Best-Rated Acne Skincare

Canstar Blue’s latest acne skincare review compares Clearasil, Benzac AC, Cetaphil, Clean & Clear and Nivea on effectiveness, consistency, feeling on skin, packaging, value for money and overall satisfaction.

See Our Ratings Methodology

Best acne skincare 2021

Most Satisfied Customers | Clearasil

Clearasil topped Canstar Blue’s acne skincare review after rating best for overall satisfaction. It also achieved five stars for effectiveness, feeling on skin, consistency, and packaging.

Fact Checked Fact Checked

Clearasil a clear winner in acne skincare review

There’s nothing quite as deflating as waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror and finding a big pimple at the end of your nose! But for many people, it doesn’t just end with one spot. Acne is a skin condition that’s characterised by red pimples on the skin – particularly the face, neck and back – due to inflamed or infected sebaceous glands. It’s most common with 12 to 25-year-olds, but some younger or older people can also be affected, with boys claimed to be more commonly affected than girls. We’ve all seen those funny movies with the hapless spotty teenagers, but acne is no laughing matter. It can be painful and demoralising to the person suffering from it.

Non-prescription, over-the-counter acne products will usually be the first option for those dealing with acne for the first time and hopefully the last. To get a clear answer on which pimple-fighting treatments work best, we’ve surveyed more than 400 Australian consumers for their feedback on the non-prescription or over-the-counter acne skincare products they’ve used in the last 12 months. Brands were rated on effectiveness, consistency, feeling on skin, packaging, value for money and overall satisfaction. Those that received at least 30 responses are compared in our report.

So, what did we find? Clearasil squeezed into the top spot after earning five-star reviews for effectiveness, feeling on skin, consistency, packaging, and overall satisfaction.

Best Acne Skincare

What is the best acne skincare?

Here are the best skincare brands for tackling acne, as rated by Australian consumers in Canstar Blue’s latest review:

  1. Clearasil
  2. Benzac AC
  3. Cetaphil
  4. Clean & Clear
  5. Nivea

Clearasil was a clear hit with Aussies − rating best with five stars for overall satisfaction, while most other brands scored four stars overall. Meanwhile, former winner Nivea rounded up the results on three stars for overall customer satisfaction.

But while Clearasil gave a glowing performance in the majority of the research areas, Benzac AC still shined with five-star reviews for effectiveness and consistency. Cetaphil also impressed as the only brand to receive full marks for value for money.

Now we know which brands are rated best, below is a guide to the different products and treatment options available from them.

Top Acne Skincare Brands

Clearasil

Clearasil acne skincare review

Clearasil is a US brand of skincare and acne medication. It offers a range of products from everyday prevention to rapid acne treatment. Its Clearasil Ultra Acne Treatment Cream is stated to help break down dead skin cells and to open the pimples to allow the cream to reach deeper into the pores and absorb excess oil and pimple-causing bacteria.

Some Clearasil products include:

  • Clearasil Daily Clear Face Gel Wash
  • Clearasil Ultra Acne Treatment Cream
  • Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Pimple Face Cleansing Pads
  • Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Cleansing Face Scrub

Clearasil was rated best for overall satisfaction and achieved additional five-star reviews for effectiveness, feel on skin, consistency, and packaging. The only exception was value for money, where it got three stars.

Benzac AC

Benzac acne skincare review

Claimed to kill up to 94% of bacteria that causes acne, Benzac AC is an acne treatment stated to provide users a pimple-fighting formula that deals with acne-causing bacteria. This mixture is said to contain Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO) and the brand’s AC technology, which is described as tiny beads that can absorb up to four times their weight in fluid.

Benzac also offers several options created as part of a three-step process: cleanse, treat, and moisturise. The range includes different types of facial cleansers, face wash and pimple cream designed to remove impurities, unblock pores, and control oiliness, without drying the skin. The range features:

  • Benzac AC Mild Strength 2.5% Acne Gel
  • Benzac AC Moderate Strength 5% Acne Wash
  • Benzac Daily Facial Foam Cleanser
  • Benzac Daily Facial Moisturiser

Benzac AC earned five-star reviews for effectiveness and consistency, before scoring four stars for packaging, value for money and overall satisfaction. It got three stars for feeling on the skin.

Cetaphil

Cetaphil acne skincare review

Cetaphil features a line of skincare products designed for dermatology needs. This includes cleaners, creams and lotions. To manage acne-prone skin, the brand’s Pro Acne Prone range offers a couple of oil-free control and oil-free products that supposedly won’t block pores.

For cleansing, Cetaphil’s Pro Acne Prone Oil-Control Foam Wash is said to be gentle on the skin, but still able to dig deep to remove excess oil. Plus, it’s stated to be hypo-allergenic and can be used in combination with acne medication.

Cetaphil’s line-up includes:

  • Cetaphil Pro Acne Prone Oil-control Foam Wash
  • Cetaphil Pro Acne Prone Oil-free Facial Moisturising Lotion SPF25

Cetaphil was rated best value for money, achieving five stars, and landed on four stars for feeling on skin, consistency and overall satisfaction. It got three stars everywhere else.

Clean & Clear

Clean & Clear skincare review

Owned by Johnson & Johnson, Clean & Clear features a line of skincare products designed for pimples and acne sufferers. From daily scrubs and face washes to toners, there’s plenty to check out from the brand. This includes Clean & Clear’s Advantage Pimple Control Cleanser, which is designed to remove trapped dirt and dead skin cells to help reduce breakouts.

Some Clean & Clear products for acne-prone skin include:

  • Clean & Clear Essentials Oil-Control Toner
  • Clean & Clear Deep Action Daily Scrub
  • Clean & Clear Essentials Moisturiser
  • Clean & Clear Essentials Morning Face Wash

Clean & Clear scored four stars across most research areas, including for effectiveness, feeling on skin, consistency, and overall satisfaction. It ended on three stars for packaging and value for money.

Nivea

Nivea skincare review

From cleansing to moisturising, Nivea has created a wide range of face and body care products designed to complete Aussies’ everyday routines. The brand targets options for various skin types, including those which are blemish-prone, combination, dry, oily, and sensitive. Its products are aimed to wipe away dirt and several other factors that can contribute to breakouts. When it comes to blemish-prone skin, Nivea sells a range of pimple-fighting products that are not oil-based.

Several Nivea products that are suitable for blemish-prone skin include:

  • Nivea Wonderbar Anti-Pimple Scrub
  • Nivea Men Clear Effect Acne Defence Scrub
  • Nivea Pore Purifying 3-in-1 Cleanser
  • Nivea Clean Deeper Daily Wash Scrub

Nivea finished off the results with four-star reviews for effectiveness, feeling on skin and value for money. It got three stars for overall satisfaction and everywhere else.

What to consider when buying acne skincare?

What to consider when buying acne skincare?

In addition to finding out which brands are rated best for acne skin treatments, our research was also able to reveal the key drivers of customer satisfaction:

  • Effectiveness: 29%
  • Feeling on skin: 27%
  • Value for money: 26%
  • Packaging: 16%
  • Consistency: 1%

Effectiveness

What is an effective acne treatment?

Our research revealed one in three (34%) Australians are self-conscious about their skin, so it’s understandable why effectiveness appeared to be the most important factor when determining how satisfied consumers are with their acne skincare products. Different skin concerns and skin types can also make finding ‘the one’ more difficult.

Feeling on skin and consistency

Acne skincare products are designed to clean your skin, remove all those hidden nasties, and leave it feeling soft, so it shouldn’t dry out your skin when you use them. This can make your skin feel quite tight and uncomfortable. Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of products to suit acne-prone skin, with many brands also taking into account different skin types and sensitivities. Our research shows that most acne skincare users have combination skin (24%), closely followed by those with normal skin (18%), oily skin (16%), dry skin (14%), sensitive skin (12%) and acne-prone skin (10%).

The consistency of the skincare product might also affect how well it is absorbed into the skin, and ultimately impact its effectiveness. While moisturisers generally have thicker consistencies, compared to much thinner serums, it’s still worth exploring different types of consistencies (i.e. creams versus gels) to see which you prefer.

Value for money

Which acne skin care is worth it?

Value for money is the third most important driver of customer satisfaction. After all, our survey showed consumers spend an average of $37 per month on skincare. Almost a fifth (18%) of those surveyed only buy skincare products when they’re on sale, which might alternatively suggest that there are plenty of consumers who are also willing to pay more to find the product that works for them.

Packaging

Our survey shows that packaging is the second least important driver of satisfaction for those who buy acne skincare products. That seems pretty obvious – after all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts! But while the packaging isn’t going to be directly linked to clearing up your acne problems, a product that’s well designed and easy to use could still make life a little easier.

What causes acne?

What causes acne and pimples?

Acne typically starts during the years of puberty, and people with oily skin are often worse affected. Teenage acne can last for years, but contrary to popular belief, it is unlikely to be caused by a poor diet or bad hygiene. Acne will more likely be the result of heredity or hormones, so staying away from greasy foods or scrubbing your face multiple times a day won’t alter your predisposition to this particular skin problem. Stress also won’t cause acne, but it could aggravate it further.

The severity of acne can vary from mild to very severe. It starts when greasy secretions from the skin’s sebaceous glands (oil glands) plug the tiny openings for hair follicles (plugged pores). If the openings are large, the clogs take the form of blackheads – those unsightly, often painful spots with dark centres. If the openings remain small, the clogs take the form of whiteheads – small, flesh-coloured bumps. Both types of plugged pores can then develop into swollen, tender inflammations or pimples, or deeper lumps or nodules. Nodules associated with severe cases of acne are firm swellings below the skin’s surface that become inflamed, tender and possibly infected.

How to cure acne

How to cure acne and get rid of pimples

Acne is certainly common, so what’s the best cure? According to the experts, acne can be treated with a combination of remedies, including over-the-counter skincare products, specific acne medications, and even chemical or laser procedures. Treatments could last for several months in the worst of cases, and inflamed acne needs to be treated early to prevent permanent scarring. Even after the acne is gone, you could need ongoing treatment to keep the spots away in the long term.

The consensus of health professionals is that acne is likely to be determined by heredity or hormones – which are obviously out of your hands – but there remains no definitive answer. However, there may be some things you can do to help prevent it or at least manage it better. Common advice from the experts is to never pick or squeeze pimples, however tempting it might be to do before heading out the door to work or school! And while poor hygiene is unlikely to cause acne, regular washing with mild cleansers will help keep your skin clean, less irritable and hopefully less greasy. You can’t stop oil glands from producing oil, but you can remove oil on the surface of the skin by using a gentle toner or antibacterial pads.

But if you do suffer an outbreak of acne, consult your local pharmacist or doctor to determine the best course of treatment.

About the author of this page

This report was written by Canstar Blue’s home & lifestyle journalist, Tahnee-Jae Lopez-Vito. She’s an expert on household appliances, grooming products and all things grocery and shopping. In addition to translating our expert research into consumer-friendly ratings reports, Tahnee spends her time helping consumers make better-informed purchase decisions on all manner of consumer goods and services, while highlighting the best deals and anything you need to be aware of.

Body Wash Ratings

Picture credits: George Rudy/Shutterstock.com, Dmitri Ma/Shutterstock.com, SeventyFour/Shutterstock.com, Elnur/Shutterstock.com, MJTH/Shutterstock.com.

Frequently Asked Questions

Canstar Blue surveyed 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased and used a non-prescription/over-the-counter acne skincare product in the last 12 months (this includes cleansers, toners, exfoliators, and spot cream to target acne) – in this case, 414 people.

Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.

Here are the previous winners of Canstar Blue’s acne skincare review:

  • 2020: Nivea
  • 2019: Nivea
  • 2016: Ego & Dermalogica

Latest Health & Beauty Articles

Facial steaming

Face steamers: Are they worth it?

Getting a good facial involves more than just a few slices of cucumber for your eyes and painting your face with egg whites. Taking care of your skin and achieving a healthy glow sometimes involves …

– Read more

Sunscreen for different skin tones

We know talking about sunscreen isn’t always hot stuff. But believe it or not, sun safety is not just about the old ‘slip, slop, slap’. Guidelines around how to apply sunscreen actually vary between different …

– Read more

Multitasking Makeup (Foundation) with SPF

There’s nothing women love more than multitasking – and on the agenda for this summer is protecting our skin, and looking good while we do it. Luckily, there is a new breed of makeup foundations …

– Read more
Best Sunscreen for Skin Type

Which sunscreen is best for your skin type?

Are you using the right sunscreen for your skin? There are different kinds of sunscreen for different kinds of skin. Learn more at Canstar Blue.

– Read more