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While there are tons of acne spot treatments on the market, finding one that actually works can be quite a challenge. To help you with your research, Shop TODAY asked a handful of dermatologists and an esthetician about the best acne spot treatments to help clear up your skin in a hurry.
From pimple patches to drying lotions, you'll achieve a glowing complexion in no time.
The best acne spot treatments, according to experts
Dermatologist Dr. Hadley King recommends looking for acne-fighting and anti-inflammatory ingredients, like this formula from AcneFree. This spot treatment contains 10 percent micro-benzoyl peroxide and calming ingredients like chamomile, ginger and sea whip. Best of all? It works on all types of acne.
"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," she said. "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. 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."
"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," Sperling said.
She also recommends using it up to two times daily with your morning and nighttime skin care regimen.
This cult-favorite breakout buster is another great way to get rid of all of your unforgiving blemishes. Esthetician Candace Marino swears by this drying lotion formulated with salicylic acid, calamine and sulfur.
"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."
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 percent 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!" wrote one Sephora reviewer.
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," Sperling said. "This (product) is best for people with mild to moderate acne. 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."
6. 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.
"Differin is my go-to product recommendation for my patients suffering from acne," Sperling said. "It’s affordable and easy to get now that it doesn’t require a prescription."
The active ingredient in Differin is a retinoid called adapalene. "This powerhouse ingredient treats and prevents breakouts, promotes cell turnover, stimulates collagen, reduces discoloration and restores your skin’s natural texture and tone," Sperling said.
Differin 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, 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 also make convenient spot treatments. Not only do they have awesome blemish-fighting ingredients, but they'll 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," Marino said. "These really help to penetrate the pores and to get to the root of the problem."
King is also a fan of the Peace Out Acne Healing Dots. "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," King said.
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.
While Levin typically prefers full-face treatments to spot treatments, 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 two 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 it's formulated with moisturizing hyaluronic acid.
This article was originally published on March 25, 2020.
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