Which Skincare Ingredients Are Best For Treating Acne? A Breakdown Of My Favourites & What I Find Them Helpful For Including Benzoyl Peroxide, Retinoids, Salicylic Acid & Niacinamide

This is just my personal experience with using these ingredients. Some do exactly the same job, for example both benzoyl peroxide and retinoids work for me to help clear and maintain clear skin, but I’ve chosen to include the instances where I reach for each ingredient the most. Everyone’s skin is different so what works for me may not work for you but I hope this is a helpful insight.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Best For : helping to calm painful breakouts very quickly. I tend to reach for Acnecide Face Wash whenever I have a particularly intense break out as this makes a difference in a short space of time. I can only use this a few times a week without my skin getting dry or sensitised so for me it’s not a common, daily use product. Smacne Acne Treatment I found brilliant for tackling breakouts and helping to keep my skin clear without causing any dryness or sensitisation. I only use this once a day applied in the mornings. Until I tried Smacne I really wasn’t fussed about BP and could have easily lived without this ingredient but their gentle Acne Treatment really changed my mind. In fact I once tried Duac, a topical acne prescription with Benzoyl Peroxide in, and loathed it. It made my face red, swollen and sore. Smacne’s products and the Acnecide wash really helped me to change my mind about this ingredient.

Things To Note : BP bleaches fabrics so I found it best to stick with old towels if using a BP face wash and prepare to ruin my reusable face coverings when applying the Smacne Acne Treatment. I’d rather that than my bedding but it’s still not great.

The Final Word: for me this ingredient isn’t a regular staple and I often got through patches of a few months without using it. For an idea, it took me nearly a year to work through this small bottle of Acnecide wash as I used it infrequently partly to dodge irritation and because I felt it wasn’t vital for me.


Best For : Controlling and reducing the amount of oil my skin produces. I used to be really self conscious about how shiny my forehead would get around mid afternoon. If I were to run my finger tips across my forehead they’d come back feeling really greasy. Nothing I tried addressed this including mattifying primers, powders, foundation or moisturisers. I even tried moisturisers with this ingredient in but none really helped to the point that I thought my skin would always be shiny. The only product to ever help has been The Ordinary Niacinamide Serum which is amazingly affordable starting at £5 per bottle which lasts me 3 months plus.

Things To Note : Ever since I first discovered this product I’ve used it at least once a day. I’m on my third bottle and bought the 60ml large size most recently. It does such a great job for such a small price that I’m content to stick with this and not experiment with other Niacinamide serums.

The Final Word: The Ordinary Niacinamide is a product I now wouldn’t want to be without. I fully intend to keep a niacinamide serum in my routine for the foreseeable future as it’s helped my oil levels where nothing else has.


Best For : Clearing and maintaining clear skin. I was prescribed Adapalene back in January 2020 and it has been the only topical prescription to ever make a positive difference to my skin. It helped to clear moderate acne as well as maintain clear skin.

Things To Note: It didn’t really help me with the texture of my skin or blackheads but it seriously helped with the typical common spots I got. It caused my skin to get incredibly dry and sore to begin with and I have to be careful when using this to not overdo it every night and offset this with an intense night cream. Many people experience purging with this ingredient, I was lucky and my skin didn’t get worse before it got better.

The Final Word: If I was to start worrying about the amount my skin was breaking out I’d reach for this. It’s easily accessible via a GP prescription, effective and after some experience using it I know how to dodge nasty side effects. It cleared my skin dramatically in 2020.

Salicylic Acid

Best For : Addressing congested looking pores. I know lots of people love this ingredient for topical spot treatments but I’ve always found any formulas I use with SA in to be rather drying and cause any spots to scab or become crusted which I hate. A good example of this is the Clinique Anti Blemish Solutions Gel. I’ve found the Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid to be good for tackling blackheads. I don’t love this product as the texture is quite oily and it has a strong smell but the BHA formula has made definite improvements to my pores. Admittedly it did take about 2 months to see any changes. I like the results from this product but not the feel of actually using it.

Things To Note: like any actives it can cause irritation so best to introduce gradually.

The Final Word: I don’t mind SA. I definitely don’t love it as much as some of the other ingredients listed here but that may just be because of my experiences with products with this ingredient.

Rank Order?!

I’m not sure why I set this challenge upon myself really as some I really can’t put above others!

IngredientThe main reason I reach for them over any other
RetinoidsTo clear larger amount of stubborn spots and maintain clear skin
NiacinamideTo reduce how shiny my skin, particularly forehead, gets – I’m convinced this also helps to keep my skin clear without irritation
Benzoyl PeroxideTo tackle small short term break outs quickly
Salicylic AcidTo address blackheads and congested pores – no other ingredient has worked for me

Comments Welcome

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