If you want to reap the benefits of extensive skincare, then you have to start reading the label on your products. This rings especially true if you have sensitive, acne-prone skin! Even the holiest of Holy Grails can mess you up if they contain just one or two ingredients your skin can’t stand. Thankfully, good stuff outweighs the bad—you just gotta know what to look for.

The good news is that acne-fighting ingredients are not at all uncommon. With the world spotlight now on skincare, more and more brands have been coming out with blemish-busting products. From volcanic clay to healing herbs, there’s more than enough for you to sample on your road to perfect skin. It was a hard task, but we rounded up five of the most raved-about anti-acne ingredients in this neat little list. Scroll for your next fast fix!

Centella asiatica is a miracle herb that’s been cropping up a lot in K-beauty. The buzz isn’t all that surprising, either. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, centella extract is a highly effective acne scar-fader. It seamlessly repairs damaged tissue, leaving you with bouncy, baby-smooth skin.
TRY: COSRX Centella Blemish Ampule, P1,224

If we’re talking anti-acne ingredients, activated charcoal will always come out somewhere on top. The science behind it is simple: the carbon pores within charcoal are a magnet for impurities. These draw dirt and toxins out of your skin, ridding its surface of pimple-causing bacteria.
TRY: Abby’s House of Glycerin Muma Activated Charcoal and Clay Mask (100g), P250, Mankind Apothecary Co. Charcoal Mask, P450, Bare MNL Activated Charcoal Mask, P200

Salicylic acid is a form of a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA, for the pros). It’s often the go-to liquid exfoliant for oil control, since it helps reduce sebum buildup, unclog pores, and calm breakouts. Take note: it doesn’t kill bacteria totally—you’ll have use it religiously to reap its full benefits. But it acts quickly, so it’s great for anyone in need of an overnight cure.
TRY: Innisfree Bija Trouble Spot Essence, P865, CosRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol, P774

Besides its uses in aromatherapy, tea tree oil has also proven itself a master of skincare. It speeds up spot treatment by reducing redness, irritation, and swelling. But because of its potency, it’s advisable to use tea tree only over visible spots. Slathering it all over your face might just aggravate your skin issues, so play it smart!
TRY: Skinfood Tea Tree Clearing Toner, P790, Dewytree Tea Tree Porest Powder in Toner, P989, Leiania House of Beauty Aloe Vera Leaf Gel Pure + Tea Tree Infusion, P550

Here’s another popular Korean import we’ve been raving about forever: snail mucin. A rich concentration of glycolic acid and proteins, mucin diminishes stubborn acne scars while boosting hydration. Many folks even use it to help smoothen out coarse, textured skin. Not bad for icky slime, huh?
TRY: Benton Snail Bee High Content Lotion (120ml), P900, Esfolio Snail Ampoule, P859, Tinchew Snail Primer BB Cream SPF30PA++ (40ml), P1,800

When it comes to acne-aggravating ingredients, you’re dealing with a bottomless pit. Even the most minimally processed products can contain a compound or two that will put your skin at risk! That said, the three ingredients below are by no means the biggest offenders. They are, however, some of the most widespread and familiar. This means they’re much easier to spot in long ingredients lists (if you can get through all the jargon, that is!). So if you’re breaking out, see if these are lurking in the formulas of your staples.

Parabens are commonly used as mold-inhibiting preservatives in many personal care products. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, turns out they’re highly toxic, too. And their pitfalls go far beyond acne flare-ups, mind you. They also mess with your hormones by mimicking the estrogen in your body. It’s basic math: too much estrogen = breakouts galore.

Equally common are silicones, which are used in products to achieve that silky-smooth texture we all love. But the trade-off is alarming. Silicones trap dirt in your pores and dehydrate your skin—two things that let acne thrive. You’ll do well to stay wary of the silicone stuff, luxurious textures be damned!

This one’s tough to swallow, we know, but it’s true: coconut oil may not be doing your zits any favors. Despite being antibacterial and antifungal, pure coconut oil can also be highly comedogenic if you have sensitive skin. This means that when it’s applied directly onto skin, it can clog your pores. When ingested, however, coconut oil can work as a great acne-buster. So although you’ll be skipping over it during your skincare regimen, you should still keep it around for meal times.

Now, tell us: what works for you?

Learn more about choosing the worst and best ingredients for acne. Click here!

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