6 Acne Spot Treatments That Zap Zits Without Killing Your Skin

by Deanna McCormack

The truth is, no one is immune to breakouts. They can occur on any skin type at any time and for many different reasons (some more difficult to treat than others). Regardless of the cause of your acne, adding one of the best acne spot treatments into your skincare arsenal can help when you’re trying to clear or fade a pimple, fast.

Even if you already use an all-over acne product, an acne spot treatment is still a great addition to your routine, provided your skin can tolerate it. While all-over treatments tend to be preventative, spot treatments are often the most effective way to treat a stubborn breakout that's already shown up. Also, even if a pimple is already healing, a spot treatment can help fade the remaining redness and reduce the potential of scarring.

The confusing thing about acne spot treatments, however, is that they can contain vastly different ingredients. Some are formulated with variations of the most popular acne-fighting ingredients — salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide — while others contain over the counter sulfur, or even tea tree oil.

Each of these active ingredients have different strengths and weaknesses, and finding the right one for you will depend on your skin type, the cause of your acne, and your preferences. No matter which type you choose, keep in mind that your spot treatment will work best if you apply it on clean skin and give it a chance to sink in. After it's dried (about three to five minutes) you can go ahead with the rest of your routine.

Ready to try it? Start with one of the six acne spot treatments on this list.


This Pink Drying Spot Treatment With Calamine

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, $17, Amazon

Made with salicylic acid, calamine, sulfur and other quick-drying ingredients, Mario Badescu's Drying Lotion is a best-selling acne treatment that gained popularity due to its ability to help dry up whiteheads overnight. With its unique formula, it draws impurities from the skin while you sleep and shortens the time a pimple will remain active. But don’t shake the bottle! Dip a cotton swab into the formula through the separated layers and apply directly to the pimples you want to treat on your face or body.


Little Patches That Protect & Heal

Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch, $11, Amazon

A one-of-a-kind product with a cult following, Cosrx's Acne Pimple Master Patches are basically clear, waterproof stickers that come in different sizes so they can be applied directly on top of the pimple you want to treat. The patch’s potent formula extracts impurities, absorbs bacteria, reduces inflammation, and promotes healing all while preventing dryness. They are also the hands-down best way to (literally) protect your breakouts from further infection.


A Natural Roller Ball Blemish Treatment With Tea Tree Oil

Desert Essence Facial Blemish Stick, $9, Amazon

If you have sensitive skin or are simply looking for a more natural way to fight breakouts, the Desert Essence Facial Blemish Stick is the natural acne spot treatment for you. Formulated with tea tree oil — which has serious antibacterial and drying properties — and botanical extracts of chamomile, lavender, palmarosa, wintergreen, and calendula, this little roller ball stick applies easily and works to reduce breakouts gently and quickly.


A Bacteria-Clearing Gel With Benzoyl Peroxide

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment Cream, $15, Amazon

Designed to be dabbed directly onto breakouts, La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment Cream is a concentrated benzoyl peroxide gel with micro-exfoliating LHA that gently and effectively wipes out breakout-causing bacteria and exfoliates away dead skin. If you don't have sensitive skin, benzoyl peroxide (which isn't known for being gentle) is a great treatment because it kills bacteria and works really quickly compared to other active ingredients.


A Sulfur-Packed Acne Spot Treatment That Clears Breakouts & Helps Minimize Irritation

MyChelle Clear Skin Spot Treatment, $14, Amazon

Sulfur, when used as a topical treatment for acne, can speed drying, reduce oiliness, clear away dead skin cells, and fight acne-causing bacteria. It’s one of the reasons MyChelle's Clear Skin Spot Treatment is so effective at fighting breakouts. In addition to sulfur, the vegetarian formula contains totarol and willow bark extract for added added pimple-fighting, as well as an anti-inflammatory, pre and probiotics, and aloe to heal and sooth skin.


An Upgraded Salicylic Acid Treatment With Red Algae

Origins Super Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel, $25, Amazon

If you're looking to upgrade your classic drugstore salicylic acid spot treatment, try Origins' Super Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel with skin-calming red algae. Salicylic acid is a tried-and-true blemish fighter that works because of its ability to break down oil, unclog pores, and exfoliate and remove dead skin cells. Also, because of its chemical similarities to aspirin, it reduces redness and inflammation.

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