Acne Ingredients


There are so many acne treatments on the market. How do you know which one is right for you? 

It’s all about ingredients. In this article, we’ve cover our Top 5 Acne Fighting Ingredients and what type of acne that works best for.


Mandelic Acid - A Flawless Must-Have for Everyone

Mandelic Acid is an AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy Acid) derived from Almonds. Mandelic is a superstar acne fighter because it not only exfoliates and unclogs the pores, but it is also a tyrosinase inhibitor, meaning it blocks the enzymes responsible for creating dark marks after a breakout. Mandelic Acid effectively prevents post-acne pigmentation and lightens existing scars. 

Mandelic Acid is more gentle than other acids because it penetrates the skin slowly, making it less tingly and more easily tolerated by sensitive and even rosacea skin. It is especially effective for darker skin tones who are unable to use other acids.

Here at Flawless by Melissa Fox, we adore Mandelic Acid. It is a staple ingredient in all of our Acne Regimen Kits, and is a must have for all types and severities of acne, ranging from the occasional blackhead to the most severe cystic acne.

Our Favorite Mandelic Acid Products

Retinoid - Ideal for Under the Skin Bumps

Retinoid is derived from Vitamin A and is the gold standard when it comes to anti-aging and non-inflamed acne treatment. If you’re prone to stubborn little bumps under the skin that never seem to come to a head but never go away, you need a retinoid in your life. 

So how exactly does retinoid work for acne? A retinoid gets deep in the the skin, deeper than any other acne ingredient we’ve mentioned. Retinoids stimulate skin cell turnover. Meaning that it encourages the production of new skin cells deep under the skin that push older cells to the surface more quickly, basically renewing your skin from the inside out.

Unlike an exfoliating acid that takes old cells off from the outside of the skin, a retinoid works by pushing old cells out from underneath. Together, exfoliating acids and retinoids are a match made in heaven, giving your skin a totally new lease on life! 

There are many forms of retinoid on the market. Prescription strength Tretinoin, or Retin-A, is the strongest form available. While effective, it can be severely irritating and difficult to use consistently, making it harder to see results.

Here at Flawless, we love a more gentle version: Retinyl Palmitate. Formulated by Dr. James Fulton M.D. who is also the creator of prescription strength retinoid, Retinyl Palmitate has been shown to be similarly effective with almost zero irritation.

It’s important to start slowly when introducing a retinoid into your routine. We recommend starting with 2-3 nights per week and working your way up to every night after a few weeks. 

Our Favorite Retinoid Products

Benzoyl Peroxide - Best for Cystic Breakouts and Spot Treating

Benzoyl Peroxide, or BP, is an oldie but a goodie. This oxygenating ingredient is extremely effective at killing acne bacteria and reducing inflammation, making this ingredient the best choice for under the skin cystic breakouts and tender, red pimples.

Available in strengths from 2.5% to 10%, Benzoyl Peroxide can be drying depending on the formula. That’s why we love Vivant Skincare’s BP 10% Gel Medication. Formulated with the highest concentration of Benzoyl Peroxide in a lightweight hydrating gel makes this ideal for all over use or as a spot treatment.

Benzoyl Peroxide can cause skin darkening on tan to deeper skin tones, so if that sounds like you, we recommend applying BP for a few minutes then washing off to avoid any unwanted side effects. A Benzoyl Peroxide cleanser is also a great option for darker skin types, as it washes off clean and allows you to still get the benefits of BP without any irritation.

Our Favorite Benzoyl Peroxide Products

Sulfur - Best for Those Sensitive to Benzoyl Peroxide

Sulfur is a naturally occurring element that is a great choice for cystic and hormonal breakouts. Similar to Benzoyl Peroxide, Sulfur is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It reduces excess oil production and is also keratolytic, meaning is helps exfoliate the pore to dissolve blockages.

How should you choose between Sulfur and Benzoyl Peroxide?

Because it is so gentle, sulfur is an ideal choice for anyone with acne-prone and sensitive skin. The mineral is typically effective for treating cases of mild to moderate acne, including inflammatory breakouts. It’s also useful in treatment masks, as it helps smooth and control oil without overdrying.

If your skin is not sensitive, we recommend sticking with Benzoyl Peroxide, as it is the gold standard for inflamed breakouts. 

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Salicylic Acid - Best for Blackheads and Oily Skin

Salicylic Acid, sometimes called BHA, is another type of exfoliating acid derived from Willow Bark. Salicylic Acid is different from Mandelic Acid in that it is oil-soluble, meaning it penetrates into oily, blocked pores instead of sitting on the surface. This makes Salicylic Acid ideal for blackheads and sebaceous filaments, but less ideal for inflamed pimples and pustules. 

Salicylic Acid is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. It is most commonly found in toners and peel pads. Salicylic is best for combo to oily skin, as its deep penetration may over-dry sensitive and dry skin types. 

Interested in combining active ingredients but don’t know how? Check out our Acne Regimen Kits. We’ve taken the guess work out of the question with these #FlawlessApproved routines that combine all the active ingredients we’ve talked about here in a way that is gentle and effective.