What to do for Your Acne Problems When You Can’t Afford Proactiv

Money skin problems

Covid-19 has impacted us all, including our jobs and bank accounts. Covid-19 may even have you on the hunt for a new job. But what if acne is crushing your confidence and spending money on special acne treatments seems like an out of reach luxury right now?

No problem. You have economical and effective ways to ditch the dirty face look pimples can sometimes impose.

The key is, to have a strategy: A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. Thank you Lexico.com.

Acne treatment options like Proactiv, Murad, and Curology are typically (every treatment includes the disclaimer that results may vary) successful at treating acne because they are a three-step process aimed at helping people enjoy clearer skin.


Generally, these three steps involve:

  1. Cleanse: This removes surface layer germs and debris from the face.
  2. Tone: The toner provides a second level of cleansing that seeps below the surface of the skin to help remove acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation in the skin.
  3. Treat: This step involves leaving an over-the-counter acne treatment on the skin to target reducing the presence of acne over several hours.

This Cleanse, Tone, and Treat strategy is used in the morning and at night to continually work on getting zits evicted from your face.


You can economically copy this strategy for pennies a day to get you the same results (and as you know, results may vary.)

Why do results vary anyway? Because for one, people have a hard time sticking to a plan/strategy. If you don’t follow the strategy, it certainly is not going to work as intended. And two, not all acne treatments are universally successful. You are unique and so your acne treatment needs to be as unique as you are.

That being said, we can at least start with what “typically” works. Here goes, your cheap, yet effective alternative to three-step acne treatment packages.

Step 1: Cleanse

The goal of cleansing is to remove junk from your face so that your skin can breathe again. See those pores on your face? You need them for sweat, oil, and air. A good cleanser removes filth from your face without over stripping your skin’s microbiome and letting your pores work optimally.

A microbiome is a layer of microorganisms swimming in oil that helps protect the skin from immune attacks and physical scrapes and scratches. This barrier can have an overload of Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), those bacteria that can lead to an increase in your zit populous.

P. acnes are not evil though, they just need containment, which you get with a reasonable cleanser.

Use a cleaner with active acne-fighting ingredients.

Cleansers with 1-2% salicylic acid work by exfoliating the skin. This way, those P. acnes have fewer layers of skin and grease to reproduce in, resulting in fewer pumps.

Cleansers with benzoyl peroxide work by killing P. acnes. So, there are fewer P.acnes to irritate your pores and give rise to red, roasted spots on your face.

You can find economical versions of these cleansers at your favorite retailer like Walmart or Target. These companies even make generic versions of these acne cleansers so you can save even more money.

For example, Target.com sells a 2% salicylic acid cleanser made by Clearasil for currently,  for about $6 for a 6-ounce bottle.

At Walmart.com, you can grab the classic 10% active ingredient benzoyl peroxide acne treatment Oxy10, at about $6 for a 5-ounce bottle.


Cleansers: What Ingredients to Look for:

Flip your economical cleanser over and look for one of the following active ingredients:

  • Benzoyl peroxide in concentrations of 2.5 to 10 percent.
  • Salicylic acid in concentrations of 0.5 to 2 percent.

Before buying an acne product, check out the concentrations of active ingredients on the back. 

Benzoyl peroxide acne ingredient Salicylic Acid Acne Ingredient

Step 2: Toner

Your toner is best applied to the face with a cotton square or ball so that the liquid can perform its magic by seeping into the skin to have a greater impact on removing deep-seated acne provoking germs and dead skin cells that harbor P. acnes.

The toner typically has an active ingredient, like salicylic acid in the cleansers above and a liquid carrier like water, alcohol, or witch hazel that allows you to easily apply the active ingredient to your skin.

Sea Breeze hails itself as the “Original Facial Cleanser”. And for good reason, this item has been around for decades. It was my first toner because it was widely available in the US, cheap and it works. You can grab a 10-ounce bottle of this stuff for around $4 at Walmart, America’s spot for super savings, love’em or hate’em that’s the deal.

Here’s Sea Breeze’s promise to you: This classic formula eliminates trapped oil, dirt, and makeup before they become problems. Plus, it tingles to show that it’s working.

Want to go even cheaper with your toner, and more controversial at that? Use isopropyl alcohol. Yes, I said it. Sure alcohol can dry out your skin but sometimes you need an extra deep cleansing to your skin via a toner and isopropyl alcohol fits the bill. And this stuff comes for less than a penny an ounce.

Alcohol is a cleanser and works to help control acne, which is why you will see it as the first or second ingredient, in some form, in toners. You can dilute the alcohol by adding some water to it. For example, mix a travel beauty bottle with half water and half alcohol to make your own toner. You can take it up a notch by dropping a few milliliters of acne reducing essential oils like tea tree and lavender.

Toner Shortcut: Acne Treatment Pads

If applying your toner to a cotton ball or pad seems too time-consuming, you can use a treated pad. These are pads with an acne toner already applied. Oxy10 and Clearasil make versions of these. You can get around 30 pads for less than $6.

Step 3: Treat

The final step relies on leaving the active ingredient on your skin during the day or overnight. Again, these treatments will contain an active ingredient like the ones listed above in the similar concentrations: benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Whatever you do, if you are treating acne, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s warnings about using proper skin protection during the day as most acne treatments make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

Please don’t take this warning lightly, because mismanaging your acne treatment now can lead to a melasma problem in the future. If you think treating acne is a burden, you don’t want to invite melasma to your life. Trust me, I speak from experience.

To treat acne, just apply your selected cream to your pimples. Acne spot treatments usually work by drying out a pimple and helping soothe acne irritation.

The key here is that you don’t need a ton of the acne treatment, just lightly cover the area with your desired cream or gel and gently blend it into the skin.

ZAPZYT Acne Treatment Gel is an affordable treatment that retails at about $5 an ounce. Sounds expensive, but this is a “spot” treatment, not a whole face treatment like the cleanser and toner.

Sum it up

Key 1: It does not matter how expensive your skincare product is but understanding why you are using it and when to use it. Buy the products you can afford that contain the active ingredients of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Have an acne strategy: Cleanse, tone, and treat your acne day and night.

Key 2: Use sunblock and follow the manufacturer’s warnings about your selected acne treatments. You don’t want an acne treatment that works well but secretly makes your skin more vulnerable to sun damage then causes you to have melasma, years, or decades from now. You have been warned.

Key 3: Know what each treatment step is supposed to do for your skin and visualize it working. We know about the benefits of visualizing the results we want, so do it while treating your acne.


36% of women feel nervous going into a job interview because of their acne. Curology.com


(Do checkout Your Mind and Acne, Clearing the Voices in Your Head if acne is clobbering your confidence.)

Don’t believe this simple process could work? Karina Banuelos used a simple three-step process like this to control here severe acne.

  • At step 1: Cleanse, visualize zits, acne germs, and weakness washing off your face. Yes, imagine you are washing weakness off your face because zits have exploited a weakened immune system. Plus, zits take a hit at your confidence. Wash off weakness!

Wash Off Weakness

  • At step 2: Tone, visualize the toner seeping into your skin and running off dead skin cells and cooling and relieving inflamed pimples.
  • At step 3: Treat: visualize your pimples shrinking as your trusted remedy takes effect during the day and night.

There you have it, your acne-fighting strategy at a price you can afford. You can further customize your acne treatment by zit type because your acne situation is as unique as you are.

Photo credits: ThoughtCatalog and Curology.com  via upsplash.com

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