What is the best acne treatment?

Our guide to choosing the right acne treatment for you

Written by
Kate Iselin
Medically reviewed by
min read
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An upside of looking for a treatment for acne is that there are so many options out there.

Browse through any skincare store or website and you’ll be presented with a seemingly endless amount of products: vegan acne treatments, oil-free acne treatments, acne treatments that moisturise, acne treatments that shrink pores... we are spoilt for choice.‍

Unfortunately, the large amount of treatments available can also make it difficult to find the right one for you.

When every treatment is advertised as the 'Number #1 Effective Game-Changer' that everyone has to have, it’s really hard to tell the difference between the products that actually work and the ones that are just advertising well.

So here’s our guide to choosing the right treatment and ingredients for adult acne — so screenshot it, save it on your phone, or bookmark it and use it as a reference next time you’re standing in the skincare aisle.

Debunking the myths

Before we dive into the ways to treat acne that actually work, it's important to debunk 2 common myths in the skincare world:

Myth #1: If a product is advertised by a celebrity, then it must be effective

This isn't necessarily true — it just means they have a good advertising budget.

Prior to making any skincare purchase, check out the reviews left on the website and on social media by actual customers.

Many top skincare brands and stores are well aware of the power of reviews, and encourage shoppers to be detailed and thorough when reporting on their experience with a product. Some reviews even highlight the person’s age and prior skin conditions as well.

Learning that a top model was paid to endorse an acne cream isn’t life-changing, but reading about how other people your age with acne have responded to a product absolutely can be.

Myth #2: Good skincare has to be expensive

Some skincare products cost a few hundred dollars — and no, that’s not for a lifetime supply.

Top-shelf, luxury skincare products might be a bit of fun for those who can afford them, but we do not believe that you need to spend big to achieve good skin.

There are plenty of high-quality, effective products out there that are also affordable, and it is completely possible to invest in a good skincare routine for less than a hundred dollars.

If you see a so-called miracle product that costs hundreds, look carefully at what it contains and what it promises to do. We bet there’s one out there that’s almost identical, minus the massive price tag.

6 acne-fighting ingredients to look for

The most important information isn’t written on the front of the packaging, it’s written on the back.

Get in the habit of reading through the ingredients of any product you buy to make sure that it contains things you actually want to be putting on your skin, and it's a foolproof way of finding the best acne treatments for your individual circumstances.

Here are some ingredients to look for if you have acne-prone skin:

Salicylic acid

A mainstay of treatments for acne, salicylic acid softens keratin, which makes dry and rough skin easier to remove from our pores and faces [1], and also breaks down comedones [2].

Products containing salicylic acid are effective at vanishing blackheads and whiteheads and lightly exfoliating skin to remove dead skin cells. Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash unclogs debris and trapped oils in the pores, clears away acne-causing bacteria and reduces the formation of blackheads and whiteheads. And, you can use it to target acne across your face, chest and back.‍

Benzoyl peroxide

A stronger ingredient than salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide kills the p. acnes bacteria that can cause acne vulgaris [3]. Benzoyl peroxide is strong, so it’s suited to people with more severe cases of acne. Products containing benzoyl peroxide are effective at treating acne over time, but can also cause dry skin so should be used before moisturising.‍


The ultimate acne fighter. You can learn all about this powerful ingredient in our full Guide to Retinoids, but in a nutshell, it rapidly reduces acne lesions that are already present on the skin, prevents new ones from forming, and helps reduce inflammation and redness as well [4].

Topical retinoids can make your skin photosensitive, so don’t forget your sunscreen after using [5].‍ Keep in mind as well, that you may experience skin irritation, dryness or redness when you first start using retinoids, particularly if you have sensitive skin. However, there are ways to manage this initial period while your skin gets used to the new ingredient.


A real must-have ingredient, niacinamide reduces sebum production, which in turn can reduce acne [6]. It also reduces oiliness, redness, blotchiness, sallowness, and hyperpigmentation, while boosting moisture and hydration at the same time [7][8].

Azelaic acid

A gentle but effective ingredient, azelaic acid reduces active acne lesions and helps reduce redness, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation, and acne scars [9]. It also helps prevent acne from forming by killing off acne-causing bacteria.

This ingredient isn’t super well-known, but we love it — you can read our Guide to Azelaic Acid for more information on this quiet achiever.

Glycolic acid

Another acne-fighting acid, glycolic acid is one of the most popular types of AHA and it helps eliminate dead skin cells from the surface of the skin to gently exfoliate. This helps with skin texture issues — including but not limited to acne — helping you achieve a smoother, healthier, more glowing complexion.

How to find the best acne treatment for your skin

Over-the-counter products — those you can buy in stores — can be really effective against mild acne.

If that's your case, our Acne Kit features 4 powerful products that work together to banish breakouts for good:

But for more severe acne, or acne that just won’t go away no matter how many products you try, we recommend speaking with a medical professional.

Doctors and dermatologists can recommend products that are stronger and more effective than those available on shelves, and this strength and efficacy can be just what your skin needs.

Software’s custom treatments include pharmaceutical-grade concentrations of powerful acne-fighting ingredients such as azelaic acid, niacinamide, and retinoids.

Whether you're struggling with hormonal acne, cystic acne, whiteheads, blackheads or any other type of acne, complete our online consult and a local Software practitioner will create a customised medical-grade formula for you. This is compounded and delivered straight to your door and you can access ongoing follow-up support from your practitioner as you use your treatment.

While acne is annoying and it can feel out of your control, it is treatable and we can help.

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* Software lifestyle survey of 116 patients who were using
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