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Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments for Oily Skin

author image Lisa Finn
Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Finn has been writing professionally for 20 years. Her print and online articles appear in magazines and websites such as "Spa Magazine," "L.A. Parent," "Business," the Famous Footwear blog and many others. She also ghostwrites for mompreneurs and business owners who appear regularly on shows such as Ricki Lake, HGTV, Carson Daly and The Today Show.
Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments for Oily Skin
Cosmetic moisturizer next to a lily flower. Photo Credit S847/iStock/Getty Images

When your oil glands go into overdrive, take the acne-cleansing high road. Adopt a strict acne treatment routine featuring the proper facial cleanser, toner, scrub and mask to wipe out blackheads, whiteheads and pesky red bumps. The combination of these four over-the-counter, acne-fighting products can sop up oil, unclog pores from dirt, bacteria and dead skin cells, and help reduce inflammation and scaring. Follow up these treatments with an appropriate dose of benzoyl peroxide or sulfur.

Choose Cleanser With Care

The first step in treating your acne is to choose a cleanser especially formulated for oily skin. A good choice features a 2 to 10 percent formulation of benzoyl peroxide, a powerful, over-the-counter agent. Benzoyl peroxide works to kill bacteria -- instead of simply slow down the growth -- that causes acne. Another acne-fighting ingredient that helps control oil is salicylic acid. At 2 percent, salicylic acid helps break down oil in the pores, exfoliates dead skin cells and decreases the inflammation caused by acne.

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Take to the Proper Toner

While the debate if toner is necessary is unresolved, dermatologists are seeing the benefits in acne patients with oily skin. A toner with acne-fighting agents such as retinoids, antioxidants and exfoliants can help people with oily skin or markedly plugged pores, explains New-York based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jennifer MacGregor. Pour some toner on a cotton pad and swipe around your face -- making sure to hit your forehead, nose and chin generously. Choose an alcohol-free toner, or it may be too drying for even your oily skin.

Start Using a Scrub

A twice-a-week acne-fighting scrub helps dislodge clogged pores and keeps the skin free of dirt, oil and bacteria that causes acne breakouts. Find a scrub that isn't harsh, as some scrubs can break open pimples and spread bacteria around your face. According to Los Angeles-based board-certified dermatologist Jessica Wu, choose one with common exfoliants such as sugar and salt and stay away from ingredients with rugged edges like apricot pits. Choose a scrub featuring salicylic acid, which speeds up the shedding of skin cells to unclog pores, and alpha hydroxy acids, which help diminish acne scars.

Mind a Good Mask

Apply a mask once or twice a week after you use a toner. The best masks feature sulfur, which can dry out pimples quickly, and glycolic acid, which can break down the substances that bond dead skin cells in the pores. While you can buy an over-the-counter acne and oily skin facial mask, you can also make one at home. The use of botanicals and food items ensure that you are not adding any more harsh chemicals to your skin than needed. The simplest mask of all is a whisked egg white. Apply the wet mask to your face, let it set for 10 minutes and rinse with warm water. The whites act as an astringent to dry out acne and sop up oil.

Dab on Topical Treatment

After you wash off your facial mask, wait 5 to 15 minutes before applying any acne medication. Dab a product with 2 to 10 percent benzoyl peroxide directly onto your pimples or spread a thin layer over your entire face. You can also spot-treat acne with sulfur, which is known to suppress acne-causing bacteria. Continue using at least one acne medication after your skin clears; acne-fighting ingredients also prevent breakouts. Give your over-the-counter acne treatments at least six to eight weeks to work. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it could be up to six months before your skin is completely clear.

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