Updated 20 July 2014

Home and over-the-counter treatment

The mild stages of acne can be treated with over-the-counter medications.

Home treatment

Click here for our Over-the-counter Medication Tool to view specific medication, brand names, how they work and more drug information.

Here are general tips to prevent your acne from getting worse

  • Wash the face twice a day with a gentle soap. Washing your face more often than that may irritate and dry your skin. Avoid hot water. Using hot water can make your acne worse.
  • Do not use facial scrubs, astringents and masks unless your doctor has recommended them, because these generally irritate the skin and aggravate acne.
  • Do not squeeze, pick, scratch or rub your skin. Squeezing pimples often leads to infections, worse acne and scars.
  • Avoid extreme stress – if necessary, seek counselling and follow a stress management programme. Stress cannot cause acne, but may aggrevate it.

Over-the-counter creams for Blackheads and small red pimples (Stages 0 and 2)
No treatment is needed for the occasional pimple or two, but if acne causes you distress, something should be done about it. Many different treatments are available, but they are not all equally appropriate for everyone.

Treatment usually shows an effect only after six to eight weeks.

There are many over-the-counter medications (creams, lotions, and gels) available. Many of them contain benzoyl peroxide, alpha-hydroxy acids or salicylic acid. The medications you use should be water-based and hypoallergenic.

Cetaphil lotion can be used as a cleanser.

Here's a list of over-the-counter medication that can be used for the treatment of mild, non-inflammatory acne - Stages 0 and 2 (blackheads and papules).

For treatment to be successful, it should be as regular as clockwork.

Reviewed by Professor H.F Jordaan, MBChb, MMed (Derm)

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