Top 10 Best Acne Treatment Systems for Adults of 2018

adult acne treatment, hormonal acne treatment, best acne treatment

I’ve been dealing with acne since the fifth grade. I’ve dealt with it all from stubborn comedones to painful cystic acne that makes you feel like you’ve got a baseball growing out of your head. It did not go away when I hit my twenties and, left to its own devices, I’m fairly certain it would never go away. Which is why I am not leaving it to its own devices.

What is acne?

Your skin is covered millions of tiny pores. On your face alone, there are around 20,000 pores. Below each one is a follicle and a sebaceous gland. The follicle’s job is the grow hair. The sebaceous gland is there to produce sebum, which is the natural oil our body makes to ensure our skin is healthy and doesn’t dry out. Sebum travels up the pore and spreads onto your skin, carrying shed dead skin cells with it.

Or that’s what it’s supposed to do, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes the sebum and skin cell mixture gets stuck in the pore. Voila, we have acne. So now the opening to the pore is blocked but the sebaceous gland is all, “That’s none of my business,” and keeps doing its job to secrete more oil. So now you’ve got a pore that is clogged but continues to fill up with more and more sebum and shed skin cells.

This is around that time you go, “Oh crap. There’s definitely going to be a zit here.”

The pressure keeps building as the pore swells. At this point, the rougue pore has a few options.

If the sebum blockage is open to the air, it’s called an open comedo. You know it as a blackhead because the sebum plug darkens when exposed to air.

If the blockage is covered by skin, often from built up dead skin at the surface, it’s a closed comedo or whitehead.

A clogged pore is about the coziest environment for bacteria to settle in and multiply. So if bacteria find the clogged pore and infect it, we now have a pustule or pimple. This causes inflammation and your body reacts by sending in its best bacteria fighters: white blood cells. The result of this battle is pus.

If a pustule forms and the pressure in the follicle becomes too great, remember that idiot sebaceous gland is obliviously hard at work, the walls of the follicle can actually burst. This can allow sebum, bacteria, pus, or all of the above to spread into other pockets deep under the skin that don’t have a pore as an outlet to the surface. We now have cystic acne. Ouch.

What causes acne?

Okay, so what sets this off in the first place? Most of the time, it’s testosterone which is a hormone that does a lot of different things in your body but also tells your sebaceous glands to work overtime. When you have spikes of testosterone in your system, you’re more likely to get slammed with acne. Puberty and people who need testosterone injections are great examples. Even the breakouts people get around their menstrual cycles are caused by a rise in testosterone levels.

We can’t 100 percent blame testosterone though. A build up of dry skin, genetics, adding excessive oil to your face through makeup or otherwise, and even some medications can cause acne to crop up too. But one of the biggest causes of acne is stress. So if you’re taking care of your skin, but your overwhelm is turned up to 11, take a breath and try adding some self care into your skin routine. There’s some possible data that dairy and large intakes of simple sugars can increase the acne levels, but it’s not definitive. If you’re desperate, it’s something you can try cutting out.

What doesn’t cause acne?

Pizza. People love to blame greasy foods for acne and for years pizza was the target culprit. Modern studies show the only way greasy foods will cause acne is if you actively rub them on your face. So wash your hands after eating those cheese fries and you’re good. Pizza is good and pure and nothing can stop me.

Common Acne Treatments.

Benzoyl peroxide. This is probably the most effective treatment we’ve got. It kills acne-causing bacteria and helps clear the excess oil out of your pores while reducing inflammation. But too much of a good thing and it can dry your skin out. You always want to start slow and see how your skin responds. It will also bleach your fabrics so keep it off the towels and pillowcases you like.

Salicylic acid. This is a beta hydroxy acid that comes from willow and birch trees. You can find more information about how awesome BHAs and AHAs are in my body peels post. Salicylic acid is absorbed deep into your pores and clears out oils and built up dead skin, while creating an inhospitable environment for future zits. It can cause stinging to those with sensitive skin.

Sulfur. Sounds weird but it works. Sulfur kills bacteria and cleans out oil and dead skin. It can be drying and isn’t usually used alone. Just be aware that it isn’t always easy to hide the sulfur smell (think boiled eggs) but some products do better than others.

What if your acne gets worse?

Don’t panic. With some treatments, particularly rentinol, your acne can get worse before it gets better. Stick it out as long as you can.

How long do treatments take to work?

I wish any treatment system was an overnight fix, but that’s not possible. You may begin to see some improvement within a week of starting the treatment but it’s recommended that you give a system six weeks to decide if it’s really not working. It takes time for your skin to adjust and for the blemishes that already existed when you started to resolve and heal. Does that sound like forever when you’ve got painful zits? Yes. Unless otherwise advised by your system, double down on your acne spot treatments to get you through.

Which acne treatment system is right for me?

That’s really hard to answer. Everyone’s skin and biology is different. Some systems will work great for some and do nothing for others. That’s why I’m making this list. I’m going to go over the best on the market today and outline who these systems might be great for and who might want to avoid which.

1. Glytone Acne Clearing System

adult acne treatment, hormonal acne treatment, best acne treatment


This four piece acne treatment system by Glytone is great for oily skin, combination skin, and especially if built up dry skin is one of your trouble areas. This kit contains a foam cleanser, a toner, and two spot treatments–a lotion and a gel. The foam cleanser and toner both use salicylic acid as their active ingredient to dry up oils, kill bacteria, and as a gentle acid peel. The salicylic acid removes the top layer of dry, dead skin cells, preventing dead skin from blocking pores. I like that there are two spot treatments with different active ingredients because it seems like some people react better to one than the other. The lotion uses concentrated salicylic acid to treat problem spots and the gel uses benzoyl peroxide which his generally considered stronger than salicylic acid.

Each of these products is to be used one to three times a day as your skin tolerates it. As impatient as you might be, start slow. Start with once a day and see how it goes. These treatment can dry your skin out if you overuse them. You can even drop back to every other day if you need to. Drying is good–we just need to find the right balance. If your skin can handle an aggressive and highly effective treatment, this is great. If you have very dry or sensitive skin, you might want to skip this one. Be aware that benzoyl peroxide can stain fabrics so if you go to bed with it on, use a pillowcase you’re not attached to. I really like that you can buy the cleanser, toner, lotion, and gel separately because, inevitably, you end up going through one product way faster than the others and this way you don’t have to buy a whole new kit. I featured the Glytone Tinted Spot Treatment in my best acne spot treatments guide.

Price: $110

Buy the Glytone Acne Clearing System here.


  • Uses salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide
  • You can buy the products separately
  • Oil free and non-comedogenic
  • Aggressively treats even deep acne
  • Spot treatments go on clear


  • Contains parabens and silicones
  • Not for sensitive skin
  • Can be too harsh for some

Find more Glytone Acne Clearing System information and reviews here.

2. Nerd Skincare Acne Treatment System

adult acne treatment, hormonal acne treatment, best acne treatment


The Nerd Skincare Acne Treatment System is a unique take on treating acne through science. Overall, most acne treatments work by killing bacteria and drying up oils, which does work don’t get me wrong. But that process can be very harsh on your skin and cause drying, redness, and peeling. Nerd Skincare’s founder, Evelyn Chen, has very sciencey degrees and decided to try a different approach. As I’m sure you’ve read concerning gut flora and such, there are good and bad bacteria on our bodies. Many acne treatments act like antibiotics and kill everything. Nerd Skincare instead uses vegan probiotics to strengthen your good bacteria and give them the tools to fight the bad bacteria for you, leaving you with a balanced and healthy face ecosystem. Which I think is incredibly clever. Best thing about it is that means no side effects. No drying, no redness, no peeling.

It’s a three step program of cleanser, “lotion,” and cream. I wish the instructions had been a little more clear as at first I thought the eyedropper bottle in the middle was a spot treatment. The cleanser is super creamy and feels lovely, but if you get it in your eyes you’ll be sad. The “lotion” is a clear, watery liquid that you apply next to the affected areas of your face. Follow that up with the silky cream to prevent any drying. None of the steps have any kind of smell which is really neat feels quite clean. My partner saw results in a week and it took me, and my hormonal self, two weeks to really notice serious improvement. I’ve had a couple of hormonal zits since using it, but nothing like before and they don’t stick around long. I plan on sticking with it.

I was sent the Nerd Skincare System to try out, but made it very clear that was not a guarantee of a positive review or even that I would review the product at all. It’s important to all of us at Heavy that we are upfront and honest with any companies we communicate with, but more importantly that we are upfront and honest with our readers.

Price: $161.72 (17 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Nerd Skincare Acne Treatment System here.


  • Uses probiotics, sulfur, and botanical extracts
  • No side effects
  • Perfect for sensitive skin
  • Free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, fragrances, dyes, foaming agents, and silicones
  • Cruelty free
  • Skin feels awesome


  • Sells out fast
  • May not be strong enough for everyone
  • Won’t make oily skin less oily
  • Watery lotion is a little finicky to work with

Find more Nerd Skincare Acne Treatment System information and reviews here.

3. Mario Badescu Acne Control Kit

adult acne treatment, hormonal acne treatment, best acne treatment

Mario Badescu

The Mario Badescu Acne Control Kit comes with five products that form a daily skincare routine that can zap zits from your life. Some systems are targeted using only one active ingredient to treat your acne. This system uses around seven. This is throwing the kitchen sink at your acne, which, when you’re not sure what is going to work for you is, frankly, fantastic. The Acne Facial Cleanser exfoliates with salicylic acid and soothes your skin with aloe vera and chamomile while the Special Cucumber Lotion works as an astringent to dry up acne and reduce the size of your pores. The Drying Cream treats small zits under the skin with sulfur and zinc oxide. The Drying Mask uses Kaolin clay, calamine, and sulfur to target larger, surface zits. And the well-known Drying Lotion is a super strong spot treatment that I featured in my best acne spot treatments guide.

First things first, I really wish they could come up with some less boring names for these products but that’s neither here nor there. This wide range of active ingredients works fast and works with a wide range of skin types. I like that you can buy each product separately and that the zinc oxide helps make oily skin less oily overall.

Price: $77

Buy the Mario Badescu Acne Control Kit here.


  • Uses salicylic acid, sulfur, botanical extracts, calamine, Kaolin clay, camphor, and zinc oxide
  • Helps reduce oiliness
  • Products available seperately
  • Works fast
  • Made in America
  • Cruelty free


  • Contains parabens, sulfates, and silicones
  • Spot treatment isn’t clear

Find more Mario Badescu Acne Control Kit information and reviews here.

4. Jan Marini Skin Research Teen Clean 10%

adult acne treatment, hormonal acne treatment, best acne treatment

Jan Marini

Okay, yes, it says “Teen Clean.” I don’t really care. None of the ingredients are age-specific and I know some of us feel like our skin is stuck in those troubled teenage years so if it works, use it. This system contains a 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide face wash, a 10 percent benzoyl peroxide treatment lotion, and non-comedogenic daily facial sunblock. The sunblock is important because that’s a lot of benzoyl peroxide and it can cause sun sensitivity. Benzoyl peroxide is straight up one of the most effective ways to dry up pimples, but it does run the risk of drying your skin too so go slowly and work your way up. A 10 percent concentration is serious business. If that seems a little too strong or your skin is on the sensitive side, you have the option to instead go for the 5 percent concentration of Teen Clean which has all the same products but the treatment lotion is milder on the skin.

Price: $80

Buy the Jan Marini Skin Research Teen Clean 10% here.


  • Rated 4.6 out of five stars by users on Amazon
  • Uses benzoyl peroxide
  • Option of 5 or 10 percent strength
  • Contains sunblock


  • Contains parabens and sulfates
  • May cause sun sensitivity
  • Benzoyl peroxide can stain fabrics

Find more Jan Marini Skin Research Teen Clean 10% information and reviews here.

5. Obagi Clenziderm M.D. System

adult acne treatment, hormonal acne treatment, best acne treatment


This system is a three step process using salicylic acid and 5 percent benzoyl peroxide. You use the Daily Care Foaming Cleanser followed by the Pore Therapy twice a day. These both use salicyilc acid to soak deep into pores to clean them out, dry up oils, and remove dead skin. Once a day, follow that up with a thin layer of the benzoyl peroxide Therapeutic Lotion. Because both of these ingredients can cause drying or peeling when you use too much (less so with salicylic acid,) if you start noticing drying, drop back to once a day or every other day. The cleanser and Pore Therapy contain menthol which has a great cooling tingle for those of us who have painful, swollen, or inflamed acne. Just be sure not to get these in your eyes or you’re in for a sting.

This is one of the products that is extremely effective, but has a bit of an adjustment period. When you first start using it, it’s common to have a slight burning sensation. And while your acne won’t get worse like it does at first with rentinol, it is common for your skin to redden and be very dry the first couple of weeks. Try to stick it out if you’re able because once you get past this stage, the results can be dramatic.

Price: $147

Buy the Obagi CLENZIderm M.D. System here.


  • Uses salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide
  • Dramatic long term results
  • Soothing menthol


  • Contains sulfates
  • Not for dry skin
  • Can have drying adjustment period
  • Benzoyl peroxide can stain fabrics

Find more Obagi CLENZIderm M.D. System information and reviews here.

6. Proactiv+ 3 Step Acne Treatment System

adult acne treatment, hormonal acne treatment, best acne treatment


Proactiv+ is pretty much required for any acne treatment system list. It’s the most well known and, for many, the most effective that people have found. Chances are, you already know Proacive+ exists and if you’re reading this guide, it’s probably not because you’ve forgotten. But as a reminder, Proactiv+ is still around and people still swear by it.

If you haven’t considered it before, here’s a quick rundown of the three steps you do twice a day. First, the Skin Smoothing Exfoliator uses a mild exfoliator, 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide, and glycolic acid to kill bacteria, dry up oils, and remove dead skin. Second, the Pore Targeting Treatment uses 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide to reach deep into pores. Lastly, the Complexion Perfecting Hydrator uses salicylic acid, botanicals, moisturizing oils, and hyaluronic acid spheres which, as I’ve explained in my luxury hand cream guide, are ultra-hydrating and reduce the signs of aging. This lotion will also lighten your skin, helping to hide acne scarring. I recently featured Proactiv’s Emergency Blemish Relief in my best acne spot treatments guide.

Price: $109.95

Buy the Proactiv+ 3 Step Acne Treatment System here.


  • Uses benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and botanical extracts
  • Lots of people have great success
  • Years of testing and perfecting
  • Lightens acne scarring


  • Contains silicone
  • Not oil free
  • Not everyone wants skin lighteners
  • Benzoyl peroxide can stain fabrics

Find more Proactiv+ 3 Step Acne Treatment System information and reviews here.

7. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Dermatological Acne Treatment System

adult acne treatment, hormonal acne treatment, best acne treatment

La Roche-Posay

The Effaclar Acne Treatment System by La Roche-Posay has been called the Proactiv+ for adults. It’s a three step system with a similar list of active ingredients and a drastically lower price tag. One ingredient that is unique to this system is beta-lipohydroxy acid which is a derivitive of salicylic acid. It’s gentler on skin and soaks in slower, delivering its exfoliating goodness evenly without missing anything. According to the NIH, beta-lipohydroxy acid also stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, two things we lose as we age which causes fine lines. I love that this acne treatment doubles as an anti-aging treatment. Like many systems there is a cleanser and toner that you use twice daily as your skin tolerates it and an acne treatment lotion you can use up to three times a day. The Dual Action Acne Treatment contains 5.5 percent benzoyl peroxide which can be drying and stain fabrics. Some people get positive results with this system within a week, and for others it can take more like six weeks.

Price: $29.99

Buy the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Dermatological Acne Treatment System here.


  • Uses salicylic acid, glycolic acid, beta-lipohydroxy acid, 5.5 percent benzoyl peroxide, and botanical extracts
  • Great for even deep, hormonal acne
  • Paraben free
  • Doubles as anti-aging


  • Can be too drying for some
  • Benzoyl peroxide can stain fabrics

Find more La Roche-Posay Effaclar Dermatological Acne Treatment System information and reviews here.

8. Eau Thermale Avène Cleanance Solutions Blemish Control Regimen

adult acne treatment, hormonal acne treatment, best acne treatment

Eau Thermale Avene

This is a three step system with the normal cleanser, toner, and treatment lotion, but that doesn’t rely on the active ingredients we’ve seen so far. Instead, Eau Thermale Avène uses patented ingredients like monolaurin, X-Pressin, and diolenyl. Monolaurin reduces your pores’ natural sebum production by 33 percent. Finally something to tell that jerk of a sebaceous gland to give it a rest. X-Pressin is a chemical exfoliator like glycolic acid or salicylic acid but it’s much more efficient. You get higher results at a lower concentration so it’s a great alternative for people with more sensitive skin who are easily dried out by other chemical peel agents. Finally diolenyl appears to bacteria as the type of cells in your sebum that they would normally eat, but when they try to eat it they can pumped full of antibacterials which kill them–that’s pretty hardcore. It’s also an anti-inflammatory which is great for sore, irritated skin.

If other treatment systems haven’t worked for you in the past, this is a unique approach to throw at your face. There is an adjustment period where you may find your acne is getting worse the first couple of weeks as the system treats your active blemishes. Stick with it. It’s part of the process. If you have very oily skin (and I’m raising my hand for this) the Cleanence line is great for you. The second step is a mattifying toner to help reduce shininess and the system will, over time, reduce your oil production.

Price: $29.50

Buy the Eau Thermale Avène Cleanance Solutions Blemish Control Regimen here.


  • Uses monolaurin, X-Pressin, diolenyl, salicylic acid, and citric acid
  • Unique targeted action against acne-causing bacteria
  • Product of France
  • Reduces oil production
  • Comes with SPF 50 sample


  • Contains sulfates and silicones
  • Initial adjustment period

Find more Eau Thermale Avène Cleanance Solutions Blemish Control Regimen information and reviews here.

9. Pca Skin Acne Kit

adult acne treatment, hormonal acne treatment, best acne treatment


This is a five step system that adds a spot treatment and non-comedogenic sun block to the standard cleanser, treatment lotion, and moisturizer regimen. The cleanser and acne cream both contain 5 percent benzoyl peroxide and gluconolactone which is a gentle chemical peel similar to glycolic acid. These are used twice a day as your skin tolerates it and followed with the Clearskin moisturizer which contains niacinamide, an ingredient that helps reduce your skin’s production of oils. The Intensive Clarity Treatment is only used at night because, along with salicylic acid, it contains retinol–a strong treatment which drastically unclogs pores and reduces the visibility of scarring.

There are some side effect associated with retinol though. It can cause sun sensitivity, making the included sun block even more important. It also is generally accompanied by an adjustment period. Translation: your face could get worse before it gets better. There may be a couple of weeks that are rough, but if you can tough it out, it’s one of the most effective and dermatologist prescribed treatments for acne.

Price: $40

Buy the PCA SKIN Acne Kit here.


  • Uses 5 percent benzoyl peroxide, niacinamide, retinol, gluconolactone, salicylic acid, and botanicals like arnica
  • Reduces oil production
  • Includes sun block and spot treatment
  • Retinol is extremely powerful, effective stuff


  • There is an adjustment period to get through
  • Benzoyl peroxide can stain fabrics
  • Benzoyl peroxide and retinol can cause sun sensitively
  • Not oil free

Find more PCA SKIN Acne Kit information and reviews here.

10. Neutralyze Moderate To Severe Acne Treatment Kit

adult acne treatment, hormonal acne treatment, best acne treatment


Lastly, the Neutralyze three step system balances your face to stop the acne cycle. It starts with a non-foaming cleanser that uses mandelic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid derived from almonds) as a mild chemical peel and exfoliant. The Clearing Serum uses 1 percent salicylic acid and mandelic acid to clean out pores and remove dead skin. The hydrating Synergizer helps to soothe irritated, red skin and balance the pH of your skin. This system is fairly gentle and good for sensitive skin of all types. It kicks in pretty fast but people with deep, cystic acne are probably going to need a stronger treatment regimen than this.

Price: $39.95 (44 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Neutralyze Moderate To Severe Acne Treatment Kit here.


  • Rated 4.5 out of five stars by users on Amazon
  • Uses salicylic acid, mandelic acid, and botanicals like green tea and cucumber extract
  • Free of parabens and fragrances
  • Works quickly


  • Won’t be strong enough for everyone
  • Contains tree nut products

Find more Neutralyze Moderate To Severe Acne Treatment Kit information and reviews here.

Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
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I have mostly clear skin, but still, love dermalmd acne serum. It dries out that painful, cystic acne (without a head) overnight. It also brings it to a head so you can clear it if you feel so inclined. It’s worked great for me because I typically pick my skin until it scars. The prevents that.


Read up!… wash and dry your face! Grab a sewing needle, a clear plastic “squirt bottle” with vinegar or rubbing alcohol in it, a couple of ear swabs or tissue paper, and head on over to your bathroom mirror!
Now… wherever you see a blotch of red, this is where intruders have formed at the base of your dermis layers (i.e., WITHINSIDE your skin!)!… and because these intruders are being attacked by your red blood cells, but have no exit for the intruders to be discharged, the amassed red blood cells expand sideways (parallel to your skin!), trapping your intruders, and growing like a vulcano attempting to release magma!
So… move your stuff into your bathroom, and stand close to your mirror! Place a drop of vinegar or alcohol on a finger… and then clean the tip of your needle with your drop! Next, looking into your mirror, aim your needle perpendicular to, and at the “dead center” of whatever red blotch you wish to target first, and with your fingers revealing the smallest amount of needle, carefully puncture your red blotch until the smallest amount of blood is revealed! Next, swab the surface of your skin to remove any excess blood (but, there should be VERY LITTLE, as your entry should just release a small amount!… as that’s all you’ll need!)! However!… if you’re brave enough, and you desire a speedier result!… consider trying a tight “triangular entry” puncture (i.e., if your red blotch is larger than not!)! Next, repeat this process for as many of the blotches as you care to tackle! Then wash and dry your face again!
The next morning, you should notice that your “entry wound(s)” has/ have turned a different color!… as your red blood cells have begun to give your intruders the boot!… after having spent the night murdering them! And so… enabling you to proceed to your next step!
Wash and dry your face! Now… with your “treated needle”, carefully open the now sealed end of your discolored entry wound(s) (if sealed!)!… then carefully, from the perimeter of a chosen red blotch (say, a half inch!), gently squeeze towards the center of your red blotch (but, not directly on!… nor down upon it!… as you DO NOT want to distribute dead intruders anywhere other than out the surface of your skin, through the egresses you’ve created!) to expell whatever “dead intruders” your red blood cells have murdered during the night! (If you do not see a discoloration, THEN DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SQUEEZE THE BLOTCH PERIMETER!… and simply REPUNCTURE the area once again, and await until the next morning!) Then swab the area with vinegar (or alcohol!), and wash and dry your face! Whether you notice that your red blotch(s) has/ have reduced in size or not, a cellular transformation has already occurred! And so… repeat the process with your needle once again (but, in a slightly adjacent area!)… swab the needle entry with vinegar (or alcohol!), wash and dry your face, and then leave your face until the next morning! The ensuing morning, you should see yet further evidence of the murder of your intruders! And if the aforenoted process is repeated daily, your face should be COMPLETELY blotch-free, within a few days!
Lastly, make a habit of wiping excess oil from your face!… with or without the use of cleaners! And because, the sweat of a days activities… and coupled with the air-borne dirt you run into!… will work to compromise your dermis! It’s that simple! And remember!… it’s not just your pores by which intruders can impact on your dermis! Your internal physiology.. and e.g., by way of your diet!… can send intruders to numerous subdermal locations! And so… simply addressing the surface of your skin, will do little to address the intruders that/ which have found access to your dermis’ base!
Please!… no emails!… Jesus is Lord!

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