best anti-acne products for teens

Puberty is hard. It’s not enough your body’s changing, your parents are still treating you like a baby, and your crush doesn’t even know you exist.

Your skin has in it for you, too. As soon as puberty hit, your face got covered in big, angry, red pimples that just won’t go away – no matter how much you scrub your face raw. Argh!

Acne teen is common, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. With a good skincare routine in place, you can say goodbye to pimples and get your clear skin back.

Here are the best anti-acne products for teens:

What Causes Teen Acne?

The main cause of teen acne is – you guessed it – hormones.

During puberty, androgen hormones increase, triggering sebaceous glands to produce more sebum (oil) than your skin naturally needs to stay soft and moisturised.

The excess gets stuck in your pores, where it mixes with dead skin cells and other gunk. Overtime, this mixture gets so bigger, it clogs pores. Cue blackheads, whiteheads, and – when the P. Acnes bacteria joins the party – pimples.

Related: How To Treat Teen Acne

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that banishes shine, pimples, and blackheads? Download your FREE “Best Skincare Routine For Oily Skin” cheatsheet to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):

cerave foaming cleanser review

Best Cleansers

What To Look For: Foaming, pH-balanced cleansers

Foaming cleansers use surfactants (ingredients that help oils mix with water so they can be rinsed away) to remove every last trace of impurities, makeup, and excess oil. The catch? A lot of foaming cleansers have a high pH that disrupts the skin’s acid mantle, making it easy for acne bacteria to thrive. Stick to cleansers with a pH of 6.5 maximum. How do you know you’ve gone too high? Your skin feels tight and dry afterwards. That squeaky clean feel? It’s a sign you’re overdoing it.

Top Pick: CeraVe Foaming Cleanser ($17.99)

Did you know that harsh and drying cleansers damage your skin’s protective barrier and disrupt the skin’s pH, creating the perfect environment for acne to thrive? CeraVe Foaming Cleanser doesn’t do that. It strikes the perfect balance between effective cleansing and tender loving care. It effortlessly removes every trace of dirt, makeup, and excess oil from your skin, preventing all these impurities from clogging your pores and aggravating breakouts. At the same time, it doesn’t strip your skin bare and dries it out, so that your skin doesn’t get inflamed, leading to another flare-up. The bottle is huge and will last for ages, too.

Available at: Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, and Ulta

Active Ingredients: Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine and Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate.

Benefits: Cleanses skin without drying it out.

Cons: May be drying for dry skin.

Skin type: Oily and acne-prone.

Fragrance-free: Yes.


  • First Aid Beauty First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser ($24.00): A gentle foaming cleanser loaded with soothing agents to cleanse skin while calming down inflammation and redness. Available at Selfridges and Sephora.
  • La Roche Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash for Oily Skin ($18.99): A gentle foaming cleanser that removes dirt and impurities without drying out skin. Available at La Roche Posay and Ulta.

Related: My Full Review Of CeraVe Foaming Cleanser

Best Spot-Treatments

What To Look For: Sulfur

While other spot treatments (think Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid) take their sweet time to work, sulfur gets rid of active pimples faster than anything else I’ve tried. This mineral that targets acne on multiple fronts: it kills the bacteria that cause acne, It helps exfoliate dead skin cells, dries out blemishes, and reduce oiliness. The catch? Sulfur is very irritating. Use it as a spot treatment only (NEVER as a face mask, no matter what the packaging says).

Top Pick: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion ($17.00)

I know what you’re thinking: is using a drying lotion a GOOD thing? In this case, yes. This lotion uses sulfur to dry out pimples, so they shrink and disappear faster. Hello clear skin! Calamine helps calm down the inflammation and redness that always comes along with pimples, while salicylic acid gives the formula an exfoliating boost. Just remember to shake it before using it to help the powder mix with the liquid.

Available at: Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Nordstrom, Selfridges, and Ulta

Active Ingredients: Sulfur.

Benefits: Gets rid of pimples fast.

Cons: May dry up skin, if abused.

Skin type: Acne-prone.

Fragrance-free: Yes.


  • Indie Lee Banish Solution ($21.00): This solution uses a mix of sulfur and salicylic acid to shrink pimples in just a couple of days. Available at Credo Beauty, Revolve, and Ulta.
  • Neutrogena Stubborn Acne Spot Drying Lotion – Fragrance Free ($19.99): If you have stubborn acne that won’t go away, this baby can save the day. It contains 10% sulfur to give pimples the boot and 4% niacinamide to calm down redness and irritation. Available at iHerb, Neutrogena, Target, and Ulta.

Related: Sulfur: Good For Acne, Bad For Skin?

Paula's Choice Clear Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution 2% BHA

Best Exfoliants

What To Look For: Salicylic Acid

While every exfoliant out there (yes, glycolic acid and scrubs, I’m looking at you) promises to get rid of acne, Salicylic Acid is the only one that can do the job. Also known as Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), this oil-soluble exfoliant helps treat and prevent blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples in three ways. For starters, it exfoliates the surface of your skin, so dead cells can’t fall into your pores and clog them up. While it’s at it, it gets deep into your pores, removing all clogs (including blackheads and whiteheads) from within. It’s the ONLY exfoliant that can do this. Plus, it has anti-inflammatory properties that calm down redness and inflammation associated with acne.

Top Pick: Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength 2% BHA Exfoliant ($29.50)

Paula’s Choice has plenty of other BHA products to choose from, but Clear Regular Strength 2% BHA Exfoliant is my fave. Why? Unlike other BHA exfoliants, its toner-like texture sinks in immediately without leaving a tacky residue behind. Salicylic acid exfoliates skin and unclog pores to clear your skin of all kinds of acne, while green tea soothes inflammation and prevents premature aging.

Available at: Cult Beauty, Paula’s Choice, Selfridges, Sephora, and SpaceNK.

Active Ingredients: 2% Salicylic Acid.

Benefits: Exfoliates skin, unclogs pores, and gets rid of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads.

Cons: Lacks antioxidants.

Skin type: Oily, combination, and acne-prone skin.

Fragrance-free: Yes.


  • Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): Don’t let the name fool you. This exfoliant has both salicylic acid to unclog pores and glycolic acid to fade away the dark spots pimples sometimes leave behind. Available at Cult BeautySephora and SpaceNK.
  • The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid (£9.99): A basic salicylic acid exfoliant that unclogs pores. Just don’t expect anything extra. Available at Cult Beauty and Feel Unique.

Related: My Full Review Of Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength 2% BHA Exfoliant

Best Oil-Absorber

What To Look For: Zinc & Silica

It’s no secret excess oil production is one of the main causes of acne. When your skin pumps out too much oil, the excess gets stuck in your pores, where it mixes with dead cells and other gunk, clogging them up. Next thing you know, your skin is littered with blackheads and pimples. Zinc is a mineral that helps regulate the production of sebum, while silica absorbs excess oil. The result is the same: less oil, matte finish, bye bye acne.

Top Pick: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($5.90)

If your skin pumps out excess oil non-stop, you need The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%. Niacinamide is a good acne-fighter on its own that also doubles up as an anti-inflammatory agent to reduce redness and irritations. Plus, it hydrates skin to boot. But it’s zinc that does the real magic here. This mineral helps regulate sebum production. Less sebum = fewer breakouts. Just beware, zinc is drying. You want it to absorb excess oil, not ALL oil. If it dries out your skin, use it less often.

Available at: Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK, The Ordinary, and Ulta

Active Ingredients: 10% niacinamide + 1% zinc.

Benefits: Absorbs excess oil and helps with acne.

Cons: Can be drying.

Skin type: Oily skin.

Fragrance-free: Yes.


  • Byoma Clarifying Serum (£12.99): A hydrating serum with niacinamide and zinc to absorb excess oil while keeping skin softer and smoother. Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, and Ulta.
  • Q+A Zinc PCA Facial Serum (£9.00): Enriched with probiotics and zinc, it absorbs excess oil and soothe inflammation. Available at Sephora.

Related: 3 Little Known-Acne Fighters That Actually Work

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturising Facial Lotion

Best Moisturiser

What To Look For: Oil-Free Moisturisers

Most moisturisers out there contain natural oils that create an occlusive barrier on the skin to keep moisture in – and in the process, clog your pores and give you acne. Oil-free moisturisers don’t use oils. Instead, they’re loaded with humectants, a fancy way of calling ingredients that draw moisture from the air into your skin and lock it in. Your skin has all the moisture it needs to be soft and supple without adding an extra drop of oil to it. The best humectants are hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and urea.

Top Picks: CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($16.99)

If you have oily skin, you’re tempted to skip moisturiser. Big mistake. What you need is an oil-fee moisturiser that strengthens your skin’s barrier without clogging pores. CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion fits the bill. It has hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin, ceramides to lock in moisture, and niacinamide to treat acne, soothe inflammation, and reduce redness. Everything your teen skin needs, basically.

Available at: Asos, Look Fantastic, and Ulta

Related: My Full Review Of CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

Best Sunscreen: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60 ($19.99)

Yes, you NEED sunscreen. UV rays cause inflammation. Guess what acne is? An inflammatory disease! Skip sunscreen and you’re sabotaging your entire routine. If you’ve lost all hopes of finding a sunscreen that doesn’t make you look even more of a shiny frying pan, give La Roche Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60 a last try. The creamy texture dries down to a matte finish quickly and is enriched with oil-absorbents to soak up the excess oil on your skin. The best part? It can withstand heat and humidity better than most sunscreens and works well even in water for up to 80 minutes.

Available at: Dermstore and Ulta

Related: The Best Sunscreens For Oily, Acne-Prone Skin

The Bottom Line

Teen acne is often cause by a hormonal imbalance during puberty. But that doesn’t mean you just have to put up with it. A simple skincare routine of cleansing, exfoliating, sunscreening, and moisturising goes a long way to prevent and treat teen acne. If you need the extra help, add sulfur to get rid of pimples and zinc to absorb excess oil.