Zap zits on a budget—and without a prescription from your dermatologist—thanks to these drugstore acne products.

By Susan Brickell
February 07, 2020
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It's a fallacy that in order to achieve clear, blemish-free skin, you have to spend a small fortune on skin-care products or arm yourself with a high-maintenance routine consisting of luxury items. The truth is: Just because a cleanser or moisturizer has a high price point, doesn't mean it's more effective than a similar item at a fraction of the price.

While you should always consult your dermatologist when it comes to cystic acne and sensitive skin conditions like rosacea, for mild acne and isolated pimples, you can most likely treat and clear your skin with products from your local drugstore—yes, really. Here, dermatologists share the best drugstore acne products that are surprisingly affordable and actually work to unclog pores, even skin tone, and zap zits. (Related: The Best Skin-Care Routine for Acne-Prone Skin)

Kamedis Acne Face Cleanser

KAMEDIS

This face cleanser combines acne-fighting salicylic acid with Chinese botanical extracts to soothe inflamed skin, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He recommends applying a pea-sized amount to the face and letting it sit while you sing the alphabet before rinsing—which allows just enough contact time for the face wash to work its magic.

Buy It: Kamedis Acne Face Cleanser, $15, amazon.com

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM/PM Bundle

AMAZON

Formulated especially for those with acne, this morning and night moisturizer duo features niacinamide to minimize inflammation, as well as essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid, which repair the skin barrier and maintain hydration, says Ted Lain, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Sanova Dermatology. Also great? The daytime lotion has SPF 30 to protect you from the sun.

Buy It: CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM/PM Bundle, $27, $35, amazon.com

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment

AMAZON

If you've been thinking about introducing a retinoid into your skin-care routine, look no further than this dermatologist-approved, budget-friendly option. It gently exfoliates skin, unclogs pores, and stimulates superficial collagen production, which helps prevent fine lines, notes Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., founder of Mudgil Dermatology in New York.

Buy It: Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment, $13, $15, amazon.com

Origins Super Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel

SEPHORA

Boasting salicylic acid and antimicrobial witch hazel—a natural astringent that helps to reduce oil and redness—this acne gel treatment unclogs pores, eases inflammation, and fights bacterial infections, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a dermatologist based in New York City. Plus, it contains hydrating cucumber extract, which is packed with antioxidants and anti-aging vitamin A and C to help with collagen production, she adds.

Buy It: Origins Super Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel, $19, sephora.com

Clean & Clear Deep Cleaning Oil-Fighting Face Astringent

CLEAN & CLEAR

Toners and astringents can be helpful if you have oily skin and acne. Dr. Zeichner likes this toner because it has salicylic acid to help remove excess oil to eliminate shine. Apply it with a cotton ball to your T-zone and any other greasy-feeling areas.

Buy It: Clean & Clear Deep Cleaning Oil-Fighting Face Astringent, $17 for 2-pack, amazon.com

Clinique Fresh Pressed 7-day System Set

AMAZON

A favorite of Dr. Lain, this waterless beauty system has powder sachets with vitamin C and salicylic acid that when mixed with water form a cleanser. And there is a vitamin C serum meant to be mixed with a moisturizer, so it's actually two antioxidant products in one.

Buy It: Clinique Fresh Pressed 7-day System Set, $15, amazon.com

EltaMD Tinted UV Clear SPF 46 Facial Sunscreen

WALMART

Dr. Jaliman is a fan of this sunscreen because it features niacinamide and B3, which help to lighten the hyperpigmentation which comes from acne. It also contains hyaluronic acid to moisturize skin, and lactic acid to clear your pores and minimize shine. Even better? It's lightweight, oil-free, and suitable for those who are acne-prone, says Dr. Jaliman. (Related: The Best Powder Sunscreens for Grease-Free Application)

Buy It: EltaMD Tinted UV Clear SPF 46 Facial Sunscreen, $26, walmart.com

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Eliminating Spot Treatment Gel

AMAZON

Another pick from Dr. Jaliman, this over-the-counter acne treatment helps decongest pores and prevents future breakouts. The glycerin in the gel helps combat dryness, while witch hazel decreases oiliness and redness, she points out. Plus, it reduces bacteria growth—including acne bacteria—on the skin to reduce the chance of a zit forming. (Related: The Best Acne Spot Treatments to Get Rid of a Pimple Fast)

Buy It: Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Eliminating Spot Treatment Gel, $18, amazon.com

CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser

AMAZON

Dr. Vijay Mudgil says this is a great option for sensitive skin types or those prone to acne. The non-comedogenic formula (read: won't clog pores) is full of antioxidants, salicylic acid, and hyaluronic acid to combat acne and deeply hydrate skin while cleansing. While it might appear to be your average facial cleanser, Amazon reviewers rave about the benefits of using it as a body cleanser to address acne on other parts of the body.

Buy It: CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser, $12, amazon.com

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