Whether you’re battling full-on acne, or you’re trying to clear your skin and reduce blemishes and imperfections, we’ve put together a list of the best skincare for acne in the UK.
From cleansers to moisturisers, face masks, foundation, and more, each of these products has been proven to be effective on acne-prone skin.
We’ve also explained more about the causes of acne, and the ingredients to look out for – and which to avoid.
Feel free to browse the list and advice below, or click on the links in the box to the left if you want to jump straight to the most relevant section.
Around 40-54% of people over the age of 25 suffer from adult acne. It’s not just a skin issue either because having acne can affect your mood too. An E45 study found that 10 million people in the UK admitted to experiencing mental health issues as a result of their skin problems.
Acne is caused by the hair follicles on your skin getting blocked with excess oil, dead skin cells, or bacteria. These blockages can happen for a number of reasons, which is why acne shows up differently from person to person.
Maybe you get whiteheads overnight, or maybe you suffer from blind pimples (firm swellings beneath the skin’s surface). It could be you suffer from blackheads, or maybe you have cystic acne, which is possibly one of the worst forms of acne because you’ve got swellings, spots, and oozing pus.
It could be that you have a slow skin cell turnover rate, so your dead skin cells don’t shed as easily. It may be a genetic reason that leads to you overproducing oil.
Or you have hormone fluctuations that trigger more oil to be produced. It’s also worth checking to see whether products you’re already using may be contributing to your acne, and we’ve put a list of ingredients related to acne-prone skin at the bottom of this article.
To help you buy the best skincare for acne-prone skin, we’ve divided the list below by product type. We’ve also listed them in the skincare order we’d recommend using them.
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£10 | Buy now
Why we love it: Using this CeraVe cleanser for acne-prone skin is a great idea because it’s been developed to help kill acne-causing bacteria and is comedolytic, meaning it unclogs pores. It can also help to reduce redness because it has anti-inflammatory properties.
CeraVe products are developed by dermatologists and are fantastic for your skin because they are fragrance-free, paraben-free, and allergy tested. This makes them nice and gentle for acne-prone skin. Best of all the CeraVe products are non-comedogenic, which means they won’t block your pores.
The reason you want to go for the foaming cleanser option is that it’s better at getting deep into your pores to remove the excess oil and sebum. It cleanses your skin and removes oil at the same time.
This foaming cleanser also contains three essential ceramides that will help restore your skin’s moisture and prevent germs from entering by maintaining your skin’s natural protective barrier. All amazing ingredients to have when treating acne-prone skin. And all for a tenner.
£18 | Buy now
Why we love it: As you read in our What does face toner do – and why is it so important? guide, toner penetrates your skin quickly, hydrates it, and removes dead skin cells as well as any leftover cleaner.
Using a toner for acne-prone skin will also help balance your skin’s pH levels, which is vital if you suffer from blemishes, irritation, and inflammation. This is because, with acne, your skin can end up producing too much oil in an attempt to rebalance itself. Especially after a face wash that’s disrupted things.
With this in mind, we recommend the Pixi Glow Tonic as the best toner for acne because it helps tighten your pores, as well as remove dead skin cells. This is helped by the addition of ginseng, which increases circulation and oxygen to give your skin a boost in collagen production.
It’s also gentle on your skin because it contains aloe vera to help hydrate your skin and minimise the appearance of any enlarged pores you have.
£47 | Buy now
If you have the budget, or you’ve tried other, cheaper products and they haven’t worked as well as you’d hoped, give this spot and acne treatment from Perricone MD a go. Unlike other spot treatments that can be harsh on the skin, this spot from Perricone MD helps to get rid of the bacteria that cause blemishes and breakouts in a gentle, yet effective way.
It has the same lightweight consistency as a serum, which means it absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave any residue, and it contains a delicate balance of acids and skincare ingredients that clear and brighten the skin.
First off, it’s infused with lactic and succinic acid, these work together to exfoliate the skin and help support the normal function of your skin’s microbiome. This adds a healthy glow to the skin.
Then there’s citrulline, an alpha-amino acid that calms the skin and protects it from pollution and environmental damage; niacinamide, which brightens the skin while minimising the look of active spots and pimples; and squalane, which hydrates the skin.
We’ve been putting this hydrator to the test for the past two months and have seen a noticeable difference in not only how clear and calm our skin looks, but in how smooth it is. Highly recommend!
£40 | Buy now
Why we love it: Introducing a face mask into your weekly skincare routine is a great idea for acne-prone skin. This is because it helps draw out any impurities, stops oil building up, and makes your skin tone more even.
This acne face mask from Murad has lots of ingredients to benefit your acne-prone skin, including salicylic acid and earth clays kaolin, and bentonite.
This face mask not only absorbs dirt and impurities, but it also unclogs your pores and controls oil production meaning you should have less breakouts over time. The licorice root extract additionally helps calm and relieve your skin, so there’s less inflammation, and the use of sulphur helps dry out excess oil. So much so, Murad claims that 95% of sebum is removed after just one use.
Be warned though – clarifying masks are so effective that your condition may get temporarily worse before it gets better. This is a good thing, we promise (!), and is known as skin purging. This mask is really easy to put on and you just leave it on your face for 10 minutes before rinsing off.
£13.99 | Buy now
Why we love it: Many moisturisers on the market will be too heavy for acne-prone skin and full of stuff that could clog your pores and make your skin breakouts worse. This moisturiser, from acne experts Face Theory, however, has been specifically designed for oily skin.
In particular, this moisturiser for acne-prone skin contains niacinamide to reduce pore size and salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells.
The salicylic acid helps regenerate your skin cells and resurface your skin to leave it softer and brighter. It has chamomile to soothe your irritated skin; aloe vera; and green tea extracts in its ingredients.
Although it only comes in a small tube you won’t need to use it much each time and it should last you a while. Relatively, it’s not too pricey either.
£31 | Buy now
Why we love it: This is an exfoliator that you can trust to clean your skin and help deal with your current breakout. This is because it has a really gentle formula that helps reduce your blackheads.
It’s a non-abrasive formula with BHA salicylic acid meaning it will help remove your dead skin cells on the surface, as well as from deep within the pores. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that will help soothe your skin and give you a better overall complexion.
No wonder it’s an absolute TikTok favourite.
We recommend introducing an exfoliator, let alone one for acne-prone skin, gradually to make sure your skin doesn’t react and to give any irritation time to calm. That said, of all the many exfoliators for acne-prone skin, this is one of the most gentle. So much so that you can leave this on your skin after application rather than wash it off.
Read our full Paula’s Choice BHA Exfoliant review here
£27 | Buy now
Why we love it: The entire IT Cosmetics range has been developed with the help of cosmetic surgeons and the approval of dermatologists so you know they’re worth their higher price tag.
Not only does this concealer provide full coverage but it’s also a highly effective spot treatment that works in the background to reduce inflammation and redness. This is thanks to the addition of witch hazel and kaolin clay.
In fact, the use of clay means that over time this concealer can actually make your skin clearer overall. You can read more in our list of ingredients to look for when buying skincare for acne.
£9.99 | Buy now
Why we love it: This is the best foundation for oily skin and skin prone to acne skin that we’ve tried.
Not only is it a bargain – beating much more expensive rivals when it comes to consistency, staying power and mattifying prowess – but it’s also waterproof and sweatproof. Something that is a rarity in foundations for oily skin.
It manages to provide full coverage without making you look cakey. It works so well due to clever little mineral micro sponges found in the formula.
These spongers absorb any moisture on the face including excess oil.
The key ingredients you need to look out for when buying skincare for acne are as follows:
FURTHER READING: The truth about the acids lurking in your skincare | Skincare ingredient checker
When buying skincare for acne, try to avoid skincare products that increase the amount of oil on your face or those that risk blocking your pores. That doesn’t mean you need to avoid oil completely – in fact, failing to properly hydrate your face can actually lead to more sebum as your skin tries to compensate.
Instead, you’re going to want to avoid moisturisers that contain ingredients like petrolatum or mineral oils because they’re heavy and may block your pores.
Coconut oil similarly shouldn’t be used because it can block your pores, thus trapping dirt, sebum and dead skin cells inside. Lanolin is an ingredient you’ll regularly find in moisturisers and another one to avoid where possible because it has been known to clog your pores.
You may also want to avoid harsh exfoliators. Particularly avoid the ones with beads or alcohol, and never use rough cleansing pads and cloths.
There will be times when skincare for acne just doesn’t cut it and you need acne medication. The type of acne medication, however, depends on what type of acne you have. medical help for acne.
According to Chris Newbury (BPharm IP) of The Independent Pharmacy, “Mild acne typically consists of small concentrations of blackheads and whiteheads on the skin of the face.” These aren’t usually accompanied by inflammation or redness, and the breakouts don’t happen every day.
Acne medication for mild acne includes:
Moderate to severe acne means you have regular breakouts, which include cysts, papules, and nodules as well as whiteheads and blackheads, and your skin is always inflamed, red, sore, or irritated. In this case, Newbury suggests making an appointment with your GP or pharmacist – some pharmacies often online consultations – because modern to severe acne usually requires stronger treatments you can only get on prescription.
These acne treatments include:
Kat is a freelance journalist, photographer, and the founder of Simply Gender Free – a company dedicated to smashing gender stereotypes in kids’ products. As a mum of two, Kat is passionate about making the world a better place for the next generation