Think of acne spot treatment as a skincare 9-1-1. You won’t need it every day, or even most days, but you’ll sleep better knowing it’s always there in case of emergency.
Acne spot treatment is the product you’ll whip out to save the day when you need to squash a pimple ASAP. If you notice a zit the night before a wedding or job interview, your trusty spot treatment will make it disappear.
So what’s the secret behind behind this powerful product? Here’s everything you need to know about how it works.
What causes unexpected acne flare-ups?
Acne spot treatment is usually meant to eliminate occasional pimples or flare-ups rather than be used for daily prevention. So what causes those sudden influxes of acne in the first place? There are some especially common culprits.
- Hormonal Changes
During puberty, certain hormones in your system increase. This can lead to an increase in your skin’s oil production and a resulting acne flare-up. You might also experience hormonal changes that cause acne if you become pregnant or stop taking birth control pills.
- Beauty Products
Some types of foundation, lotion, or makeup can clog your pores. Be sure to shop for beauty products that are labeled as “non-comedogenic.” This means they’re formulated not to clog your pores, which is a much better bet for staying acne-free.
There’s nothing like good old-fashioned stress to provoke a breakout. Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” can have all kinds of ill effects on the body – and acne is one of them.
If you’ve recently switched the dosage of any of your medications, there’s a chance it could be causing unexpected breakouts. If you think this might be the case for you, give your doctor a call.
- Touching Your Pimples
Why is it so darn tempting to touch or pick at pimples? Touching can spread bacteria from the pimples to other parts of your face and cause even more breakouts. Even if you really want to pop a pimple, it’s just not worth it.
- Hair Maintenance Habits
If you have bangs, sleeping with them pressed to your face can cause forehead acne. Excess hair gel and spray can also cause acne along your hairline.
- Fluoride Toothpaste
If you’re seeing breakouts around your mouth or lips, fluoride toothpaste might be to blame. Try switching to a fluoride-free toothpaste.
If you eat lots of greasy foods (hey, we’ve all been there), be sure to enjoy them in the most tidy way possible. Don’t touch your face after holding greasy food in your hands, and wash your face soon after eating. Otherwise, the grease from those tasty french fries could spend a little too much time on your face and cause a breakout.
When do you need an acne spot treatment?
There are some skincare dilemmas that can only be solved by an acne spot treatment.
When you have one stubborn, bright red pimple.
Acne spot treatments are excellent for targeting raised or red blemishes. These types of pimples don’t always respond to your typical skincare routine, which means it’s time to apply spot treatment.
When you notice the beginnings of a pimple just starting to surface.
Most acne sufferers recognize the uncomfortable feeling of a pimple starting to form under the skin. You might want to apply a spot treatment to that early-stage zit before it even breaks the surface. The spot treatment will help pull the pimple out faster so it can be zapped at a speedier pace.
When you get breakouts at the same time each month or year.
If you experience breakouts related to stress, hormonal changes, or other situations you can predict, a spot treatment can be your best defense. Keep the treatment on hand when you know a breakout is coming, and apply spot treatment the second you see the beginnings of pimples.
What makes acne spot treatments so powerful?
There’s a reason acne spot treatments are meant to be applied to a small patch of skin rather than to your entire face: the stuff is really concentrated. Below are some of the toughest ingredients in typical acne spot treatments:
- Benzoyl Peroxide
This ingredient works as an antiseptic to crush acne-causing bacteria in your skin. It also reduces inflammation and redness.
- Salicylic Acid
This acne zapping ingredient acts as an exfoliator. It digs deep into your pores to remove bacteria, smooth out skin, and clear out pimple-causing gunk.
Sulfur is a good option for drying out fluid-filled pimples while simultaneously decreasing inflammation.
The Top 5 Best Acne Spot Treatment Products
Best Acne Spot Treatment For Overnight Healing: Clean & Clear Advantage Spot Treatment
This potent gel works overnight to banish your pimples while you sleep.
Why we like it:
- Uses salicylic acid, a top acne-fighting ingredient.
- Suitable for all skin types.
You might want to choose Clean & Clear Advantage Spot Treatment if:
You want to zap your zits overnight with little fuss.
This spot treatment uses a high concentration of salicylic acid, an ingredient recognized by dermatologists for its ability to dramatically clear up breakouts. It also uses witch hazel, an ingredient known to sooth skin. While getting rid of your pimple, the treatment also dissolves excess oil to decrease the likelihood of the breakout spreading.
Best Acne Spot Treatment For Cystic Acne: TreeActiv Cystic Acne Spot Treatment
This treatment is ideal for cystic acne, a severe type of acne caused by bacteria-filled cysts beneath the surface of the skin.
Why we like it:
- Uses natural ingredients.
- Works on cystic acne, the toughest variety of acne.
- Great for oily skin.
You might want to choose TreeActiv Cystic Acne Spot Treatment if:
You have severe acne and want to try a more natural product.
One of the main ingredients in this spot treatment is bentonite clay, a compound known to draw out toxins while soothing irritation. The treatment also includes grapefruit essential oil to reduce inflammation, peppermint to remove bacteria, and lemon essential oil to exfoliate dead skin cells. It also smells fantastic, which, based on the treatment’s fragrant ingredients, is no big surprise.
Best Acne Spot Treatment For Real-Time Results: Mighty Patch Hydrocolloid Acne Absorbing Spot Dots
These nifty patches apply directly to your pimple and zap it right before your eyes.
Why we like it:
- It’s portable.
- Works overnight.
- It’s fun to use. (Yes, really!)
You might want to choose Mighty Patch if:
You need to treat your acne on the go, or simply want treatment to be as convenient as possible.
These tiny dot stickers work by removing excess oil and bacteria from your pimple while you watch. The stickers also protect your blemishes from bacteria and touching, both of which can slow down the healing process. Their main ingredient is hydrocolloid, a compound that absorbs fluid. The patches are vegan friendly, and they’re subtle enough that you can wear them out in public if you need to.
Best Acne Spot Treatment For Oily Skin: Murad Acne Control Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment
This treatment removes excess oil and delivers results in just a few hours.
Why we like it:
- Uses salicylic acid, a powerful ingredient for fighting acne.
- Works quickly.
- Excellent for oily skin.
You might want to choose Murad Acne Control Rapid Relief if:
You need a fast-acting formula that won’t inflame oily skin.
This spot treatment can deliver results in just four hours. It uses salicylic acid, a hardcore ingredient that can exfoliate, clear pores, and smooth out your skin. The product is clear and non-peeling, so if you wear makeup, it will blend well underneath it.
Best Acne Spot Treatment For Dry Skin: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment Cream
This spot treatment offers a double whammy of exfoliation and treatment with benzoyl peroxide, an effective acne-fighting ingredient.
Why we like it:
- Uses benzoyl peroxide, a powerful acne-fighting ingredient.
- Micro-exfoliates for maximum smoothness.
You might want to choose La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action if:
You have dry, sensitive skin but don’t want to sacrifice strong ingredients.
This popular treatment is known for its ability to work quickly and deliver strong results within a few days. The treatment uses benzoyl peroxide, a powerful pore-penetrating acne fighter. It also includes an ingredient called LHA, which micro-exfoliates for a more even skin texture. It’s oil-free and non-comedogenic, which means that it won’t clog your pores while it helps you heal.
The best acne spot treatment is one you always have on hand.
There’s a famous episode of the series Sex And The City in which Carrie, the show’s star character, develops a monstrous pimple en route to meet her ex-boyfriend. Carrie panics, then wastes the entire rest of the episode trying in vain to banish her zit. When you have a trusty acne spot treatment that works, this is the exact kind of scenario that will never happen to you.
Instead, your spot treatment will banish trouble-making zits in what feels like an instant. Even if you rarely use it, the peace of mind that comes with having an acne spot treatment on hand is worth its weight in gold. Stock up, because once you do, you’ll never have to worry about surprise pimples again.