9 best acne spot treatments of 2020

Banish those pesky pimples for good.
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By Camryn La Sala

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Since most of us are self-distancing, staying in quarantine and working from home, there's no reason to wear makeup daily. Take advantage of this time to let your skin breathe and tackle all of those pesky pimples that don't seem to disappear.

While there are a bunch of acne spot treatments on the market, finding one that actually works can be quite a challenge. To help you with your research, TODAY asked a handful of dermatologists and an esthetician about the best acne spot treatments to get your skin clear ASAP.

From pimple patches to drying lotions, you'll achieve a glowy complexion in no time.

The Best Acne Spot Treatments

1. AcneFree Terminator 10 Acne Spot Treatment

Dermatologist Dr. Hadley King recommends looking for acne-fighting and anti-inflammatory ingredients, like this formula from AcneFree. This spot treatment contains 10% micro-benzoyl peroxide and calming ingredients like chamomile, ginger and sea whip. Best of all? It works on all types of acne, says King.

"Benzoyl peroxide is helpful for treating acne because it not only kills bacteria that contribute to acne but also helps to prevent and clear out clogged pores," he explained. "It also has anti-inflammatory properties and comedolytic properties, meaning that it works for all different kinds of acne: blackheads, whiteheads and larger red pimples."

To use this, he says, "I recommend applying a small amount in a thin layer in order to avoid unnecessary irritation, and I would recommend using it one to three times per day."

2. Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment

Another great budget-friendly option packed with benzoyl peroxide is this Neutrogena spot treatment.

"This drugstore option is affordable and effective," said Dr. Shari Sperling, a New Jersey based dermatologist.

In addition to benzoyl peroxide's pimple-banishing powers, this product is lightweight, absorbs quickly and won't dry out your face. "It’s also oil-free and non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores and cause more breakouts," noted Sperling.

Sperling recommends incorporating it into your usual routine for the best results. "Use this one to two times daily with your morning and nighttime skin care regimen."

3. Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

This cult-favorite blemish busting lotion is another great way to get rid of all of your unforgiving blemishes. Formulated with salicylic acid, calamine and sulfur, esthetician Candace Marino swears by this drying lotion.

"The calamine lotion is going to help soothe and cool the skin," she noted. "Sulfur helps to purify the pores and the salicylic acid will help exfoliate the pores and help remove oil buildup."

While it may be tempting, Marino says you should not shake this product before applying. "It’s clear on the top and pink on the bottom. So what you want to do is take a Q-tip, dip it all the way through to the bottom and remove without stirring it," she explained. "Then, dab it on and then sleep with it overnight."

4. Sircuit Skin Fixzit Plus

Marino also recommends this spot treatment for a plant-based option that calms skin while targeting acne.

"Unlike other drying products, the Sircuit Skin Fixzit has many beneficial ingredients that help calm and neutralize the skin, like azelaic acid," she said.

This gel spot treatment is made with retinol, salicylic acid and lactic acid. "All of these ingredients will help boost cell renewal, exfoliate and purify the pores. There’s also citric acid which neutralizes bacteria, as well as banana extract and biotin, which helps heal the pimple," Marino explained.

5. Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment

Made with salicylic acid — a powerful acne-fighting ingredient that exfoliates and unclogs pores — this spot treatment also reduces blemish size in just hours, says Sperling.

She also mentioned that many users claim they see fast results with this blemish fighter. According to a study from the brand, 97% of users agreed that the appearance of their blemish improved after just one day.

"This stuff works wonders. I noticed a huge difference shortly after I applied this to my pimples. I have pretty decent skin, just get a pimple every now and then, but this does the trick!" said one Sephora reviewer.

6. La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment

While this La Roche Posay acne treatment is definitely on the pricier side, Sperling thinks it's worth spending the extra cash.

Like many of the other options on this list, this product's hero ingredient is benzoyl peroxide. It's also made with a unique lipo-hydroxy acid. "This exfoliates the skin to remove dead skin cells and excess oil," she explains of the acid.

"This (product) is best for people with mild to moderate acne," adds Sperling. "It can be applied in one to three thin layers to the affected areas per day. You can see a difference in your skin within a week or so."

7. Differin Gel

Dermatologists agree: Differin is a must-have for anyone with acne (it also doubles as a great anti-aging product).

"Hands down my favorite over-the-counter treatment is Differin Gel, which is a prescription-strength retinoid that is the gold standard for the treatment of different types of acne from whiteheads to blackheads to mild to moderate acne or even occasional breakouts," said Dr. Melissa Levin, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology.

Levin isn't the only one who loves this product either.

"Differin is my go-to product recommendation for my patients suffering from acne. It’s affordable and easy to get now that it doesn’t require a prescription," said Sperling.

The active ingredient in Differin is the retinoid, adapalene, explained Sperling. "This powerhouse ingredient treats and prevents breakouts, promotes cell turnover, stimulates collagen, reduces discoloration and restores your skin’s natural texture and tone."

Differing also has anti-inflammatory properties and is "photo-stable," meaning you can use it during the day when the sun is out, added Levin.

As for application, Sperling said a little goes a long way. "You only need a pea-sized amount to cover your whole face, so much less for spot treatment. I recommend using only once daily and integrating it into your nighttime skin care routine," she said. "Those with mild to moderate acne-prone skin will see the best results, but it can be used on all skin types."

Just keep in mind that mild irritation, dryness, and redness are normal when first starting retinol — so allow your skin time to adjust.

Pimple Patches

1. Peace Out Acne Healing Dots

Pimple patches also make convenient spot treatments. Not only do they have awesome blemish-fighting ingredients, but they'll also prevent you from picking or popping your pimples, which affects inflammation and healing time.

"If someone has an inflammatory acne spot — something that’s above the surface and angry — I love these because you just slap them on and then you forget about it," said Marino. "These really help to penetrate the pores and to get to the root of the problem."

Another fan of the Peace Out Acne Healing Dots is King. "I like these because they include salicylic acid, which helps to remove oil and keratin debris from pores. They also include aloe vera, which is soothing and has anti-inflammatory properties."

Marino pointed out that you shouldn't leave one on for longer than eight hours at a time, but they're gentle enough to use continuously until the blemish clears up.

2. ZitSticka Killa Pimple Patch

While Levin doesn't typically recommend spot treatments but rather a full face treatment, she does like these pimple patches from ZitSticka.

"If you are in a bind and unable to see a dermatologist, I recommend applying a specialized hydrocolloid acne patch from ZitSticka," she said. "It's a 24 freeze-dried micro darts bandage that self dissolves over 2 hours in order to deliver acne-fighting ingredients with oligopeptide-76, a new novel peptide shown to be as effective as a traditional anti-inflammatory ingredient."

These patches also contain acne-fighting benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and anti-inflammatory vitamin B3.

King also likes this as a spot treatment option because its also formulated with moisturizing hyaluronic acid.

For more skin care recommendations, check out:

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