factors in targeting acne to achieve clear skin.  

Natural Products 

There are several natural ingredients or remedies that can help to prevent acne, such as Tea Tree Oil, Charcoal and Green Tea. Tea Tree Oil is one of the most popular due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Tea Tree Oil also helps to reduce visible redness and irritation and unclog pores. 

Be aware of its potency. It is recommended to apply the concentrated oil with other natural oils to avoid irritation. 

Prescription-Strength Products 

If you haven’t seen results after trying several over-the-counter acne products, it’s time to ask your doctor about prescription-strength medications. A dermatologist can help to find a solution to treat acne and achieve clear skin.  

When bacteria infect the follicles, it results in large, inflamed bumps called Acne Vulgaris (Cystic Acne). Using a retinoid-based prescription may be your answer if you suffer from Acne Vulgaris. Retinoids are a form of Vitamin A. With acne, Retinoids work to unblock the clogged follicles that cause cystic acne, helping clear skin. Retinoids are typically combined with antibiotics. As the Retinoid opens up clogged follicles, the antibiotics enter to eliminate bacteria that cause Acne Vulgaris. 

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