The Best Drugstore Acne Products, According to Reddit
I turn to Reddit for many things, from nostalgic news to the best anti-aging products, and if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that there is power in numbers. To find the best drugstore acne products, I trawled hundreds of posts and comments on the popular subreddit r/SkincareAddiction (relatable!) and found the most highly recommended treatments you can buy.
I also learned a few unexpected tricks, like: dandruff shampoo is great for combating fungal acne, generic calamine lotion is a cheap dupe for the ultra-popular Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, and a shower product made for feminine care is a tried and true solution to body acne.
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Scroll through for more insider tips and the absolute best drugstore acne products recommended by Reddit users.
Best Cleanser for Oily Skin: CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser For Normal to Oily Skin
“I have had acne pretty much since I hit puberty (now 25) and this is the only cleanser I have found that doesn't break me out or dry me out! My skin leans towards the dry side and is prone to dehydration but this cleanser leaves my skin feeling perfect! For those of you who are dry and live in a drier climate this might be a little stripping, but for me it works well. It is the perfect gentle cleanser with no frills or extras. According to cosdna.com, this contains no acne-triggers, so it will probably stay my holy grail for life! I cannot say that this cleanser has single-handedly cleared me up, but it is part of my overall healthy skin routine!”
Best Cleanser for Dry Skin: Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Daily Facial Cleanser
“My skin is very sensitive and I get rosacea and eczema (my skin pretty much hates the world). This is so gentle and non irritating, even during flare ups. My dermatologist said it's one of the most gentle face washes on the market. It's fragrance free and has a creamy almost gel like consistency, not as watery as some other non foaming cleansers. I don't wear makeup, but I don't think this would remove makeup if you did, so you'd probably need to remove makeup before using this cleanser.”
Best Product with Salicylic Acid: Stridex Daily Care Acne Pads with Salicylic Acid, Maximum Strength
“Cult-fave for a reason — simple, cheap, and effective. Dries down fast, alcohol-free, and incredibly convenient to use. Even with my normal-dry skin, I find that the drying effects of this product are easily mitigated with moisturizer (obviously your mileage may vary). This has seriously helped manage whiteheads, sebaceous filaments, and those little red inflamed buggers.”
Best Product with Benzoyl Peroxide: Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Daily Leave-On Mask
“This is an awesome fast drying, lightweight lotion. It's easy to apply and dries matte. I use it as a leave-on body treatment and as a wash-off facial treatment, and it works fantastic as both (although BP in general dries me out more than other actives). While I haven't used this in the AM, the texture makes me think it could be used in an AM routine under makeup — it's definitely not greasy or heavy. All in all, a really great drugstore BP lotion.”
Best Retinol Product: Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Prescription Strength Retinoid Acne Treatment
“I use it approximately three nights a week either layered over my moisturizer or directly after cleansing. It has reduced my overall breakouts, decreased the time it takes for my breakouts to heal, and helped overall to even my skin tone and minimize pore appearance. I also think it has made my skin slightly less oily, as long as I moisturize properly. I do not use any chemical exfoliation currently, but use a konjac sponge occasionally to help with any dead skin or texture. I have not experienced any excessive dryness or flaking, and also did not ever purge. It is my HG for my acne and I plan on repurchasing until the end of time.”
Best Acne Spot Treatment: Calamine Lotion
“So I read somewhere about using calamine to dry out and get rid of zits and I decided to try it out last night. I had three super-prominent pimples (one already popped a few days ago, the other two still forming), and I used a cotton ball to dab calamine from a bottle I've owned for over a decade onto the affected area. I left it on overnight, and in the morning, the already popped pimple was a quarter its previous side and the other two were completely gone! I don't think my skin has ever had such a quick response to anything before. The one drawback was that it really dries out the area, so you need to especially moisturize those spots in the morning.”
Best Acne Scar Treatment: EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Untinted
“I personally find it applies easily and without a white cast, doesn't pill over my moisturizers, and is very lightweight. It definitely isn't matte drying though, and leaves more of a satiny finish. The airless pump packaging is awesome, and although it has a mild scent, it's not an overpowering sunscreen scent and dissipates quickly.
I was originally put off by the price, but it lasts me about 3.5 months with once daily application on my face.
I'm not sure I can attribute all my progress to the niacinamide alone, but 5% is a significant amount that I'm sure has had an effect on my skin. I also like multi-functional products so having it at a high percentage in my sunscreen is a big plus and cuts down on the total amount of products.”
Best Pimple Patches: Nexcare Acne Absorbing Covers
“I followed the directions for the patch and after washing my face at night I applied the patch on top of the forming acne cyst. It still had not produced a full head and was just an inflamed bump so I wasn't really sure how well it would work. The patch itself is clear but after leaving it on overnight it turns whitish where the acne was. I put it on Friday night and then left it on for most of Saturday while cleaning my apartment. When I removed it that night to put on my makeup to go out, the patch pulled out the plug and the bump was completely flat.
I was genuinely surprised it had worked so well and all that was left was a slightly red spot. After I got home I washed my face and did my normal routine (Stridex + St. Ives Pads + moisturizer). Sunday morning the red spot was completely gone except for a tiny scab where the head would have appeared.
I personally would highly recommend these for those who suffer from the occasional large pimple. Within two days I had gone from a "soon to erupt" bump to completely gone. On a scale of 1 to awesome I would put this in a definite MUST HAVE.”
Best Mask for Acne-Prone Skin: Queen Helene's Mint Julep Face Mask
“So I'm in the middle of Alabama for work right now. While in Walmart with my co-worker, we saw the Mint Julep mask. I remembered reading something about it being good on Makeup Alley and picked it up.
Lately I've been feeling pretty crappy about my skin since I started using Tretinoin. I've been a peeling, acne-filled mess and waiting for the good results has taken a bit of a toll on my self-esteem. I figured I would give this thing a shot. My co-worker decided to try it too, despite her having very sensitive skin.
Over the past week, I've used this three times and my skin hasn't looked this good in months! I don't have a single blemish, something I haven't been able to say for a really long time. My coworker loves it as well — she says it makes her skin feel like it's glowing.
Today at work, a lady told me how nice my skin was. Granted, I was wearing foundation, so I had a little bit of help. Nevertheless, it was the best compliment that I've gotten in a long time.
I just had to share my experience, mostly because I never thought that a product so inexpensive could help me out so much. I highly recommend this mask — you even get to be a nice shade of green with it!”
Best Product for Fungal Acne: Head and Shoulders Classic Clean Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
“It's worth a shot. $4 of Head and Shoulders applied as a face mask cleared my skin, which was covered in acne and closed comedones. I had tried everything, including birth control and spironolactone and retin-a. I was considering Accutane as a last resort. I also eliminated all fungal triggers. All I used was fungal safe moisturizer + Head and Shoulders.
FIXED! FOR 4 BUCKS! IN 2 WEEKS! I feel like an infomercial. Try it for two weeks. It legitimately might change your life.”
Best Body Wash for Acne-Prone Skin: Summer’s Eve Feminine Wash
“This is going to sound a little crazy but the thing that helped clear up my back and chest acne is actually the Summer’s Eve Feminine Wash. It’s just a simple foaming wash that has a nice light scent. It foams well and cleans my body well enough. It doesn’t have any oils, harsh ingredients or sodium lauryl sulfate. It’s not drying or irritating to my skin. It’s also safe for fungal acne. I put some mineral oil and squalane oil in it and it helped to make it less drying on my skin.”
Best Body Lotion for Acne-Prone Skin: AmLactin Ultra Hydrating Body Cream
“I bought it for butt acne. I have ended up using it all over and love it! Dry elbows are now so soft. Weird brown skin between my breasts is fading. Butt skin is so soft and clearing up. But the best is my face — it looks so clear and bright, and the black sebaceous filaments on my nose are just about invisible. It has AHA. I have read it has a weird smell/feel but to me it felt fine and the smell was very, very faint. I am so happy, I recommend at least trying a sample if you can find one.”