Acne is a nuisance at best and an embarrassing and painful condition at worst. If you’re prone to breakouts and want to know how to adjust your skincare regimen to prevent them, start with this list of the best acne treatments for men.
What Causes Acne?
The culprit behind acne is clogged pores, so when those pores fill with sebum (an oil your skin naturally produces), dead skin, sweat, and dirt, blemishes form. Sometimes inflammation, bacteria, and excess sebum can also contribute to acne.
Hormonal changes (especially during puberty) often contribute to breakouts, as they can cause your skin to produce more sebum that then can easily get stuck in your follicles. Some medications worsen acne. Stress also contributes, although it probably won’t trigger a breakout on its own. Your diet can also have an effect on your skin’s breakouts, especially if you eat a lot of simple carbohydrates.
Contrary to what some popular myths would have you believe, eating chocolate or fatty foods, skipping a shower, or wearing makeup won’t cause acne on their own, although they may contribute to a breakout.
Different Kinds of Acne
Acne manifests in a few different ways:
Blackheads. When your pores get clogged but remain open, air gets to the impurities and gives the impression that they are black.
Whiteheads. Whiteheads are similar to blackheads, although the pores remain closed, so the clogged pores look white.
Papules. These appear as little red bumps and can be sensitive to the touch.
Pustules. Pustules are pus-filled pimples that show up on the surface of the skin.
Nodules. Nodules are bigger bumps that appear deeper under the skin and can be painful.
Cystic Acne. Cystic acne results in big, pus-filled lumps deep under the surface of the skin that can be painful to the touch and may leave scars.
How Can You Treat Acne?
The recommended treatments for acne depend on the severity of your acne, so if you’re dealing with stubborn pimples, then you’ll want to start by upgrading your skincare routine. If that doesn’t help clear up your complexion, then make an appointment with a dermatologist.
Here are the typical treatments for different kinds of acne:
Blackheads and Whiteheads. Any products specially formulated to unclog your pores will work best on blackheads and whiteheads, as they are the result of impurities lodged in your pores. Just skip the heavy duty scrubbing—that may only make things worse.
Papules. This type of pimple is often the result of excess sebum production, so the best course of action is to stick to a regular skincare routine and use products that contain ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to cut down on the amount of oil on your face.
Pustules. Like papules, these are often triggered by excess sebum, so use products with the ingredients mentioned above. It can be tempting to pop pustules, but doing so will only open up your skin to bacteria, which may then cause worse blemishes.
Nodules and Cysts. If your acne manifests in deep-rooted nodules and cysts that are painful to the touch, you’ll definitely want to make an appointment with a dermatologist. In the meantime, use face washes for acne-prone skin and avoid touching your face. You may need to use prescription medication to fully get rid of this type of acne.
Skincare Regimen for Acne-Prone Skin
Whether you’re a teenager facing hormone-induced breakouts or are an adult with pimples, having acne-prone skin can feel like fighting a losing battle, but there is hope! This hope comes in the form of a healthy skincare regimen and help from a dermatologist. Here are some skincare routine tips for those with acne-prone skin:
Re-Evaluate the Products You Use. If your current skincare routine is just not cutting it, you may want to evaluate the products you’re using. Look for products labeled “non-comedogenic” or “oil-free” to ensure that they won’t contribute to your acne by clogging your pores. Look for ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or natural ingredients that can sop up excess oil and give your pores a deep cleaning. Natural formulas are the best, as they won’t irritate your skin.
Wash Your Face. You should be washing your face twice a day with a cleanser formulated for acne-prone skin. This should usually be in the morning and evening, although you may also want to wash after a workout as well. Find a cleanser that works for you and, if you get dry flakes or feel extra greasy, throw in an exfoliating cleanser a few times a week.
Give Toning a Shot. Adding a toner to your skincare routine after washing your face can be a great way to ensure that your pores are fully clean. Toners contain ingredients that get the last little particles of dirt and buildup out while also ensuring a balanced pH. Skip this if it doesn’t work for you or if you don’t have oily skin.
Use an Acne Treatment. Once you’ve patted your face dry with a towel or let it air dry, apply any acne treatment you have. These are typically gels or creams that you apply directly to breakouts. Just keep in mind that they may take a while to work, so you’ll need to consistently apply them.
Don’t Forget to Moisturize. You may think, especially if you have oily skin, that moisturizing is not necessary or may contribute to your breakouts, but that’s not the case. Moisturizers don’t just help dry skin, but they also work to keep your skin’s sebum production under control. Just look for products that are light and don’t contain oil.
Wear Sunscreen. Whenever you’re going out in daylight for longer than about fifteen minutes, you’ll want to apply sunscreen. This is essential for keeping your skin safe from UV damage, which can make skin irritation worse. Just look for a face-specific sunscreen that is non-greasy to avoid clogging pores.
Try Retinol Before Bed. Retinol comes from vitamin A and is an important ingredient in anti-wrinkle products that also works to draw impurities out of your pores. For this reason, it is hailed as a powerful tool to use against acne. The reason to apply this before bed is that it’s strong and may cause minor skin irritation or redness, especially with sun exposure, so use a retinol gel or cream before bed, and let it work overnight.
1. Blu Atlas Volcanic Ash Face Cleanser
Volcanic ash (bentonite clay) is your secret to keeping acne under control. It’s the star ingredient in this acne treatment for men. The small particles in volcanic ash act like sponges when they reach sebum, sopping up oil that your face doesn’t need to keep your pores from overflowing with gunk.
This fave wash also contains lactobacillus ferment to soothe skin and keep your microbiome balanced, pomegranate seed oil to deliver a dose of antioxidants, charcoal powder to help draw out impurities, and glycerin to ensure that your skin stays hydrated.
Who It’s Best For: This face wash is best when used as a daily cleanser to treat acne-prone skin, keeping it nice and clean. It is safe for all skin types, even sensitive skin, so everyone can reap benefits from it!
How to Incorporate It into Your Skincare Routine: In the morning (either when you first get up or take a shower), pour a little bit of this wash into your hand and rub it all over your face and neck. A little goes a long way with this face wash, so no need to apply a huge glob of the formula. Let it sit for a minute, or wash it off directly. Follow this with any toner or acne treatment you use, then moisturize (the brand has a great moisturizer that won’t clog your skin, too). Repeat the same at night and/or after exercising.
What Users with Acne Say: One reviewer calls this product the “holy grail,” stating “I’ve tried so many different face washes. As someone who has never really struggled with acne but wanted a clean face, I found most of them would just irritate my face. This is hands-down the best stuff I’ve used.” Another claims it helped both their adult acne and their son’s teenage acne! Most reviewers agree that this face wash is the best they’ve ever used.
2. La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment
La Roche-Posay is one of Europe’s top skincare brands, so it’s no surprise that they’ve created one of the best acne treatments for men. The key to Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Spot Treatment is the inclusion of benzoyl peroxide, which effectively peels away dead skin, oil, and trapped bacteria, keeping your pores from congestion.
This product is hailed as a miracle acne treatment for those dealing with breakouts, and this formula includes lipo-hydroxy acid (LHA) as an additional exfoliant, silica to soak up excess oil, and glycerin to ensure that your skin doesn’t dry out after application.
Who It’s Best For: Those who experience frequent breakouts or get frequent spots all over their faces will benefit from this product, which works quickly and stops breakouts in their path. It’s best for anyone looking for a fast solution after the first sign of a breakout. It works on blackheads, whiteheads, red bumps, and clogged pores.
How to Incorporate It into Your Skincare Routine: After cleansing your face, apply a thin layer of this cream to any affected areas up to three times daily if needed. Definitely follow with sunscreen if you’re planning on being outside, and use a moisturizer afterward. Benzoyl peroxide is naturally drying and can irritate skin, so start slow at first to see how your skin handles it. Expect to see results in a handful of days.
What Users with Acne Say: One user says, “I am acne prone, and this product has been a lifesaver. Could not be happier with the performance!” and others echo this sentiment, with someone else claiming, “I swear in just a few days of using it twice a day, my skin has completely cleared.”
3. The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
Azelaic acid is a powerful anti-acne ingredient that clears pimple-causing bacteria from your pores while also treating inflammation. 10% is at the upper limit of azelaic acid allowed in over-the-counter products, so you know this is a powerful product that won’t disappoint. The cream-gel is lightweight, works fast, and clears up breakouts, evening your skin’s tone and texture. It’s also available with a higher concentration of azelaic acid if you can get a prescription from your dermatologist, so there are additional options if this doesn’t work for you.
Who It’s Best For: Those with mild, non-inflammatory acne and those with more severe, inflammatory acne will benefit from this product. It’s also great for those hoping to rid their complexions of dark spots or acne scars. Keep in mind that this product may be drying, so don’t use it on dry skin or sunburned skin, and always follow with moisturizer.
How to Incorporate It into Your Skincare Routine: Twice a day after washing your face, apply this to the areas where you typically get breakouts. Avoid getting it too close to the eyes or mouth. Then, follow with moisturizer and sun protection. While using this product, avoid products that contain peptides, acids, vitamin C, EUK, niacinamide, or retinoids, so be sure to check your other product labels.
What Users with Acne Say: One review is titled “Miracle Worker,” while another says, “I can’t believe I finally found a product that can target both my acne/acne scars while being gentle.” A user with acne rosacea even claims that this has cleared up their skin completely!
4. MenScience Advanced Acne Pads
Not everyone has time for a complex, multi-step skincare routine. Something as simple as these acne pads from MenScience (which you simply rub across your face) can be a great alternative or substitute when you have to skip your regular regimen for some reason.
These pads contain maximum-strength salicylic acid to break down the bonds of dead skin cells clinging to the outer layer of the skin. They also contain glycolic acid to peel away buildup and vitamins A, C, and E as an added bonus. The result is cleaner, clearer skin.
Who It’s Best For: Men who can’t stick to a full skincare routine or are on the go and acne prone will benefit from this product. While most effective for oily skin, this product is safe to use on all skin types. Start slowly since this product has a high concentration of salicylic acid; spot test before using regularly, using just once a day at first. If your skin tolerates daily application, you can use these pads up to three times a day.
How to Incorporate It into Your Skincare Routine: To get the most out of these pads, wash your face twice a day, and use toner, spot treatment, and moisturizer. Throughout the day when you’re starting to feel a little greasy, or when you’re traveling or busy and don’t have time to wash your face and apply products, wipe these pads across your face for a little refresher.
What Users with Acne Say: A reviewer who says he developed acne in his 30s states, “I tried the MenScience Acne Treatment Pads after being very happy with their other products. This is the most effective product I have found. Within a week of use, my blackheads were disappearing or shrinking. After two weeks, 90 percent are completely gone.” Others love how easy it is to use and how quickly it produces results.
5. Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion
Let’s say you have an important work event or date you’re really looking forward to, and suddenly you notice a pimple or a breakout starting. That is exactly when you need Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion on hand! This product comes to the rescue, stopping acne in its tracks.
This spot treatment exfoliates and clears out pores with salicylic acid. Sulfur stops excess oil production, while calamine and camphor combat irritation, soothing skin.
Who It’s Best For: This drying lotion is a spot treatment rather than a prevention product, so only use it when you have acne in the moment. It’s best for men looking for a fast-acting solution who have non-inflammatory or inflammatory blemishes.
How to Incorporate It into Your Skincare Routine: Save this product for acne emergencies when you need an overnight solution. Although the product may separate, don’t shake the bottle. Just use a cotton swab to reach the bottom of the bottle, and apply the product directly to the pimples. Avoid getting it on other parts of your skin, and don’t rub it in. Keep it on the acne, and then rinse off in the morning or at the end of the day.
What Users With Acne Say: This product gets five-star reviews across the board, with many saying this is the best spot treatment they’ve ever used. One user even claims, “It works wonders on cystic acne,” and another says it “works like a charm every time.”
6. Hims Rx Skin Customized Acne Cream
If you have finicky skin and want to find a personalized treatment that targets your specific acne triggers, go straight for Hims Rx Skin Customized Acne Cream. Although the formula Hims delivers to you is customized, so the ingredients depend on your customization, it usually contains a blend of powerful anti-acne ingredients like tretinoin, niacinamide, or azelaic acid.
Schedule a virtual appointment with a professional at Hims before getting this prescription-strength cream. It’s easier than making an in-person appointment with a dermatologist. It may even be cheaper, too!
Who It’s Best For: Those with complex skin issues who want to find a customized blend or anyone dealing with long waits to see their local dermatologist will benefit from this cream. It may cause dryness in the beginning, so use it sparingly at first to give your skin the chance to adapt.
How to Incorporate It into Your Skincare Routine: Apply this acne cream after washing your face, and follow it with moisturizer to prevent dryness. Because it can cause sun sensitivity, use SPF 15 or more on your face when using this product. Depending on the formula, the product may interact negatively with other products, so check up on these interactions with other skincare products before adding this to your daily routine.
What Users with Acne Say: Reviews with this product mention time and time again how convenient and easy the whole process is and how great Hims’ customer service is.
7. Men-Ü Matte Skin Refresh Gel
This best acne treatment for men uses a lightweight formula packed with acne-fighting ingredients to give your skin a pick-me-up. Thanks to ingredients like willow bark and witch hazel that clean up acne-causing microbes, this gel is effective at both treating and preventing breakouts.
The formula relies on natural acids to exfoliate and clarify pores, then ingredients like glycerin and aloe to stave off any irritation and encourage soft, smooth skin. This is also a great go-to after shaving to keep razor bumps away!
What It’s Best For: Men with combination or oily skin who are looking for a reliable product can safely use this daily to treat and prevent breakouts. It’s great as an addition to a shaving routine and dramatically cuts down on ingrown hairs.
How to Incorporate It into Your Skincare Routine: After shaving and/or cleansing and drying, apply one or two pumps of the gel to your face. Massage it in gently, then give it some time to dry before using moisturizer. Use daily for best results!
What Users with Acne Say: Users agree that this wash “leaves skin very toned and fresh,” and many cite its ability to cut down on visible shine and make pores appear smaller.
8. The INKEY List C-50 Serum
This acne treatment work sovernight to get rid of breakouts, like this C-50 serum that addresses blemishes while also nourishing skin. It’s a combination of vitamins C and E that make this product a winner, plus salicylic acid to unclog pores and lotus extract to reduce the amount of oil your skin produces. This serum was created to target all kinds of skin issues, like acne, redness, and enlarged pores.
What It’s Best For: Men with inflammatory acne will get a particular boost from this product, as will men who are hoping to also address additional skin issues like wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, thanks to the inclusion of antioxidant vitamin C. If you have oily or combination skin, this is also a great option!
How to Incorporate It into Your Skincare Routine: Since all products that contain acne-fighting salicylic acid can be drying, patch test to see how your skin reacts before committing to regular use. Supplement your skincare routine by using this serum before bed instead of moisturizer or night cream; once you’ve washed and toned your face, apply a pump or two to your skin, and massage it in. Start off by using it just a couple of times a week until you’re sure that it won’t irritate your skin. You may also want to apply it to your back or chest if you often get pimples there!
What Users with Acne Say: Users rave about this product, calling it a “lifesaver” and claiming that it “really helps to reduce breakouts.”
9. Aesop Chamomile Concentrate Anti-Blemish Masque
Using skincare masks every once in a while is a great way to give your skin longer-term treatment while also giving yourself a chance to relax. Men deserve pampering, too, you know! If a mask and a bath sounds like your idea of a great Sunday evening routine, turn to this Aesop Chamomile Concentrate Anti-Blemish Masque, which uses clay to draw out all the grime that clogs your pores and leads to acne.
The mask also includes ingredients like chamomile to lower inflammation, tea tree leaf to suck out oil, and evening primrose to combat dryness. You also get the added benefits of toning from rosemary leaf and reduced irritation and redness from sage oil. Win-win!
Who It’s Best For: Men with oily skin who want to double down on their acne treatment and get some additional benefits will love this product. It works wonders on blemishes and skin that always seems to have one issue or another.
How to Incorporate It into Your Skincare Routine: Two times a week, apply some of this smooth, clay-like product to your skin, and let it sit there for about fifteen minutes before washing off. You probably want to use a cleanser beforehand to allow all of the benefits to sink in, and follow with a moisturizer in case there’s any residual dryness.
What Users with Acne Say: One user says, “I have those very big, red, and sore pimples that are hard to deal with on both of my cheeks and T-zone. However, after just one use, I can definitely see that some of them have dried up a bit; they don’t hurt as much, and you only need a thin layer all over the face or maybe a thicker pinpoint on sore pimples.” Other reviews agree that this is a miracle product for those with oily skin.
10. Assassin by Billy Jealousy Deep Exfoliating Scrub
Sometimes a regular cleanser just doesn’t cut it. In that case, use an exfoliating scrub every once in a while, like this product from Billy Jealousy. It uses both chemical and physical exfoliants, like walnut shells, almond meal, papaya enzymes, and sugar maple extract, to buff skin, preventing acne by keeping your pores free from buildup.
This scrub also uses natural oils like grapefruit peel and lemon fruit extract to deliver antioxidants and vitamin goodness to keep acne away. It won’t only help acne-prone skin but also tighten your face, nourish your skin, and help it appear more firm and youthful.
What It’s Best For: Men with oily or flaky skin who want a little extra help in the exfoliation department or those who also have aging concerns.
How to Incorporate It into Your Skincare Routine: Once or twice a week, replace your cleanser with this scrub. Shake the container before use, then apply a small amount to your skin with your fingers, and massage it in using circular motions. Then rinse off and follow with moisturizer.
What Users with Acne Say: One reviewer enthusiastically calls this “the best exfoliator on the market,” and users agree that it helps prevent acne.