Equally as bad as a face full of pimples? How about acne treatments that make your breakouts even redder and more inflamed? Sure, they'll get the job done eventually, but you can forget about the overnight results the tube promises. Instead, treatments -- especially spot treatments -- generally make acne look worse before they get better. Why is that always the way?
Well, skin care companies have been hard at work in their labs, trying to change all of that. And it looks like many big brands have finally come up with products to treat acne without irritating the skin. (Insert round of applause here.) "Treating acne is no longer about blasting a pimple," says New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. "It is about treating the whole face -- not only to treat what you have, but also to prevent new zits from appearing." Whereas the old treatments were all about spot-treating individual breakouts with a serious blast of one acne-fighting ingredient -- generally salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide -- the new products contain a combination of acne-fighting ingredients that work even better. And then there's the issue of irritation …
"Taking care of the skin and reducing inflammation is incredibly important," says Zeichner. "And many of the newest acne-fighting treatments have anti-inflammatory and redness-reducing ingredients." In other words, this new generation of acne-fighters are more than well-trained soldiers, they're also peacekeepers that help prevent future uprisings. Ready to meet the new recruits? We thought so.
Cool, Calm and Collected
The folks at Murad recently updated their tried-and-true acne arsenal to include an anti-inflammatory step in the regimen. They added the Clarifying Wipes, which contain cucumber and calendula extracts to calm the skin.
All at Sea
This light, refreshing spray contains 1-percent salicylic acid (naturally derived from willow bark), as well as sea buckthorn oil -- an incredibly nourishing oil that's high in omega acids and won't clog pores. For even more skin-calming benefits, they've added an anti-inflammatory in the form of a golden seaweed extract.
The Big Chill
This mask contains salicylic acid to treat breakouts, as well as camphor for cooling. But the real kicker is licorice root extract, which is one of Dr. Zeichner's favorite inflammation-reducing ingredients.
Bonus tip: For even more skin-soothing benefits, pop this mask in the fridge before you apply it.
Want to talk about irritation? Scrubs are usually the prickliest offenders. This one, however, is incredibly gentle -- the soft beads burst when you massage it into your skin. And it contains tea tree oil to kill acne-causing bacteria while moisturizing.