3 Little Known Anti-Acne Ingredients For Clearer, Healthier Skin

by Gio
little known anti-acne ingredients

Got acne?

Back in the day, you’d be drying your skin with benzoyl peroxide, exfoliate with salicylic acid twice a day every day and add a witch hazel toner to the mix… and then you wondered why your acne came back with a vengeance.

Truth bomb: drying out acne dries out skin, too.

When skin is dry, it plays all sorts of tricks on you. It stings and flakes. Your skin’s pH level goes through the roof. Your protective barrier breaks down so that everything irritates it. Cue inflammation, excess oils and breakouts.

Those days are over.

Don’t get me wrong. You can still use your salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide – they do get the job done. But they’re not enough. If you want to make acne heal faster and keep the breakouts away, you need to give them a helping hand.

Here are 3 little known anti-acne ingredients that help you clear up your skin faster:

Little Known Acne-Fighting Ingredient #1: Zinc

Zinc is a trace metal found in meat, nuts, whole grains, legumes and… your body. It helps wounds heal faster, protects broken skin from external, harmful stimuli and kicks acne’s ass.

Zinc fights acne in two ways:

  1. Regulates oil production: When your skin pumps out too much oil, the excess gets stuck in the pores – together with dead skin cells and bacteria. The clogged pore ruptures and a pimple rears its ugly head. Zinc tells the hormones that make sebum to slow down production to keep that from happening.
  2. Soothes inflammation: zinc has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation. Guess what acne is? An anti-inflammatory disease!

Now, here’s the catch: zinc alone can’t kill P. Acnes, the bacteria that is making your life miserable. If you’re dealing with active acne, you’d still need benzyl peroxide or another of the acne killers below.

BUT, if you’ve got acne-prone skin, adding zinc to your skincare routine helps the breakouts heal faster and prevents them from coming back.

Best Picks:

Related: Does Zinc Help Treat Acne?

Little Known Anti-Acne Ingredient #2: Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is the unsung hero of skincare. A dermatologist’s best-kept secret, it’s only now starting to get the recognition it deserves.

Made by the bacteria and yeast that live on your skin, azelaic acid is one of the most effective acne-treatments out there. Just to give you an idea, here’s how it compares to other common acne remedies:

What makes Azelaic Acid such a great acne-fighter? Let me count the ways:

The best part? Azelaic Acid works for all types of acne, including fungal.

Best Picks:

Related: Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster VS The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension: Which One Is Better?

Little Known Anti-Acne Ingredient #3: Linoleic Acid

Linoleic acid is an omega-6 essential fatty acid. Essential means your skin can’t produce it.

And that’s the problem. You see, healthy skin has a lot of linoleic acid. But when you have acne, its linoleic acid content plummets to the ground.

It makes sense that adding linoleic acid back into the skin helps you fight acne. Here’s how:

Like zinc, linoleic acid can’t single-handedly rid you of acne. But, together with azelaic acid (or another P. Acnes killer), it helps acne heal faster and keeps it from coming back.

So where do you find linoleic acid? Oils. Here are the best ones for the job:

  • Evening Primrose oil (75%)
  • Grapeseed oil (72%)
  • Hemp seed oil (55%)
  • Rosehip oil (45%)
  • Safflower oil (68%)

For the love of your skin, avoid oils high in oleic acid. If in doubt, stick to the list above. If it ain’t there, don’t try it!

Best Picks:

  • Kiki Health CBD Oil 5% (£40.00): available at Cult Beauty
  • Now Foods Grapeseed Oil Sensitive Skin Care ($5.79): available at Walmart.
  • Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil (£19.50): available at Feel Unique and Look Fantastic

Related: Why You Should Fight Your Acne With Oils

The Bottom Line

Fighting acne isn’t all about killing the bacteria P.Acnes. If you want to make the breakouts go away faster and keep them gone, you also need to regulate oil production, soothe inflammation and exfoliate skin regularly. These little known anti-acne ingredients will help you do just that.

Have you tried any of these little-known anti-acne ingredients? Share your experience in the comments below.

Affiliate links.



kaido March 10, 2019 - 3:28 pm

Those Azelaic Acid studies used 15% and above. The maximum OTC that I have encountered so far is 10%, so will it actually give the same results?

Gio March 16, 2019 - 12:19 pm

Kaido, maybe not the exact same results, but you’ll definitely see an improvement. It just works more slowly.

Vitamin C is shown to work best at 15%, but there are studies that show it’s effective even at 3%. Obviously, it takes longer to see results with smaller concentrations, but that doesn’t make them useless!

Lauren W March 27, 2019 - 9:36 pm

Hi Gio! Can azelaic acid be used with salicylic acid? with vitamin c (i use timeless CE + ferulic acid)? I use both in the morning, before moisturizing/sunscreen. I’m intrigued by azelaic acid but don’t want to over exfoliate, and since I have fairly oily skin with blackheads/clogged pores/outbreaks of mild acne I don’t want to give up my SA! I use retinol at night so would want to incorporate azelaic in the morning, if at all (i think?) Thank you!

Gio March 29, 2019 - 2:22 pm

Lauren, it depends. I recommend introducing new actives when the old ones don’t give you the results you seek, not just to see what the hype is about. If you’re really curious though, why not alternate them and use them on different mornings?

Violet March 31, 2019 - 8:42 pm

Thank you for this helpful blog. I do need to say, I think it’s important to emphasize that extreme caution should be used by those with acne prone skin when adding rosehip seed oil to a regimen. Rosehip seed oil is at the middle of the comedogenic scale and it turns out that’s still kind of an important consideration that I neglected because I was so gung ho to put the linoleic acid to work for me.

With daily application of 4 drops, I created a mess of pores on my chin that are so clogged, I really can’t even explain how much worse I made the acne I was already desperate to clear. The clogs are so thick and so deep that for a couple of weeks, my chin swelled up like a balloon and the skin was stretched so tightly over the swelling that it had a hard surface texture and was completely numb to the touch.

After more than a month of taking Tylenol daily to get rid of the acute, constant throbbing, aching and itching that only comes from deep pore clogs, the results of using the oil are still with me. I’m going to have to double down on an AHA routine to fix this. And it’s my fault. I went to the web and not a doctor. But please help make sure this doesn’t happen to others.

Gio April 4, 2019 - 11:24 am

Violet, thank you for leaving a comment and warning others. I’m so sorry this happened to you, it’s awful. There is some evidence that rosehip oil helps with acne but, as everything else in skincare, everyone can react to the same ingredient differently. For some it can be a miracle cure and for others a nightmare. You’re absolutely right we should exercise caution when using oils for acne.

Andrzej S. May 27, 2019 - 5:00 pm

And what about the derivative of Azelaic Acid – Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate? Does it have an exfoliating property like AzA?

Gio June 4, 2019 - 8:50 pm

Andrzey, it’s thought to have the same properties as Azelaic Acid. I’ve seen studies it has skin-lightening and moisturizing properties, but nothing specifically on exfoliation.

Being_iyanab October 11, 2019 - 12:44 am

What about Mandelic Acid? I am currently trying Neostrata Clarifying Cleanser…

Gio November 8, 2019 - 11:49 am

Iyanab, it can help if your skin can’t tolerate salicylic acid. But it won’t do much in a cleanser. Acids need to stay on the skin to work.


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