51 Best Skin Care Products for Acne-Prone Skin

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Kim Chwalek

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I'm a 25-year old girl based in Denver, Colorado. Kim Collective is a space where I share about beauty, faith, food & home, style, travel, well-being, and everything in between. Thanks for stopping by!

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I’ve battled acne from a young age. Trust me, I know how hard it can be to find products that actually work. Over the years, I’ve learned that less is more when it comes to acne-prone skin. Over-exfoliating your skin or using too many products can cause more harm than good. Need proof? Here are articles on the negative impact of over-vigorous washing and product overuse. After trial and error, I’ve gathered a collection of tried-and-true basics, tested and recommended by dermatologists. In this article, I’ll link my 51 favorite skin care products for acne-prone skin, all of which are top-rated!

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Click the image below to shop all of my favorite skin care products for acne-prone skin. Scroll down to learn more about each product and why it was selected. 

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Skin Care Products for Acne-Prone Skin

When it comes to skin care products, using too many active ingredients at once can irritate your skin. Start with a basic regime of one or two acne-fighting products, and slowly add new products as your skin can tolerate. If you notice any redness or irritation, it’s best to scale back!


Featured: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant



The following cleansers gently remove oil, prevent acne lesions, and can be used as a daily face wash for morning and night use.

For dry or sensitive skin, I recommend purchasing La Roche-Posay Hydrating Gentle Cleanser, EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser, or iS Clinical Cleansing Complex, which are excellent at restoring your skin’s pH and preventing breakouts.

For combination, oily, or acne-prone skin, I recommend washing with a medicated cleanser like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Facial Cleanser or CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser, both of which contain 2% Salicylic Acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps gently exfoliate and remove dead skin cells to treat and prevent acne.

Top-Rated Cleansers


Featured: CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser



My skin care mantra is less is more!

If you’re using a medicated cleanser, skip this step altogether. But if you’re using a gentle cleanser, incorporate a exfoliater once or twice a week.

Avoid harsh physical exfoliants, like almond shell and textured cloths, and opt for chemical exfoliators, formulated for all skin types. My favorites are Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, and DRMTLGY Microdermabrasion Facial with Glycolic Acid.

Top-Rated Exfoliators


Featured: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant



If your skin is acne-prone, you may want to consider using a pH-balanced toner, formulated to reduce oiliness, improve redness, and gently exfoliate your skin.

In general, toners include:

  • AHAs, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid
  • BHAs, such as salicylic acid and willow extract
  • PHAs, such as gluconolactone and galactose
  • Humectants, such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin
  • Antioxidants and vitamins, such as niacinamide

Dermatologists typically recommend AHAs for dry skin, PHAs for people with sensitive skin, and BHAs for oily skin.

For dry or sensitive skin, I recommend Korea’s best-selling Anua Heartleaf 77% Soothing Toner pH 5.5, THAYERS Hydrating Lavender Witch Hazel Toner, or TIRTIR Milk Skin Toner with a soothing 2% Niacinamide formulation.

For combination, oily, or acne-prone skin, I recommend Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner or La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Toner with 0.5% Salicylic Acid and 2% Glycolic Acid.

Top-Rated Toners


Featured: TIRTIR Milk Skin Toner


Spot Treatments

Sometimes, pesky blemishes pop up. That’s when you pull out your acne spot treatments, containing powerful ingredients like salicylic acid, sulfur, calamine, benzyl peroxide, and zinc oxide.

My favorite spot treatment is Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch, an award-winning hydrocolloid sticker that improves the look of pimples overnight. Just stick it on, get some sleep, and wake up with clearer-looking skin.

I also love Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, formulated in the 1960s by Mario Badescu himself (the brand’s #1 best-selling product) and La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Spot Treatment Cream with Benzoyl Peroxide.

Top-Rated Spot Treatments


Featured: Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion



While your favorite medicated cleanser, soothing toner, and pimple patch will help fight pesky blemishes, there’s nothing quite like an acne serum to get the job done. Acne serums are designed to deliver high concentrations of specific active ingredients to your skin. Typically, you start with one application daily, then gradually increase to two or three times daily if needed.

For dry or sensitive skin, I recommend iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance+, an antioxidant-rich serum containing vitamin C, E, and A for redness, rosacea, and inflammation. You can also try the Korean best-sellers: Beauty of Joseon Glow Deep Serum and Anua Peach 70% Niacinamide Serum, which incorporate acne-reducing niacinamide to address dark spots, discoloration, and acne scars.

For combination, oily, or acne-prone skin, opt for a serum with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or glycolic acid. Dermatologists love La Roche-Posay Salicylic Acid Acne Serum, DRMTLGY Acne Serum, and Glow Recipe Salicylic Acid Serum.

Top-Rated Acne Serums


Featured: Beauty of Joseon Glow Deep Serum



Don’t skip your moisturizer! Moisturizing helps build a healthy skin barrier, which reduces inflammation and irritation from acne treatments. It’s well known that excess oil can exacerbate acne, but did you know that dry skin can contribute to acne as well? The following moisturizers are non-comedogenic (they won’t clog your pores) and suitable for all skin types.

For daytime use, I recommend a moisturizer with SPF, such as Cerave Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM with SPF 30 or DRMTLGY Sunscreen and Facial Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 45.

For nighttime use, I recommend Hero Cosmetics Clear Collective Clarifying Prebiotic Moisturizer, backed by skin-cleansing sage extract, which feeds friendly bacteria and purifies pores day and night. You can also try Paula’s Choice Clear Oil-Free Moisturizer or La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer, both of which are formulated with pore-minimizing niacinamide, soothing antioxidants, and ceramides to calm redness.

Top-Rated Moisturizers


Featured: Hero Cosmetics Clear Collective Clarifying Prebiotic Moisturizer


Face Oils

Don’t be afraid of acne-fighting oils! Did you know that topical facial oils can help your skin regulate sebum production? Plus, they’re rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants to improve your skin appearance, tone, and texture.

The key to reducing your acne is to choose a lightweight, non-comedogenic oil with anti-inflammatory properties, such as Camellia Oil, Rosehip Seed Oil, Tea Tree Oil, Black Cumin Oil, Blue Tansy Oil, Jojoba Oil, and Argon Oil.

For non-medicated oils, I’m loving Herbivore Lapis Blue Tansy Skin Balancing Face Oil, a powerful moisturizer for acne-prone skin, Odacité Acne Facial Oil, a serum for improving the appearance of clogged pores, hormonal acne, and blemishes, and Versed Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil, an antioxidant serum and oil hybrid that strengthens the skin’s barrier, moisturizes, and delivers an all-day glow.

For medicated oils, I recommend trying Sunday Riley U.F.O. Face Oil, which contains fast-acting 1.5% salicylic acid to clear acne, and milk thistle and cucumber seed oil to nourish the skin.

Top-Rated Face Oils


Featured: Herbivore Lapis Blue Tansy Skin Balancing Face Oil



Retinol is a powerful skin care ingredient, which stimulates collagen production, prevents clogged pores, improves fine lines and wrinkles, and treats acne! Since retinol is so powerful at stimulating cell turnover, it can’t be mixed with everything.

You can’t mix retinol with Benzyl Peroxide, which is antibacterial, or AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs, which are exfoliating. If you do, you’re more likely to experience redness and irritation, which in turn, can worsen your acne.

You can mix retinol with niacinamide, ceramides, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid, which are used in many of the gentle cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and serums I’ve listed! For example, you can pair these five retinols with La Roche-Posay Hydrating Gentle Cleanser, TIRTIR Milk Skin Toner, Beauty of Joseon Glow Deep Serum, and Paula’s Choice Clear Oil-Free Moisturizer.

Right now, I’m loving Avène RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream, which is clinically proven to reduce the appearance of deep lines and wrinkles. If you’d like to read my full review of this product, check it out here! I’ve also read excellent reviews for Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment, The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane, CeraVe Anti Aging Retinol Serum, and La Roche-Posay Pure Retinol Face Serum with Vitamin B3.

Top-Rated Retinols


Featured: CeraVe Anti Aging Retinol Serum



Did you know that SPF helps prevent acne? In addition to protecting your skin from UV rays, sunscreen may prevent breakouts by decreasing inflammation.

If you favor non-tinted sunscreen, try EltaMD UV Clear Face Sunscreen or Supergoop! PLAY Everyday Lotion SPF.

If you’re a tinted sunscreen lover, check out the #1 Dermatologist Recommended EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Sunscreen or La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Sunscreen SPF 50. Along the same line, if you’re a fan of BB Creams, check out MISSHA M Perfect BB Cream – I wear it on the daily! The coverage is flawless.

Top-Rated Sunscreens


Featured: Supergoop! PLAY Everyday Lotion SPF


Face Masks

Who doesn’t love a good face mask! They’re the perfect way to de-stress after a long day. The best face masks are also packed with acne-fighting antioxidants, enzymes, and active ingredients. My favorite face masks designed to target blemishes include Herbivore Blue Tansy Mask, Glow Recipe Pore-Tight Clay Facial Mask, DRMTLGY Pumpkin Enzyme Face Mask, Australian Pink Clay Porefining Mask, and New York Biology Dead Sea Mud Mask.

Top-Rated Face Masks


Featured: Australian Pink Clay Porefining Mask


Facial Tools

Last but not least, acne-fighting facial tools! These science-backed tools target blemishes for visibly clearer skin. Top-rated acne tools I’m loving are the Super Blue Acne Blemish Stick, a portable blemish stick that speeds up acne healing time by almost half, Clean Pro Rose Quartz, a smart facial cleansing device, and DRx SpectraLite™ FaceWare Pro, which uses professional light therapy to target acne-causing bacteria and prevent future breakouts.

Top-Rated Facial Tools


Featured: DRx SpectraLite™ FaceWare Pro


Final Thoughts

You shouldn’t use every product listed above. Rather, select a few skin care products for acne-prone skin and slowly incorporate them into your routine.

I recommend sticking to four basics at first: a solid cleanser, serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Then, you can experiment with adding in an exfoliator or face mask, once or twice a week, or a spot treatment as needed. If you’re using a retinol cream, remember to start slow, and don’t mix your retinol wtih benzyl peroxide, AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs. Use your retinol once or twice a week, then build up to once a day or every other day to avoid skin irritation.

If skin care affordability is a concern for you, check out my article on an Affordable Skin Care Routine (All Products Under $30)! And before you go, drop your favorite skin care products for acne-prone skin in the comments section. I’d love to try them out!

Love, Kim

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