Benzoyl peroxide is an over-the-counter acne treatment that can be used to kill the bacteria occurring in the skin's pores. However, benzoyl peroxide can cause irritation and dryness, which may lead others to seek acne treatment alternatives. A variety of treatments are available to reduce the appearance of acne and promote smoother skin, including salicylic acid, tea tree oil and Vitamin A creams.
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Salicylic acid is an over-the-counter treatment used to treat and prevent acne. While benzoyl peroxide acts as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent, salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent, meaning it sloughs away dead skin cells and oils to remove the "plugs" that cause acne. Because it takes time to rid the pores of these plugs, salicylic acid may take several weeks before a significant improvement is noticed. Salicylic acid is available in a variety of forms, including gel, cream, wash or medicated pad. Salicylic acid is associated with some mild side effects, including redness and irritation. However, these should subside with continued use.
Tea Tree Oil
A natural antiseptic, tea tree oil shares similar properties to benzoyl peroxide. Applying a 5 percent tea tree oil solution to the face has been shown to be as effective as applying a 5 percent benzoyl peroxide solution. However, tea tree oil may not be as fact-acting as benzoyl peroxide. Also, there are a few persons who should not utilize tea tree oil in the treatment of their acne. This includes young boys--tea tree oil has been linked with breast development--and those with rosacea--tea tree oil may exacerbate this skin condition. Lastly, in some persons tea tree oil can result in contact dermatitis, which is an itchy, irritated rash on the face. Discontinue use if you experience this type of rash following application.
Vitamin A Creams
Prior to the ability to harness vitamin A's acne-fighting powers into a cream, dermatologists prescribed vitamin A to patients in the treatment of acne. Today, a number of vitamin A creams, such as Retin A, Differin and Renova, are available to treat acne and serve as an alternative to benzoyl peroxide. When applied to the face, vitamin A creams have a keratolytic effect, meaning they remove the dirt and oil that can clog a pore. For the most part, vitamin A creams are available for prescription only. However, some forms can be purchased over-the-counter and are labeled as containing retinol, a less concentrated form of vitamin A.
The side effects associated with vitamin A creams depend upon the strength and mode of application. However, it is normal to experience some redness, burning and irritation upon initially applying the product to the face. In time, this should subside and clearer skin should be revealed.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Topical Acne Products Can Cause Dangerous Side Effects
- The Journal of Investigative Dermatology: Propionibacterium Acnes Induces an Interleukin-17 Response in Acne Vulgaris that is Regulated by Vitamin A and Vitamin D
- The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology: Over-the-counter Acne Treatments
- MedlinePlus: Salicylic Acid