Feature Archive

Non-Hormonal Acne Treatments

WebMD Feature

May 15, 2000 -- Many women who have battled acne throughout their lives are familiar with products like Retin-A and tetracycline, which are considered the more "traditional" ways to treat acne. Here's a rundown of those treatments:

Non-Prescription Treatments

  • Cleansers: There are a number of soaps and facial washes that claim to battle acne, but these are usually unnecessary if the acne is otherwise being treated. Cleansers can sometimes irritate the skin.
  • Benzoyl peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide, found in products like Clearasil, destroys the P. acnes bacteria by penetrating the follicle and releasing hydrogen peroxide. (Acne cannot survive in the presence of hydrogen peroxide.) It is an underrated form of treatment, says Guy Webster, MD, PhD, vice chairman of the department of dermatology at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. The problem is that most people don't use benzoyl peroxide products correctly, says Webster. They apply the medicine to existing pimples rather than using it wherever they are likely to get acne, which can prevent it from popping up in the first place. "I would see far fewer acne patients if people knew how to use benzoyl peroxide correctly," he says.
  • Salicylic acid: Available in a number of lotions, creams, and pads (Stridex, for example), salicylic acid helps unclog pores by chemically destroying the plug. You must use salicylic acid treatments continually in order to see results, as pores clog up again once you stop.