3 Things That Don't Suck: Drugstore Anti-Acne Products | Hello Pretty Bird! - A beauty and not-so-glamorous lifestyle blog

19 August, 2013

3 Things That Don't Suck: Drugstore Anti-Acne Products

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So today I'll be writing about something a little different: Rather than reviewing one product or some random stuff I've hauled, I'd like to talk about a few different things I use regularly that share something in common: They're anti-acne products that I think actually work! And these aren't obscure or expensive products either. All three of the things I'll be writing about today are relatively easy to find in American drugstore/mass-merchandisers and cost less than $10. If you're outside the US, iHerb carries all of these products and has reasonable international shipping rates.

Just a quick note to start: It can be a bit tricky to recommend anti-acne stuff, because everybody's skin is different and may not react the same way as someone else's to a product. Therefore, I strongly recommend doing a test patch whenever you try a new product to avoid a full-blown allergic reaction. Furthermore, I am not a doctor or dermatologist, so please know that these are just opinions based on my own experiences!

Now, onto the goodies...

Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque:

This product is a total classic. Even if you don't recognize the tube, there's a good chance you've seen this ubiquitous green mud mask on someone's face at some point. The star ingredients in this are Kaolin and Bentonite clay, which are reputed to have pore-refining and oil absorbing abilities. The mask also provides a bit of a cooling sensation, making it a nice pick-me-up for tired skin.

Ingredients and whatnot.

This is a wash-off mask, so basically you just slather it on the areas you want to treat, allow it to harden a bit, then wash it off! Easy peasy.

A close up of the mask - it doesn't look pretty, but it'll
make your skin feel pretty clean. :)

Now, one thing to keep in mind with this mask is that it basically works by drying up the oil in your pores, so unless you have extremely oily skin you're going to want to moisturize after using it. Also, if you have combination skin you might not want to use it on your whole face - personally I just use it in my T-zone and as a spot treatment where needed. I wouldn't use this every day, but when I have a breakout I feel like this really works wonders - it shrinks spots while also reducing swelling a bit, making it ideal for nipping nasty breakouts in the bud.

One can usually find this for less than $5, and there's a lot of product in those tubes... I'm still working on the one I bought six months ago. Cheap, effective and easy to find? Yes please!

Where to buy online: Amazon, Walgreens, iHerb (international shipping available)

Alba Botanica Acne Dote Natural Face & Body Scrub:

Alba Acne Dote scrub is sort of like a "natural" version of St. Ives apricot scrub. They're not identical in terms of scent or texture, but they're both scrubs with walnut shell powder as a physical exfoliant and 2% salicylic acid as a chemical exfoliant. That means they do double-duty to slough away dead skin cells! I prefer the Alba scrub because (a) the ingredients are more natural, and (b) the Alba scrub has a stronger cooling/tingly sensation on the skin, making it oh-so-refreshing for use in the shower.

The scrub - it doesn't look pretty, but it smells really nice
and is very refreshing.

Now, if you read a lot of skincare blogs and forums you might be thinking "GAH YOU SHOULD NEVER USE A SCRUB LIKE THIS AS YOUR FACIAL CLEANSER!!!" And you know what? I agree. I think scrubs like this are way too harsh to use as an everyday facial cleanser, but it works wonders as a body scrub. I can't be the only person out there who gets back/chest acne, right? For whatever reason I still get minor breakouts on my body sometimes, and I feel like this product has done a wonderful job of minimizing them.

Inactive ingredients - this product also
contains 2% salicylic acid.

Alba Botanica's Acne Dote scrub is a little more expensive than St. Ives, but personally I think it's much nicer as a body product so I'd gladly pay a couple dollars extra for it.

Where to buy online: Amazon, Target, iHerb (international shipping available)

Stridex Single-Step Acne Control Pads (Maximum Strength, Alcohol-Free):

Just FYI, the product pictured above usually comes in a red outer box. Stridex Maximum Strength Acne Pads are just what they sound like - cotton pads pre-soaked with a 2% salicylic acid solution, which I believe is the highest concentration you can get over the counter. As I mentioned earlier, salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant. I think most brands of acne control pads have varieties with a similar percentage of salicylic acid available, however I really like these for a couple reasons:

Number one, they're alcohol-free. Certain other brands contain a very high percentage of alcohol, sometimes over 40%! Alcohol can be super drying and harsh on the skin, and I don't think the best solution to acne is to dry the crap out of your face, especially when salicylic acid is already kind of drying to begin with. This is especially important if you have combination skin like I do. Another reason I like these is the physical design of the pads. Check it out:

As you can see, these pads are a pretty good size! You can easily do your whole face with just one. These are a also a good size to use as a body treatment if you are so inclined. Plus I like the fact that one of the sides of the pad is textured, so you can choose the rougher or smoother texture depending on your preferences. I didn't take a picture of the box, but a full list of ingredients can be found on iHerb. Please note that these do contain menthol, so if you are sensitive to fragrance or are otherwise opposed to briefly smelling like a cough drop then these might not be the best choice for you.

One final thing to keep in mind... if you're not already using salicylic acid products regularly, the Stridex in the red box might be a bit too harsh for everyday use. Personally I use this every other day, and if your skin is really sensitive they also make a sensitive skin variety with 0.5% salicylic acid.

Where to buy online: Amazon, Walgreens, iHerb (international shipping available)

I feel like the three products above have greatly helped my skin with regular use. It sort of sucks to be 30 and still getting acne breakouts, so I'm mighty glad there are some cheap and easy-to-find treatments out there, haha.

Have you tried any of the items mentioned in this post? What are your favorite drugstore anti-acne products?


  1. I love the Mint Julep mask, and I use the Stridex pads every other night, in conjunction with my new St. Ives Apricot Exfoliating pads.

    I love how you repurposed the acne scrub for your body! I did the same exact thing to my St. Ives Apricot Scrub.. I bought a whole tub of it thinking it was great for my face before, and when I found out, I started using it on my feet and legs.. lol.

    1. Glad to know I'm not the only one! Though truthfully, I end up trying most of my facial product rejects on my body somewhere. :P

    2. Great minds think alike! I don't really like the thought of throwing away or wasting things, seems not really frugal.

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