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The 8 Most Effective Types of Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments

Plus our product picks for each category.

News flash: Acne happens. No matter how diligent we are with our skin-care routines, or how mindful we are with what we eat and drink, there will come a day when a juicy zit pops up somewhere on your body. If that never happens to you, call us so we can study you for the sake of science. But the average person will eventually experience a pimple or two—in fact, there are 40 to 50 million Americans struggling with acne at any given time. So until science produces a cure for the most commonly diagnosed skin condition worldwide, we will settle for the most effective treatments we can get our hands on.

Unfortunately, many people have neither the means nor the time to visit a dermatologist once a bout of acne decides to make its presence known, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t worthwhile products available at your local pharmacy. We’ve identified eight of the most popular (and powerful) acne-fighting products you can buy without a prescription, as well as our current must-haves for each. Just remember to only use one or two at a time so you don’t overwhelm your skin. Read all about them below.

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The Clearing Pad: COSRX One Step Original Clear Pad, $20

A pre-soaked pad is one of the fastest, most potent ways to exfoliate the skin and help manage new breakouts. These contain betaine salicylate (an ingredient derived from sugar beets that functions as an alternative to beta hydroxy acids) as well as willow bark water to dissolve dead skin cells and excessive sebum. They’re also gentle enough to use on sensitive skin and won’t leave your complexion feeling stripped or dry.
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