I’ve got good news for anyone and everyone trying to get rid of pimples and their aftermath: The next generation of acne-fighting ingredients, medications, and pro treatments has finally arrived…and they’re like really, really good. So if you’re just not loving whatever acne skincare routine you’re currently following, or you’re ready to see a dermatologist for something more powerful, like a prescription topical or in-office laser treatment, I’ve got you covered. Ahead, the 10 biggest breakthroughs—including the new must-try ingredients, buzzy medications, and trending pro treatments—in the acne space right now.
Meet the experts:
- Joshua Zeichner, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s department of dermatology in New York, NY. Dr. Zeichner is one of the country’s key opinion leaders in treating acne and rosacea, and is an expert in cosmeceuticals, skincare, and cosmetic dermatology.
- Shari Marchbein, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Niche Dermatology in New York, NY, who specializes in cosmetic and medical dermatology. Dr. Marchbein is also a clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone in New York City.
- Macrene Alexiades, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in New York, NY and founder of skincare brand Macrene Actives. Dr. Macrene runs two private practice dermatology and laser centers in NYC and the Hamptons and is known for her expertise in aesthetics and technology.
The must-try acne ingredients
Previously available via prescription only, azelaic acid has gained a ton of popularity in over-the-counter products (like the four below) that treat acne and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. Azelaic acid has antibacterial properties, alleviates redness, and blocks abnormal pigment production—which is great for fading those dark marks that linger post-breakout. And unlike some other skin brighteners, azelaic acid is safe to use on all skin types and tones.
There’s a reason you keep seeing this ingredient everywhere. Think of niacinamide as a best supporting actor, says Dr. Zeichner. Used on its own, niacinamide won’t clear up acne, but when you combine it with other treatments, it’s a star, thanks to its great anti-inflammatory powers (inflammation = a main acne trigger). Oh, and it has oil-regulating properties and can help fade dark marks too, says dermatologist Shari Marchbein, MD. Try it in one of the top-rated products below.
Studies show that people with acne tend to have low levels of linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid) in their sebum. This may contribute to clogged pores and inflammation, two precursors to breakouts, says Dr. Zeichner. Try a topical leave-on with linoleic acid (like the face serums and creams here) to see if it makes a difference for you.
The buzzy acne prescriptions
Think of Winlevi as topical spironolactone. It’s the first—and as of right now, the only—rub-on anti-hormonal medication on the market for treating acne. The cream’s active ingredient is clascoterone, which blocks acne-causing androgens in the skin to decrease oil production and inflammation. Winlevi is a good alternative to oral spironolactone for people who are pill averse or aren’t on birth control (a must while taking spiro), explains Dr. Marchbein.
Seysara is an oral antibiotic that reduces levels of acne-causing bacteria, explains Dr. Zeichner. “What really sets it apart from other oral antibiotics used to treat acne, like doxycycline or minocycline, is that it specifically targets bacteria on the skin rather than bacteria in the gut, making it gentler on your stomach’s microbiome.” As with all antibiotics, Seysara is a short-term solution, but many patients notice that their acne improves within just three weeks of being on the medication.
Combining tretinoin (a potent type of retinoid used to treat acne) with benzoyl peroxide isn’t new per se, but the way Twyneo does it is a game changer. Both ingredients are microencapsulated, which basically means they’re less likely to degrade in the bottle or on skin (even if you use them in the daytime, a general no-no with other retinoids), making them more effective. Microencapsulation also allows these ingredients to penetrate the skin more slowly, resulting in less redness and flaking. One study found that patients experienced up to a 66 percent reduction in breakouts after 12 weeks of using Twyneo once a day. That’s pretty major.
The trending acne treatments
Plason is a 15-minute facial that delivers ~plasma energy~ to your skin via a little wand, which can help zap acne-causing bacteria, reduce inflammation, and minimize oil production by up to 25 percent. Then, a clarifying serum is applied using a warm ultrasound wand for maximum pore penetration. Treatments cost around $125 each (you’ll need six or so spaced a week apart for best results) and are available via doctors and aestheticians.
What if there were a way to shrink your oil glands to clear up your pimples and prevent new ones from forming? AviClear—a new, inclusive acne laser—was just FDA approved to do exactly that. Eighty percent of patients in a clinical study reported at least 50 percent clearer skin after three treatments.
Radiofrequency microneedling with PRP:
Radiofrequency microneedling with PRP (sometimes referred to as a radiofrequency facial) is the new gold standard for treating acne scars on all skin tones. After numbing your skin with lidocaine, your dermatologist will press a needle-covered stamp (that’s the RF microneedling part) across your face to boost collagen production and smooth skin texture. Then they’ll draw your blood, spin out the platelets, and smear those platelets over your face to aid in the wound-healing process (this is the PRP part).
This may sound scary and painful, but honestly, it’s not, and the whole thing takes about a pretty manageable 15 minutes. “If your acne scars are mild to moderate, one treatment will make a noticeable difference,” says dermatologist Macrene Alexiades, MD. “For more severe scarring, three treatments a month apart will do the trick.” Speaking of acne scars…keep an eye out this fall for a new hyaluronic acid filler called Skinvive, says Dr. Alexiades. “Historically, HA fillers have been used to enhance face shape and structure, but this works on superficial layers of the skin to improve quality and texture.”
So there you have it—all the new and exciting options that are currently available for treating your acne and acne scars in 2022. If you’re not sure of exactly what products and treatments to try on this list, or how to use certain ingredients I mentioned, I *highly* recommend making an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist (preferably someone who has experience with treating acne on a broad range of skin tones) to come up with an ideal treatment plan for your skin goals and budget.
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