Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most effective active ingredients in acne creams, according to the Mayo Clinic. Benzoyl peroxide is a harsh chemical that can cause scaling, redness, burning, stinging and excessive dryness. Not everyone can use benzoyl peroxide, especially if they have sensitive skin. Other acne products contain effective acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids or sulfur that are good alternatives to benzoyl peroxide.
Salicylic Acid Products
Salicylic acid slows cellular shedding inside the hair follicles, which prevents pores from clogging. It may also help get rid of whiteheads and blackheads, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Popular name brand products offer acne creams and treatments that contain salicylic acid as the active ingredient. Acne spot treatments, creams and medicated pads are available in the cosmetics aisles of your local supermarket. Brands such as Noxzema, Clearasil, Neutrogena and Stridex all have acne products that are benzoyl peroxide-free. The active ingredient in some of the acne treatments and cleansers is salicylic acid.
Alpha Hydroxy Products
Alpha hydroxy acids, also called AHAs, help treat acne by removing dead skin cells and reducing inflammation. AHAs stimulate new skin cell growth revealing smoother skin. This helps reduce the appearance of acne scarring.
AHAs are available in over-the-counter acne products. A variety of acne treatments, spot treatments, clarifying sprays, masks and creams use AHAs as the active ingredient. Popular brands such as Murad, Derma Doctor and DDF contain AHAs and are designed to treat acne.
AHAs cause sun sensitivity and a broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of 30 should be used with these products, cautions the Food and Drug Administration.
Sulfur is another acne-fighting ingredient. It is often mixed with salicylic acid. Sulfur removes dead skin cells and excess oils that can clog pores. Sulfur has an unpleasant odor and some products may not have eliminated the unique smell.
Acne products that are benzoyl peroxide-free and contain sulfur are not as popular as other acne medications. Clearasil makes an Adult Treatment Cream that contains sulfur and resorcinol and is benzoyle peroxide-free. Another sulfur product without benzoyl peroxide is Joesoef Anti-Acne Lotion with 6.6 percent sulfur.
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Caroline Thompson is a professional photojournalist who has been working for print and online publications since 1999. Her work has appeared in the "Sacramento Bee," "People Magazine," "Newsweek" and other publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in photojournalism from California State University at Hayward and a personal trainer certification from the university's Health and Fitness Institute.