Acne Treatments – One-Step vs. Three-Step

Choosing between different acne treatments

When comparing acne products, it is oh-so-tempting to choose a super-simple treatment that promises great results with virtually no effort. If it’s possible to enjoy clear, beautiful looking skin in just 30 seconds a day, why not go for it?

Well, there may be good reasons why super-simple is not always super-smart when it comes to finding the best acne treatment.

Recently, we took a close look at a trio of one-step acne treatments to see how they measure up.

Acne Spot Treatments

There are dozens of over-the-counter spot treatments for pesky pimples. They claim that a quick dab of medicine on pimples is a good way to clear your skin.

Here’s why it’s not:

The appearance of a pimple is the end result of conditions that have been festering below the skin’s surface for 2-3 weeks. These conditions include pores clogged from oil and dead skin cells and the growth of P. acnes bacteria inside the clogged pores.

An acne spot treatment attacks a pimple at the end of its life cycle and does nothing to prevent future breakouts. To enjoy consistently clear skin you must stop pimples from forming in the first place. That requires a treatment that delivers medicine deep into the pores where pimples and blackheads begin.

Acne Cleansers

While there is nothing wrong with one-step acne cleansers (in fact, most multi-step acne treatments include a cleanser) dermatologists generally agree that using a cleanser alone will not clear up your acne.

And here’s why a cleanser alone can’t do the job: dirt alone doesn’t cause acne. While removing dirt from the skin’s surface is important, it doesn’t do anything to address some of the other causes of acne deep down in your pores.

Acne Prescriptions

You might assume that a doctor-prescribed treatment for acne is always more effective than an over-the-counter product. Surprisingly, you would be wrong.

In a clinical test, one over-the-counter system has been shown to clear acne faster than the leading topical prescription.*

Many prescriptions fight acne with antibiotics. Antibiotics are similar to benzoyl peroxide in that both control breakouts by targeting P. acnes bacteria. In recent years, doctors’ enthusiasm for antibiotics as the go-to acne treatment has declined somewhat because P. acnes bacteria can become resistant to them.

The good news is that P. acnes bacteria do not become resistant to benzoyl peroxide.

Three-Step Systems

A multi-step acne treatment like Proactiv+, containing both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, may be your best bet for clear skin if you suffer from mild to moderate acne.

Proactiv+ and similar multi-step systems don’t just treat pimples and blackheads after they appear, they also work to neutralize the skin conditions that can lead to breakouts. And using it takes just a few minutes, twice a day.

*Study participants suffering from mild to moderate acne using the most commonly prescribed generic acne treatment gel (as of April, 2014) took 4 weeks to achieve approximately the same reduction in total lesion count as achieved by study participants after just 1 week’s use of PA+. After 12 weeks use, total lesion count reduction data between the same 2 groups showed that PA+ was still twice as fast.