What are best acne-fighting ingredients?

Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of people. While the first association you might have when someone mentions acne is teenage skin, adult acne is also common. Not to mention – with the pandemic and constant mask-wearing and all the stress, more people are breaking out. Why does acne happen? How can acne be treated and prevented? What are some of the most effective skincare ingredients against acne?

Acne is divided into comedonal and inflammatory. Comedonal acne are open and closed comedones with no inflammatory lesions. Meanwhile, inflammatory acne happen due to an inflammatory response and result in papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.

Acne happens because the pores get clogged. However, the cause of the clog varies. The culprit can be dead skin cells, excess oil, bacteria, and ingrown hairs. In some cases, hormonal imbalance can cause acne.

Mild and moderate cases of acne respond well to a consistent routine with skincare ingredients that are effective against acne.


Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble Beta-Hydroxy acid. It penetrates deep into the pores to clear them of bacteria, dead skin cells, and oil. Likewise, Salicylic acid can help calm inflammation. It gently exfoliates the skin and evens out the skin texture.

Ishtar products to try: Bi-Phase Shikimic Acid Exfoliant; Trizyme Pore Perfecting treatment

Lipo-hydroxy acid is an ester of Salicylic acid that has skin-calming properties. The most immediate benefit of Lipo-Hydroxy acid is it clears congestion in the pores. Over time, it helps improve the skin texture and fade hyperpigmentation.

Ishtar products to try: Sebupore LHA Exfoliating facial oil


Mandelic acid is an Alpha-Hydroxy acid, and bitter almonds are its primary source. Mandelic acid has a larger molecular structure than other Alpha-Hydroxy acids making it less irritating for the skin. Likewise, it is less likely to cause pigmentation issues for darker skin tones.

Mandelic acid has unique antibiotic and antibacterial properties, which makes it a good treatment for acne-prone adults. Research shows it can improve papular, comedonal, and inflammatory pustular acne. Additional studies show it can be an effective treatment for people resistant to antibiotics.

Ishtar products to try: the Ultralase range

Retinol is a well-researched ingredient that boosts collagen production and minimises the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It refines the skin texture and repairs sun damage. Retinol is beneficial for acne sufferers since it is an effective treatment for non-inflammatory and inflammatory acne lesions.

Ishtar products to try: 1% and 2.5% Bioactive Retinol serums


Niacinamide is vitamin B3 with plenty of skin benefits. It prevents new blemishes, regulates sebum production, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Likewise, it helps protect and restore the moisture barrier. Niacinamide is a popular acne-fighting ingredient because of its ability to fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Ishtar products to try: Brighten Up fluid

Azelaic acid has several skin benefits – it reduces and prevents blemishes, eases congestion, and improves uneven skin texture. It is also an effective antioxidant. Azeloyl 10 moisturiser contains Azeloyl Glycine, a gentle exfoliant derived from Azelaic acid. Azeloyl Glycine combines the acid molecule with the amino-acid Glycine, which makes it a skin-soothing molecule. It brightens and hydrates the skin without irritating it. Likewise, it regulates sebum production.

Ishtar products to try: Azeloyl 10 moisturiser

Vitamin C is not technically an acne-fighting ingredient (although some research suggests it can prevent acne-causing bacteria in the skin). However, it fades post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is a common side-effect of acne. It turns off the inflammatory response that is the cause of hyperpigmentation.

Ishtar products to try: Perfect & Glow Vitamin C serum


Things to consider:

  • If acne is affecting your mental health, speak to your GP or consult a dermatologist.
  • For some types of acne (like severe cystic acne), a prescription product can help you keep it under control.
  • Be patient. While it is easier said than done, it takes a consistent skincare routine to see the results.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of an appropriate cleanser. Many products formulated for acneic skin contain drying ingredients that can strip the skin of its natural oils. It leads to an overproduction of oil. A gentle, low pH cleanser with an Alpha-Hydroxy or Beta-Hydroxy acid makes an appropriate choice.
  • It’s tempting to throw everything and the kitchen sink at your face and hope it will work. But using too many harsh products can have the opposite effect and make the situation worse.
  • By all means, research your options and educate yourself. Keep in mind – what works for someone else might not work for you. It might take some trial and error to find the best combination of ingredients and products that suit your skin.
Roberta Striga