If you’re like the vast majority of men, you had acne as a teenager. Those pimples were just another obstacle in surviving the Awkward Years but, fortunately, you survived.
Then again, acne isn’t just for adolescents. Men of all ages experience acne breakouts, although the chances of getting them tend to decrease with age. But if you’re a man – or male teen – who suffers from acne, we’re here to help.
In this post we’ll discuss the best acne treatment for men, including the highly-regarded TreeActiv Cystic Acne Spot Treatment We’ll discuss various types of acne, their causes, and how to get the most from your treatment.
- Before you buy: A couple of things you need to consider when purchasing acne treatment
- 6 Best acne treatments for men 2018
- Getting the most out of your acne treatments (A simple, 7 step illustrated guide)
- Acne: Types & treatments
- How we chose the best men’s acne products
Before You Buy: A Couple of Things You Need To Consider When Purchasing Acne Treatment
There are a few things to keep in mind while you’re choosing an acne treatment that’s right for you – including the fact that acne is not the same for every man. In other words, there’s not one right way of treating acne that works for everyone.
For starters, it’s important to identify your skin type: is it normal, dry, oily, or a combination of two of them? Additionally, there are different ways in which acne manifests on your skin – pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, cystic acne, and acne scars.
Perhaps more importantly, however, you need to know what type of acne you have (and we’ll delve deeper into acne types later:
- Cystic Acne – the most severe type
- Inflammatory Acne – can range from mild to moderate in severity
- Comedonal Acne – the mildest form of acne
If you’re buying an over-the-counter acne treatment you’ll notice several common ingredients, including:
1. Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria that causes acne while removing excess oil and dead skin cells which may clog pores. Benzoyl peroxide ranges in strength from 2.5 to 10 percent in OTC products.
2. Salicylic acid
Salicylic acid keeps pores unplugged and ranges in strength from 0.5 to 5 percent in OTC treatments. It may cause mild stinging and skin irritation.
3. Alpha hydroxy acids
There are two types of alpha hydroxy acids used in non-prescription acne products: glycolic acid and lactic acid. Both types treat acne by removing dead skin cells and reducing inflammation. They also stimulate skin growth and smoother skin.
Sulfur is another ingredient in OTC acne products that remove dead skin cells and excess oil. It’s often combined with other ingredients, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
The question is, which ingredients are right for you and your type of acne? Here are some things to consider:
- If you’re still unsure, choose a product with benzoyl peroxide. Most people tolerate benzoyl peroxide (without side effects) and even a lower strength – in the 2.5 range – is effective for many people.
- Start with lower strength products to minimize the redness, dry skin, and clogged pores caused by acne. Slowly increase the strength of your product and how often you use it until the treatment proves effective.
- Combine products and ingredients. You may find it helpful to use products with different ingredients to treat stubborn acne symptoms. You could even use one product in the morning and a different one at night. And don’t be afraid to experiment until you find a product (and ingredient) that works for you.
As mentioned, we’ll discuss types of acne and treatments a bit later in this post. But let’s first take a look at our choices for the best men’s acne treatment products.
The 6 Best Acne Treatments for Men 2018
Cystic acne is, as mentioned, the most severe form of acne and rigorous treatment options are needed to eliminate its symptoms.
TreeActiv, formed in 2014, created a cystic acne treatment that ranks among the best acne spot treatments without the use of artificial ingredients.
The TreeActiv treatment is, instead, loaded with natural ingredients and free of parabens and other chemicals that may irritate – not soothe or treat – the skin. Let’s dig deeper into their ingredients and how they work to fight severe acne:
- Bentonite clay
Bentonite clay forms when volcanic ash weathers and ages in the presence of water and is an ancient ingredient used to treat skin. It’s useful in acne treatments in that provides oxygen to skin cells while clearing out excess hydrogen. It not only draws out toxins but also gets rid of impurities while soothing irritated skin.
- Peppermint and spearmint water
Peppermint and spearmint water have antiseptic and antibacterial qualities that kill bacteria within skin pores while balancing oil production on your face. In turn, they keep your facial skin moisturized, tame unsightly blemishes, and reduce scarring.
- Pink grapefruit essential oil
Pink grapefruit essential oil reduces inflammation, fights infection, and is loaded with vitamin C – which plays a key role in the production of collagen. And collagen is important because it’s a protein that provides strength and elasticity to the skin.
- Tea tree water and essential oil
Tea tree water and essential oil are antibacterial, antifungal, and have moisturizing and toning properties that eliminate severe acne.
- Lemon essential oil
One of the many helpful properties of lemon essential oil is that it helps exfoliate dead skin cells. Moreover, it balances overactive sebaceous glands that contribute to the formation of acne. You’ll find lemon oil in many do-it-yourself types of acne treatments.
- Witch hazel & aloe vera
A couple of other ingredients you’ll find in TreeActiv’s Cystic Acne Spot Treatment are witch hazel and aloe vera. Witch hazel is a strong astringent that eliminates acne by reducing inflammation, balancing the oil in your skin, and clearing away excess sebum. Aloe vera soothes inflamed skin while promoting healthy skin growth.
TreeActiv’s ingredients help describe an acne treatment that’s very effective in many ways, from penetrating deep into your skin’s pores to fight acne at its root cause, to killing bacteria that leads to acne, to reducing the production of sebum to make your skin less oily, to providing antioxidants that protect the skin from further damage.
What else do we like about the Cystic Acne Spot Treatment?
For starters, it provides immediate relief in healing blemishes while strengthening skin. It’s strong stuff but works gently to heal acne scars, and is effective for men and women.
Tree Activ’s Cystic Acne treatment works best with spot use, i.e., you apply a thin layer over the blemish (while avoiding the surrounding skin) and let it sit for approximately 30 minutes before rinsing it off.
- Loaded with natural ingredients
- Effective for treating severe acne
- Strong, but gentle
- More expensive than some acne treatments
Tree Activ’s Cystic Acne Spot Treatment is a go-to option for anyone plagued with severe acne. It relies on natural ingredients to eliminate the causes of acne while promoting new, healthy skin growth.
Neutrogena is a big name when it comes to men’s skincare. While tradition and reputation don’t necessarily guarantee a great product, Neutrogena’s Men Skin Clearing Acne Wash delivers on its promise of reducing acne breakouts.
Besides, Neutrogena is the number-one-rated OTC skincare brand (as rated by dermatologists) in the U.S. – so it must be doing something right. That said, what do we like about its Men Skin Clearing Acne Wash?
First, the key ingredient in this acne wash is salicylic acid, which keeps pores unplugged by removing oil and dirt trapped in them. It not only treats your current breakouts but helps prevent them from happening again in the future.
There’s a lot else to like, as well, including its gentle formula that doesn’t irritate skin – and even softens facial hair before shaving. The folks at Neutrogena are mindful of the fact that men’s skin is of a different texture than women’s skin and formulates their treatment options accordingly.
Another thing we like is that Neutrogena’s Men Skin Clearing Acne Wash is designed to prevent future breakouts. Yes, you’ll need to use it daily and over a long period, but you will see results. It clarifies your skin while minimizing breakouts before they become too extensive. Oh, it’s also paraben-free, which we always like.
The Men Skin Clearing Acne Wash comes with a convenient pump that’s travel-friendly and unlocks very easily.
- Unclogs plugged pores
- Clarifies skin
- Good for long-term use
- Some reviews say it’s too drying
Neutrogena’s Skin Clearing Acne Wash is a no-nonsense, proven acne treatment. It clarifies skin while minimizing breakouts. Moreover, it softens facial hair before shaving.
La Roche Posay is backed by dermatologists – with a reported 25,000 dermatologist recommendations worldwide – and is Europe’s top skincare brand. It also claimed three skincare awards in 2017: the Teen Vogue Acne Awards, the Knot Beauty Awards, and Instyle Best Beauty Buys.
While awards and company ranking are certainly important, they mean nothing unless the products actually work. But in the case of La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Dual Action Acne Treatment, the accolades reflect the results.
We like the Effaclar Duo Dual Action treatment for many reasons, including that it’s an oil-free cream that provides excellent cell exfoliation. Its formula relies heavily on the dual action of Benzoyl Peroxide and Lipo-Hydroxy Acid (LHA) that eliminates whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. Benzoyl Peroxide penetrates skin pores to clear blemishes and reduce irritation, while LHA has superior exfoliation qualities and helps smooth skin while restoring it to its natural texture.
La Roche-Posay’s acne products are non-comedogenic, which means they don’t include ingredients such as cocoa butter, coal tar, dyes, and pigments that may clog pores. The Effaclar Duo Dual Action formula is paraben, oil, and fragrance-free. It is not, however, made of all-natural ingredients.
The Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment is best for mild to moderate acne and visibly reduces all types of acne blemishes. It’s designed to penetrate deeply into pores while providing cell-by-cell exfoliation. While results may vary from customer to customer, Effaclar Duo is said to reduce acne blemishes by 60% in only 10 days.
- Penetrates deeply to exfoliate and remove acne blemishes
- Backed by dermatologists and clinical research
- Too drying for some
La Roche-Posay is committed to treating acne and has plenty of clinical research – and dermatologist approval – to back its products. Their Effaclar Duo cream provides a deep cleaning while quickly reducing annoying pimples and other blemishes associated with acne. We think it’s the best acne cream for men.
Fact: Some men have oilier skin than others. For that matter, so do some teenagers and women, but the point is that men with oily skin that’s a causing their acne should seek treatments specific to their skin. That’s where a product such as Kiehl’s Men’s Oil Eliminator Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Wash comes into play.
Kiehl’s number one option for men’s acne treatment has men with oily skin in mind. When used daily, the Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Face Wash removes excess oil, sweat, and other grime to A) clean pores, and B) reduce the shine that comes with oily skin. As its name also suggests, the Deep Cleansing Face Wash removes dead skin cells to leave your skin smooth and refreshed.
The key ingredients in Kiehl’s face wash are salicylic acid, argan shells, and apricot seeds. Salicylic acid works to unplug clogged pores, while apricot seeds and argan shells handle the exfoliating process. It’s a formula that packs a punch but is still suitable for sensitive skin, and it’s paraben and sulfate-free.
Kiehl’s understands that dealing with oily skin is often a challenge. But their Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Wash provides maximum oil control that few other, if any, products can match.
- Ideal for oily skin
- Exfoliates and protects
- Leaves skin feeling smooth without irritation
- May overly dry skin
If oily skin is your issue, Kiehl’s has the solution with its Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Face Wash. It tames excess oil and other skin problems that may lead to acne.
Kyoku’s Lava Masque Acne Treatment for Men packs a three-in-one punch in the fight against acne as it serves as a facial cleanser, exfoliator, and acne therapy. It’s loaded with over essential sea minerals and infused with a volcanic mud that naturally draws excess oil and toxins from the skin.
Then again, Kyoku – founded in 2010 – is all about skin care for men. Their team is committed to providing quality products for men of all skin types while leaving out harsh chemicals that may disrupt the skin’s delicate pH balance. They’re obviously doing something right as they’ve received awards from GQ magazine, Esquire, and Men’s Health.
The masque comes in cream that you lather over your face and neck area and let sit for five to 10 minutes before rinsing it off. As mentioned, it includes a Japanese mud complex that draws out toxins and excess oils that lead to acne breakouts.
The Lava Masque Acne Treatment for Men penetrates deeply into the skin to reduce oiliness, breakouts, pimples, blackheads, and to eliminate acne-causing bacteria. Kyoku not only keeps different skin types in mind, but it also works from the premise that men have 20% thicker skin than women – so a product that deeply penetrates men’s skin is a definite plus.
Its minerals also improve blood circulation and oxygen levels to promote cell growth renewal while it also contains sorbitol – found naturally in many types of berries – which further aids the cleansing and peeling process. Two other key ingredients are Japanese black sand and pumice, which give the masque a gritty feeling when applied to your face.
- Penetrates deeply
- Effectively draws out toxins and impurities
- Contains no harsh chemicals
- Don’t use immediately after heavy physical activity when pores are enlarged
Kyoku’s Lava Masque Acne Treatment for Men combines ancient Japanese herbs with modern technology to effectively fight acne. It contains no harsh chemicals and its formula leaves your skin feeling smooth, healthy, and irritant-free.
Because acne is more common in adolescent males than adults, we’d be remiss in not mentioning the best acne treatment for teenage guys.
And while there are a lot of contenders out there, we think the Acne Facial Cleanser by Exposed Skin Care is at the top of the list. It’s not just a product for teenagers, however, as many men – and women – have used it with good results.
The theory behind Exposed Skin Care’s acne treatment is that clean skin means clear skin. Their acne facial cleanser provides a deep but gentle cleansing of facial skin that’s soap-free, non-comedogenic, and hypoallergenic. It removes oil and dirt from your face and penetrates your pores while eliminating acne-causing bacteria. Furthermore, it maintains your skin’s lipid layer while helping to keep skin smooth.
The folks at Exposed Skin Care recommend using their acne facial cleanser in conjunction with their Acne Treatment Serum. The two products work best when used twice a day a provide an extra kick in clearing and preventing acne blemishes.
While many deep cleansing products contain harsh, irritating ingredients, the Acne Facial Cleanser by Exposed Skin Care is sulfate and paraben-free. If you buy their 60-day basic kit, you’ll get the facial cleanser and Acne Treatment Serum, as well as their Clearing Tonic that helps rejuvenate troubled skin.
But the Acne Facial Cleanser works well on its own and should replace harsher soaps if you suffer from acne. If you’re looking for a product that provides the kind of deep cleaning that keeps acne-causing bacteria away, then Exposed Skin Care’s product is for you. Many reviewers have tried other products without seeing the kind of results that they got with the Acne Facial Cleanser.
- Deep cleans your face
- Gentle yet strong enough to get rid of oil and dirt
- Great for teenagers
- May cause excessive drying of the skin
Clean skin promotes clear skin and Exposed Skin Care’s Acne Facial Cleanser provides the deep cleansing that you need if you struggle with acne.
Getting the Most Out of Your Acne Treatments
It’s important to understand a few rules of the road before beginning any acne treatment. Here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Be consistent
Clearing acne means being consistent in your treatments. Make it a point not to skip days or doses and, if possible, apply your treatment at the same time each day to help you remember. Also, leave your acne treatment container where you can see it. You don’t want it to become out of sight, out of mind.
2. Popping pimples
Keep your hands to yourself! Popping and picking at pimples prolong healing time while increasing the risk of scarring. Furthermore, picking pimples drives infected material deeper into the skin.
3. Don’t use too much medication
Slathering on excess amounts of your treatment product won’t heal your acne any faster. Instead, too much product causes drying, irritation, peeling, and redness.
4. Don’t look for a quick fix
Who doesn’t want their acne to clear up overnight? The problem is, there is no quick-fix for getting rid of acne – no matter what the late-night TV hucksters tell you.
5. Stick with it
This point is related to #4 above, i.e., skin often reacts slowly to treatment. Acne may come on fast – seemingly overnight in some cases – but it won’t heal that quickly. Don’t give up on your treatment if you don’t get immediate results.
6. Beware of scrubbing and cleansing too vigorously
Washing your facial skin is recommended, of course, but over-scrubbing and cleansing it may worsen the problem. Gently wash your face with a pH-balanced cleanser that lessens inflammation while adding moisture to the skin.
7. Stopping treatment when acne is gone
Keep in mind that OTC acne treatments don’t “cure” acne. They do a good job of controlling symptoms, including breakouts, but your pimples will return if you quit using your treatment once your skin is clear. Accutane, a type of treatment will look at a bit later, is something of an exception, but not everyone can use it.
Acne: Types & Treatments
We’ve touched briefly on the types of acne but it’s time for a more in-depth look, as well as a rundown of various treatment options.
- Comedonal acne
Comedonal is the mildest type of acne and doesn’t cause painful swelling or inflammation in most cases. It usually manifests as blackheads or whiteheads on the skin. Blackheads occur when dirt and germs under the skin’s pores cause the skin to appear dark. Males going through puberty, as well as young adults, will experience some form of comedonal acne in their lives. It may also occur because of allergic reactions to skin or hair products. But most acne lesions such as whiteheads and blackheads occur because of a hard blockage of excess sebum in skin pores.
- Inflammatory acne
Inflammatory acne is evident by swelling and redness under the blocked pore. It often forms nodules (swollen, painful, and sizable bumps); pustules (common pimples); and papules (small reddish blemishes).
- Cystic acne
Cystic is the most severe form of acne and consists of painful, inflamed breakouts which leave scars. It’s usually the result of infections in the skin and many OTC products and home remedies will exacerbate symptoms. Visit a dermatologist if you have cystic acne.
It’s safe to say there are more types of treatment for acne than there are types of acne. From OTC medicines to home remedies to dermatologist-prescribed products, there are many ways to combat acne breakouts. We’ve talked primarily about over-the-counter products, but here are just a few other treatment options (as well as a look at acne’s causes – and myths).
- Accutane – Accutane works to reduce the size of the skin’s oil glands and, therefore, the amount of oil that they produce. It also slows down the rate by which the skin produces cells within the pore. Your acne may get worse during the early stages of Accutane treatment but results are promising over the long haul. Accutane – also known as isotretinoin – was discovered in 1979 and is a vitamin A derivative. It’s administered in pill form and prescribed for up to 4 ½ months or more, depending on the strength of dosage.
- Photodynamic therapy – Photodynamic therapy is a relative newcomer to the world of acne treatment. Often reserved for moderate to severe acne because of the seriousness of the procedure and the downtime required following each treatment, photodynamic therapy reduces the size of sebaceous glands that produce oil. However, permanently reducing your skin’s sebum output may have long-term consequences because of sebum’s positive qualities, such as helping the skin to retain moisture and fighting bacteria.
- Chemical peels – Professionally-administered (don’t try it at home) chemical peels involve the use of acids to remove superficial areas of the skin. The strength of chemical peels varies from treatment to treatment, but work best on people with lighter skin because the acids used in the peel may cause darkening of the skin. It’s imperative that you talk with a dermatologist before using chemical peels for acne treatment if you have darker skin. The good news, however, is that people with darker skin can use OTC products that contain the same chemicals used in chemical peels (but at a lower percentage).
- Laser treatments – Laser treatment is often effective for treating light-to-moderate acne while showing potential for use in treating more severe breakouts. The light used in laser therapy works to kill bacteria that may cause acne. Laser therapy may also lower sebum levels and may even reduce inflammation.
- Light therapy – Light therapy uses non-laser sources of light that help prevent everyday pimples and pustules. More severe acne lesions don’t respond as well to light therapy, however. Light therapy has lower potential side effects than some treatments and is also relatively affordable. While it produces results, light therapy will not clear acne completely.
- Cortisone shots – One of cortisone’s function is to fight inflammation and cortisone often is injected directly into inflamed areas to provide relief. Many patients have experienced immediate benefits after cortisone is injected into an acne lesion. Dermatologists regularly use cortisone shots to treat skin inflammation.
- Home remedies – Let’s not forget home remedy treatments for acne – of which there are plenty. For instance, many people have tried lemon juice, an excellent antioxidant thanks to its vitamin C. Others use baking soda paste, which kills bacteria and absorbs oil, while others use an oatmeal face mask because oatmeal also absorbs excess oils from your skin. Other DIY treatments include a honey and cinnamon facial mask, green tea, and steam therapy.
3. Causes of acne
Some of us grew up with parents telling us to quit eating potato chips and other greasy food because they cause acne. Fact is, gobbling down chips and chicken wings will ruin a well-balanced diet but they won’t cause you to break out in pimples. Stress, on the other hand, can contribute to acne’s formation, but a steady diet of junk food just gives you indigestion, among other potential health issues.
Another myth is that poor hygiene is a factor in acne’s formation. Dirty skin, however, doesn’t cause acne and, in fact, scrubbing the skin too hard with harsh soaps and chemicals can worsen the problem.
Biologically speaking, acne’s causes are traceable to genetic predisposition – if one of your parents had acne, the odds are better that you’ll get acne. It’s the same with male pattern baldness. Hormones also play a role in acne’s development.
Scientifically speaking, acne is a disorder of the sebaceous glands below the skin. The glands produce oil and may increase in size due to hormones, while skin cells may become sticky and block pores with acne-causing bacteria. As the bacteria increases so does the appearance of acne on your skin.
As an aside, if you use supplements that contain steroids as part of your fitness or body-building routine, your chances of getting acne are increased.
4. Shaving with acne
- Use warm water and an anti-bacterial cleanser before you begin shaving. Doing so softens the pores and opens them up.
- Shaving creams or oils that contain tea tree oil help your razor glide more easily over the skin.
- Shave with the grain (i.e., the direction in which your hair grows).
- Wash your face thoroughly after shaving to remove excess oils and shaving cream.
- Avoid shaving too closely if your acne is extensive. Leave a short stubble instead.
How We Chose the Best Men’s Acne Products
Acne treatments come with different ingredients and formulas, but our method for choosing the best acne products is hardly top-secret. Like with all of our “best of” reviews, we looked for products that have plenty of positive reviews and a strong track record of delivering proven results over time. We ignore products that promise a quick-fix or aren’t backed by sound science. We like products with natural ingredients that didn’t determine our final choices. We think you’ll be well-served by the products listed here.
As always, we’d love your feedback and questions. Do you have a favorite acne treatment not mentioned here? Or, have you tried one of the products listed above? Let us know!
Until next time, friends.