Acne Treatments: What Works and What Doesn’t

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I’ve had acne since I hit puberty. It’s miserable. It’s embarrassing and I often don’t want to talk to people because I can feel them looking at my pimples instead of listening to what I’m saying.

Go see a dermatologist, you say? I have. Several times. I haven’t had much luck in that department, but every so often I get desperate and go back, thinking they can help me. So far, no luck. Instead, I’ve started trying every over-the-counter acne treatment you can think of and I want to share with you what’s worked so far.

Keep in mind that what works for me may not work for you. Everyone is different, so there’s a lot of trial and error involved. But I wanted to share with you the products I’ve tried so you can see what worked and what didn’t.

I want to mention that I purchased all products myself. No company sent me samples or offered me incentives to try their product. This is 100% trial and error based on my own research.


Acne Treatments That Work. Acne and skin care solutions. What works and what doesn't.


Lifestyle Changes

I’ve read a lot about acne, and some people think that acne is a symptom of an unhealthy body. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I was willing to try some suggested lifestyle changes to see if I could improve my acne. Here’s what I found.

More Sleep

Did it work? Yes.

Getting more sleep did wonders for my acne. I can’t even begin to describe the difference in my skin just by making sure I get to bed on time. My skin is MILES ahead of where it was when I didn’t get enough sleep.

Change in Diet

Did it work? Not really.

I know some doctors insist that diet affects acne, while other insist that it doesn’t. I haven’t found much difference, with a few exceptions. Peanuts seem to aggravate my inflamed acne, so I try not to eat much peanut butter. I’ve also heard that dairy, gluten, and greasy foods can cause acne, but I didn’t notice a difference when I changed my diet.

Drink More Water

Did it work? I don’t know.

The thought process here is that more water will flush your body of toxins and reduce bacteria. I rarely drink anything but water anyway, so I wasn’t the ideal test subject for this.

Get More Exercise

Did it work? No.

In fact, it made my acne worse. I broke out everywhere I could break out. My initial reaction was to stop working out completely, but that’s not healthy. I’ve had to find a sensitive balance between working out and avoiding breakouts.



I’ve tried a few prescriptions, but I haven’t ventured too far down this road. I may explore more options here in the future.


Did it work? No.

I saw absolutely no difference in my acne when I used antibiotics. Besides that, I didn’t want to live on antibiotics, so that wasn’t a good option for me.


Did it work? Sort of.

I used a topical ointment, although you can get it in pill form, depending on the severity of your acne. The ointment seemed to improve my acne, but it’s such a harsh treatment that my skin felt like it was on fire. I only used a tiny dab of ointment AND diluted it with moisturizer. In the end, the minimal improvement I saw was not worth the discomfort.


Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments

This is where most of my experimenting has taken place and probably what you’re most interested in. These are products I’ve discovered by watching YouTube videos, reading blogs, and scouring books and websites.



Tanda Clear+ Professional Acne Clearing Solution

Did it work? Yes.

Like a dream. It’s a wand that you hold to your face and it shoots blue light into your skin. The light kills the bacteria that cause acne. This is great for all kinds of acne but works especially well with cystic and inflamed acne.

Downsides: It takes a lot of time. I spent an average of 20 minutes every night with this bad boy pressed to my face. It also triggered an outbreak of perioral dermatitis, which was another fun skin adventure I got to go on. So if you have perioral dermatitis, don’t use this around your mouth and chin. Otherwise, zap away!


Vanicream Moisturizer

Did it work? Um, maybe?

It didn’t make a difference in my acne, for better or worse. Most moisturizers cause me to break out like crazy, but Vanicream doesn’t. However, it doesn’t improve anything, either.



HQ Skin Lightening Gel

Did it work? Yes.

Besides lightening my dark spots, HQ Skin Lightening Gel also made a marked improvement in my acne. It mostly helps with the inflamed acne, but doesn’t do much for blackheads or cystic acne. I’ve tried three different brands and have seen good results with all of them. I’ve tried NeoStrata Targeted Treatment, PCA Skin Pigment Gel, and another product that’s no longer on the market.


Salicylic Acid

Did it work? No.

I’ve tried using various products with salicylic acid since I first started getting acne. The only thing it’s ever done is make my acne worse. It causes me to breakout in places I don’t usually have issues and makes my problem areas worse. The only exception to this is when I’ve used it in conjunction with benzoyl peroxide.


Benzoyl Peroxide

Did it work? Yes.

Like a charm. This is by far the most effective product I’ve used (besides the Tanda Clear+). I thought all my acne problems were over once I discovered benzoyl peroxide—until I developed an allergy to it. Oh yes. You know the “in rare cases” section on the box? That was me. Puffy red face, itchy eyes, and the whole nine yards.

However, benzoyl peroxide works wonders for many people. If you’ve never tried it, I would suggest going with a system like Paula’s Choice or Proactiv. Just make sure you start off with a low dosage of benzoyl peroxide since it can be irritating to your skin (and no more effective) in high dosages.


Herbal Authority Tea Tree Oil Blemish Stick

Did it work? Somewhat.

It does work, but it’s not a miracle cure. It’s mostly alcohol, so I found it most effective on small breakouts and problem spots. I would roll this on twice a day and it helped stubborn patches clear up in a couple days. This is just for spot treatment. Don’t go rolling it all over your face or you’ll have bigger problems.


Acne Zap Shampoo

Did it work? No.

And it smells like a corpse. This did absolutely nothing for my acne and it made my hair smell horrible. It’s also greasy, so my hair had that unwashed look to it for a few weeks while I tried it out.


bye-bye-blemishBye Bye Blemish for Acne Drying Lotion

Did it work? Sort of.

The box makes all sorts of claims of being a miracle cure. I found it mildly helpful. It definitely wasn’t the overnight transformation they promised.



Sulphur Ointment

Did it work? Sort of.

I found that I couldn’t use it too often or it would make my acne worse. Every other day or even twice a week was the most effective. I’ve stopped using it now since it didn’t seem to improve things enough to make it worth the trouble.



Zinc for Acne

Did it work? No.

I saw no difference in my acne and the pills gave me a stomach ache.




Nexcare Acne Absorbing Cover

Did it work? Yes.

But not quite as well as I’d hoped. It works like a sponge to soak up pus and oil from your pimple. I put them on before bed and take them off in the morning. They don’t eliminate your pimple, but they do shrink the size considerably. It sometimes takes two or three covers before a pimple will die. They’re great to use on those pimples that sit and fester and won’t go away. Slap one of these on it and it starts to heal in a day or two.

Downsides: It only works on existing acne and doesn’t do anything to prevent it. It’s not helpful for cystic acne or blackheads.



TriDerma Facial Redness Repair

Did it work? Yes.

It also did wonders for my perioral dermatitis (totally cleared it up!), but it’s not a cure-all solution. It needs to be used with other products to really make a difference on acne. I also tried Prosacea, which was helpful for quite a while before my skin grew accustomed to it and I started to break out again.



Spectro Jel Cleanser

Did it work? No.

I bought this on a recommendation for perioral dermatitis. It seemed to help with the dermatitis, but it was horrible for my acne. I had simply replaced one chronic skin inflammation with another. If you suffer from perioral dermatitis and don’t have acne, give it a shot. I know it works for a lot of people.



So there you have it. These are the products and methods I’ve used on my acne. As you can see, I’ve had varying degrees of success. Most products that work eventually lose their effectiveness, so I’m always trying out new things. I hope you found this helpful and found something that will be useful to you.

Like I mentioned before, everyone’s different, so what worked for me may not work for you. However, I hope I gave you a jumping off point. Good luck!


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