The Cost Of Acne


In honor of Acne Awareness Month, ITG is beefing up its acne coverage this week. Journey with us as we approach breaking out from every angle.

Maybe skincare is your self-care. The money you spend on it is an investment in an activity, like going to a movie theater with reclining seats—fun! A great thing to do on a Friday night! But that’s not true for every skincare user. “For me,” said skincare founder and longtime acne-haver April Gargiulo in her Top Shelf, “self-care is not what skincare is about.” Especially if you struggle with acne, skincare can feel like a necessary expense. Most people experience breakouts at one point or another, and that’s normal. If you decide to treat it, there's no shortage of options. But the price? Well, that's where it can get tricky. It's a good thing New York-based dermatologist Dr. Shereen Idriss is only a phone call away. She walked ITG through all of the latest acne treatments happening in the doctor’s office, and then we complemented her recommendations with the OTC acne remedies that are tried and true. Together it formed an acne pricing guide, of sorts. Prices may vary from doctor to doctor, store to store, or brand to brand, but use this as a rough guide.

Under $100

Pimple Patches: $5
Time commitment: a few hours
Stick ‘em on, and watch as the hydrocolloid material draws out moisture and infection. They’re small and translucent enough to wear during the day, and not only will you calm and heal your whitehead, but since it’s covered, you also won’t be tempted to pick. Sleep in one to wake up to a fully drained, flattened breakout. They really work, and they’re the cheapest treatment on this list.

De La Cruz Sulfur Ointment: $6
Time commitment to see results: overnight
Don’t let the packaging fool you, De La Cruz means business. The active ingredient is 10-percent sulfur, which absorbs excess oil. You may also find it works to reduce cystic breakouts, like this writer did. We love it so much we included it in in last year's Top 25.

Differin: $14
Time commitment to see results: 12 weeks
Differin’s active ingredient is adapalene, a prescription-grade retinoid that’s now available OTC. A retinoid is similar to an acid in that it helps encourage cell turnover, but it does so at a cellular level instead of through exfoliation. Working it into your routine will keep pores clear, and it'll also fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation spots from earlier breakouts.

High Frequency Machine: $29
Time commitment to see results: instant
Yes, we know—without the glass nodes, this is a conversation piece. If you leave it out in your bathroom, friends will most certainly comment on a certain likeness. But, screw in the node and the device will glow orange with neon (or purple with argon) gas. A few passes over breakouts will soothe inflammation and encourage healing—it works especially well bringing down things you’ve already popped (oops) or cysts that you can’t.

Paula’s Choice Azelaic Acid: $36
Time commitment to see results: about a month
Glycolic and salicylic acid’s cooler, chiller cousin you recently found out about but also love and feel like you’ve known forever. It’s easy on sensitive skin, acts as an antibacterial, and works to lighten dark spots. Oh, and it exfoliates and sloughs off dead skin, just like its cousins. It’s all in the family. This one’s got 10-percent of the stuff.

Biologique Recherche P50: Prices vary at Rescue Spa
Time commitment to see results: a month
Are you new here? If so, let us introduce you. The cult exfoliating toner combines glycolic and salicylic acids, as well as plant extracts with extra resurfacing properties to help clear skin. Not to mention that it's recommended by equally cult aestheticians—Danuta Mieloch, Aida Bicaj, and Melanie Simon are all fans.

A facial with extractions at Heyday: $95
Time commitment to see results: instant
Every once in a while, you may need a professional to clear out your pores. Heyday’s services are no-frills, fast, and relatively affordable—so no more excuses or zit popping.

$100 - $500

LightStim for Acne: $169
Time commitment to see results: a month of consistent use
Blue LED light has antibacterial properties that kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin. LightStim’s version mixes in a few red lights to stimulate collagen production, plump skin, and soothe irritation. To use, just hold the light on your skin until the device beeps—with a smaller diameter versus a full-face mask, the price is lower but it takes more time.

Tretinoin: free, or $215 without insurance
Time commitment to see results: two to six months
You may know this potent skincare ingredient as Retin-A, or you might know its cousins, retinols—the difference is that Retin-A is stronger, and only available in the US by prescription. Your doctor will probably start with .025%, and work up from there as needed. The best part is, if you’re covered by insurance you can pick this up from your doctor for free! The worst part is if you’re not, it’s pretty expensive.

Isotretinoin: free, or $359 without insurance, per month
Otherwise known as Accutane, this is vitamin A taken orally. It’s controversial and should only be used as a last resort, but for many, it’s magic—well, not magic. There’s some very real science behind it! “Isotretinoin decreases the production of oil from your oil glands and enables superficial dead skin cells to slough off faster,” explains Dr. Idriss. Less oil and dead skin means fewer clogged pores. Like topical tretinoin, isotretinoin is covered under most insurance, but will cost a pretty penny without it.

Ziip: $495
Time commitment to see results: overnight
You know electric current can be used for stimulating collagen and lifting muscles, but did you know it worked on acne? The Ziip is the only at-home microcurrent device with this feature—using the Total Clearing program, slide the Ziip over and around breakouts to instantly zap the infection and induce healing, like a spot treatment. It works because a negatively-charged current attracts the bacteria in acne, which is positively charged. After a day, the breakout is significantly lessened—but it’ll cost you.

Over $500

Isolaz: $600
Time commitment to see results: three to 12 weeks
Now we’re cooking! Every acne treatment moving forward can only be done by a licensed professional. Dr. Idriss says this one “combines a vacuum and broadband light to kill the acne-causing bacteria p. acnes in your pores.” Usually, three to six treatments are needed to see the full, breakout-free result.

IPL: $700
Time commitment to see results: about a month per treatment
If you have post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, IPL might be the treatment for you. It stands for intense pulsed light, and Dr. Idriss uses this treatment to “even out both red and brown discoloration from acne.” However, because it's attracted to melanin, people with darker skin aren't great candidates.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT): $750
Time commitment to see results: three to five months
This treatment has two steps. Dr Idriss explains, “The first step includes applying a topical medication that gets absorbed by your skin. Then, the patient sits under a specific wavelength of light to activate the medication and kill the acne causing bacteria.” Most patients do one treatment a month until they see the results they're looking for.

HA fillers: $950-$1350 per syringe
Time commitment to see results: instant
Deeply indented scars, called ice pick scars, can be filled with a small amount of hyaluronic acid filler. You know, the same thing you can use to plump lips or sculpt cheekbones. Same concept applies—the fillers plump the skin so texture is evened.

Sebacia: $1,000
Time commitment to see results: two to three months
Think of Sebacia, the newest FDA-approved treatment for acne, as topical Accutane—a laser specifically targets and damages oil glands, leading to less oil production and reduced breakouts. It works with a solution of gold microparticles that attract light and settle deep into the skin. You do three sessions in one week, and see the results a couple months after.

PRP: $1,500
Time commitment to see results: about a month
You call it a vampire facial, Dr. Idriss calls it, “another option to help stimulate production of your own collagen.” The benefit is twofold: the collagen helps plump up indented scars, and the method of delivery (microneedling) loosens scar tissue and encourages the skin to rise up to its original position.

Fraxel: $1,750
Time commitment to see results: fully healed in about two months
The biggest, baddest laser at your derm’s office comes with a hefty price tag to match. “Fraxel 1550 helps with texture,” says Dr. Idriss, “whereas Fraxel 1927 helps specifically with pigmentation.” The laser is ablative, which means it makes a grid of injuries on the skin that eventually fall off to reveal a new, clear layer of skin. It works to raise acne scars, lighten PIH, and also smooth wrinkles. For the big bucks, you’ve got to be getting what you pay for.

Photo via ITG