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15 Best Acne Spot Treatments 2023 – WWD


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When breakouts pop up out of nowhere at the most inopportune times, your best bet at damage control is selecting one of the best acne spot treatments in your beauty wardrobe. Acne spot treatments come in gels, lotions, creams, liquids, and the very popular pimple patches. This variety means that all skin types can reap the benefits, especially those with dry or sensitive skin types that typically can’t tolerate drying acne-fighting ingredients slathered all over the face.  

“In this day and age, there are more acne spot treatment formulas on the market than ever before,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Geeta Yadav. “However, the format remains largely the same topical spot treatments — with the more recent inclusion of pimple patches.”

But with all of those options, it can be tricky to narrow down the best fit for your particular blemish. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Brooke Jeffy explains, “If your pimple is raised or has visible pus, reach for a non-medicated hydrocolloid patch, which will help drain and flatten by drawing out excess oil and fluid. ”While acne spot treatments are amazing for tackling a pesky pimple, those with consistent breakouts should build an acne-fighting skin care and makeup regimen. A full routine can include items like acne-fighting cleansers, moisturizers, face serums, retinols, acne-fighting SPFs,  foundations, and even unexpected items like pillowcases that can help minimize bacteria (just remember to wash them regularly).

An acne spot treatment is designed for emergency use when a pimple begins to appear and is fueled by concentrated doses of active acne-fighting ingredients. “Spot treatments are intended for use directly on a blemish to encourage it to go away more quickly than if left alone,” says Jeffy. 

Spot treatments are usually at higher concentrations than traditional acne serums because they’re intended to work incredibly fast — some even as quickly as a few hours — on a targeted pimple or area. The powerhouse ingredients usually incorporated into these fast-acting treatments are actives like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, witch hazel, and tea tree oil. They work by drying out excess oils and reducing inflammation to minimize the size and redness of the acne breakout.

Acne spot treatments have always been popular when it comes to warding off an unexpected pimple. The only difference now is that there are so many more options available for use, giving users a number of ways to zero in on breakouts and one-off pimples. “There have been so many great developments over the years when it comes to acne spot treatments — there’s an option for everyone,” says Morgan Rackley, celebrity esthetician and owner of Luminous Skin Atlanta

We’ve created a comprehensive list of some of the best acne spot treatments available through the use of customer reviews, expert recommendations, best-sellers, and by testing some of them out ourselves. Below you’ll find the 15 best acne spot treatments, tailored for specific needs.

Top Acne Spot Treatments of 2023

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Related:
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best spot treatment for hormonal acne

Neutrogena Stubborn Acne Spot Drying Lotion

Type: Lotion
Size: 1 oz
Key Ingredients: 10% sulfur, 4% niacinamide
Pros: Unscented
Cons: Very drying
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Target Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.6/5 stars
Walmart Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars

$12.75

$14.97

15% off

$19.29

$14.23

Using the maximum amount of sulfur available OTC, this spot lotion packs a punch. This tried and true ingredient penetrates the pores to clear out acne-causing buildup and bacteria while niacinamide works to clear dark spots left from acne over time. On clean skin, cover the entire pimple with a thin layer of this solution one to three times a day. Since sulfur is known to be drying, it’s best to start out once a day and build up use if your skin can tolerate it.

What testers say: “This does work well and will dry your pimples up after using consistently for a few days. You better keep your face really still though after applying it, because it starts to flake and peel off a bit as it dries.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $12.75

Best acne spot treatment patches

Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch

Type: Patches
Size: 36 Count
Key Ingredients: Hydrocolloid
Pros: Results in 6 to 8 hours
Cons: Not for cystic acne
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Target Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.6/5 stars

While gels and creams have reigned supreme in the way of traditional acne spot treatments, hydrocolloid pimple patches have become fast favorites over the last couple of years with Hero Cosmetics leading the charge. These seamless, easy-to-apply patches work best on white-heads and to bring debris to a head while drying out excess moisture, and this brand is a favorite of Jeffy’s. “They work to reduce inflammation, deliver treatments, and also help by deterring picking,” she explains.

What testers say: “Picked these up to try as I was having a flare up. They stick great and last all night without falling off. I even had to move one after I placed it wrong and it had no problem re-sticking and staying through the night. Easy peel off in the morning and helped with shrinking blemishes overnight. Worked best for white-heads, but helped others overall. Used for my daughter also who has very sensitive skin (gets redness from Band-Aids) and had no issues. Will purchase again.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $10.77

Best Acne Spot Treatment for Dry Skin

Skinfix Acne + 2% BHA and Azelaic Acid Acne Spot Treatment

Type: Lotion
Size: 0.5 oz
Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, azelaic acid, kaolin clay, and niacinamide
Pros: Good for dry skin types
Cons: Might not be as effective on cystic acne
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Walmart Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 
4.5/5 stars

This highly rated Skinfix acne spot treatment contains salicylic acid to help decongest clogged pores while also eliminating excess oil. Niacinamide, an ingredient that’s well tolerated by and beneficial for many skin types, helps to minimize the look of pores and regulate sebum to create a balance to the skin. But even when acne disappears, post-acne hyperpigmentation often remains, which is why azelaic acid comes in handy for fading these marks and improving the look of uneven skin tone. Some reviewers have noted that this spot cream can be a little potent so it’s best to follow the user instructions and only apply to affected areas on the face or body after cleansing one to two times daily.

What testers say: “My face broke out so bad before an event and this cleared up my pimples overnight! It dried out the pimples and also helped with shrinking the size and decreased redness! Defs recommend!”

Price upon publish date of this article: $22

Best acne scar spot treatment 

Tula Go Away Acne Spot Treatment

Type: Lotion
Size: 0.50 oz
Key Ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide, licorice, niacinamide, azelaic acid, and tea tree oil
Pros: Less inflammation after 24 hours
Cons: Not best for sensitive skin
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Nordstrom Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

A spot treatment should be the last step in your skincare routine, but this is one product you definitely won’t leave out of the lineup. Using FDA-approved benzoyl peroxide, it helps to clear acne fast while also preventing future breakouts. A big plus is that it also helps to fade pesky post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation marks left over by acne with ingredients like licorice, niacinamide and azelaic acid while tea tree oil helps to soothe irritation.

What testers say: “I purchased this for my daughter who suffers from acne. She’s bad about keeping up with a skin care routine, but she has been consistent with this and it has helped her skin a lot!”

Price upon publish date of this article: $22

Best Drugstore Acne Spot Treatment

Differin Acne Retinoid Treatment Gel

Type: Gel
Size: 1.6 oz
Key Ingredients: Adapalene 0.1%
Pros: Smooths skin texture
Cons: Not pregnancy safe
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Target Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.6/5 stars

The best thing Differin ever did was release an OTC version of its formerly prescription-only product. Adapalene, the powerhouse ingredient in this acne spot treatment, is well-known for its acne-fighting properties. Differin targets two main causes of breakouts: clogged pores and inflammation. In addition to that, it also helps to speed up skin cell  turnover to reveal a smoother complexion over time. While this is a great product, it’s a retinol product, and certain precautions need to be taken. It’s best to use it once a day after cleansing, preferably at night. Retinoids can cause sensitivity, so limiting sun exposure will go a long way and always using sunscreen outside is a must.

What testers say: “This stuff is my holy grail when I get some breakouts! I will get small occasional breakouts on my forehead and chin and I’ll apply this at night, and in the morning I’m shocked that it has already started working on reducing the breakouts! I also have sensitive skin and it never caused an issue.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $14.49

Best Liquid Acne Spot Treatment

Kiehl’s Truly Targeted Acne Clearing Solution

Type: Serum
Size: 0.5 fl. oz.
Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, niacinamide, licorice root
Pros: Lightweight
Cons: Can feel tacky
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

This isn’t what many of us are used to when we think of a pimple patch, but Kiehl’s liquid patch, formulated with salicylic acid, creates a lightweight barrier on the skin while treating the breakout with the acne-fighting active. Great for combination, oily, and dry skin types, this treatment can be applied in the morning or evening and reduces pimple size in as little as 24 hours. And with regular use, it can fade acne marks in four weeks. To use, apply one drop to a clean fingertip after cleansing and gently dab it onto the breakout. Spread it into a thin layer without over-rubbing it. Then — the most important part — let the serum dry fully for 30 to 60 seconds before applying any SPF or makeup.

What testers say: “My acne spots are no joke, and this visibly reduced the size of my spots within hours (even large cystic ones). I’m really impressed with it. I haven’t tried to use it under makeup yet but I do like that it creates a bit of a barrier over your active acne, it dries down really nicely.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $30

Best Fast-Acting Zit Treatment

Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment

Type: Gel
Size: 0.5 oz.
Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, witch hazel, and oat extract (to soothe)
Pros: Works fast
Cons: Not great for sensitive skin
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars

For all of the oily-skin readers out there, this is a great spot treatment for you to try out, but it is potent. It actually reduces the size of breakouts within four hours. While salicylic acid does what it does best to unclog pores, this treatment is infused with soothing oat extract and topped off with witch hazel to get rid of unwanted oil and tighten pores.

What testers say: “Smells like rubbing alcohol but works like a dream. It gets rid of incoming pimples and milia. If I feel a pimple coming in, I put this on and it’s gone overnight. For best results put it on, let it dry, put a pimple patch on overnight.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $23.40

Best Sulfur Acne Spot Treatment

Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Spot Treatment

Type: Mask
Size: 1 oz
Key Ingredients: 10% sulfur, BHAs, zinc oxide
Pros: Starts working within one hour
Cons: Not for daily use
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

Dr. Jeffy touts the use of sulfur as a “great spot-treating active” because it aids in the removal of excess oil while soothing inflammation without causing too much irritation. However, this fast-acting treatment is formulated with the maximum amount of sulfur (which can be drying) to fight existing breakouts while preventing new ones. So have a great moisturizer for acne-prone skin on hand. For application, don’t shake the bottle. Instead, dip a clean cotton swab into the pink sediment at the bottom of the jar and apply to your pimple. Allow the product to dry and either rinse off after an hour or leave on overnight.

What testers say: “Very effective at drying, but careful not to use multiple days in a row, for me that led to a dry patch.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $25.20

Best Clean Acne Spot Treatment

Burt’s Bees Herbal Blemish Spot Treatment Stick

Type: Oil
Size: 0.2 oz.
Key Ingredients: Willow bark extract, cica, and tea tree oil
Pros: Easy to use
Cons: Fragrant
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Target Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.6/5 stars
Walmart Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars

This convenient Burt’s Bees acne spot treatment is formulated with willow bark extract. This ingredient naturally contains BHAs to reduce acne and unclog pores that lead to breakouts. The best part is that neither cica nor the tea tree oil (an herbal astringent) are abrasive. Packed in an easy-to-use roll-on stick, this product gently soothes the skin as well.

What testers say: “Note for Burt’s not for potential customer: Packaging could be improved — I’ve had three sticks break on me, and if you don’t store upright you risk a leak. Love the product though! I use it as a drying agent and antimicrobial.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $7.84

Best spot treatments for cystic acne

<strong> </strong>Yon-Ka Paris Skincare SOS Spot Blemish Treatment

Type: Liquid roll-on
Size: 15 mL
Key Ingredients: Ichtyol (a sulfur-rich mineral), bisabolol (an anti-inflammatory), lactic acid, and lime and quintessence (lavender, thyme, rosemary, cypress, geranium).
Pros: Targets inflammation
Cons: Pricy for the amount
Skinstore Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.4/5 stars
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Dermstore Top-Quality Store Badge on Google:
 4.4/5 stars

If you’re not a fan of heavy creams and lotions as spot treatments, this lightweight targeted acne treatment is an instant “add to cart.” Lactic acid, bisabolol, an anti-inflammatory, and lime help to regulate sebum production, reduce redness, and speed up cell turnover while calendula works to soothe compromised skin. While some spot treatments are best at targeting white heads or pustules, testers have noticed that this treatment also seems to keep stubborn cystic acne at bay. After cleansing and toning the skin, apply the roller ball to affected areas of your face in the morning and evening. With its easy travel-friendly packaging, you can also keep it in your purse to be applied throughout the day if necessary.

What testers say: “I was really surprised about how effective this treatment roller is! For something so small, it packs quite the punch. I have hormonal cystic breakouts and these help get them under control much faster than other products I’ve used. The applicator is also so unique and helps put the perfect amount of spot treatment on.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $30.40

Best pimple cream for oily skin

Bliss Clear Genius Acne Spot Treatment

Type: Gel
Size: 0.5 fl oz
Key Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid, witch hazel, niacinamide, zinc PCA, and cica.
Pros: Non-drying formula
Cons: Results might take some time
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google:
 4.5/5 stars
Walmart Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars

Salicylic acid is a recurring ingredient in many of the acne spot treatments on this list for a reason. While this fragrance-free formula is great for all skin types, it works especially well on oily skin. Using a gentle yet effective cocktail of salicylic acid, witch hazel, niacinamide, zinc PCA, and cica this spot treatment helps fight pimples and blackheads without stripping the skin. On clean skin, apply to the affected area using a thin layer one to three times a day.

What testers say: “It does work on the whiteheads on my sensitive skin but only in places that get a lot of air to dry out. Sometimes,it takes as long as 3-5 days to dry one out, though. Gentle, not fast. Cruelty-free, though!”

Price upon publish date of this article: $12.97

Best dermatologist-recommended acne spot treatment 

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

Type: Lotion
Size: 1 oz.
Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, sulfur, calamine, and zinc oxide
Pros: Fast-acting
Cons: Drying formula
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

This formula was created in the 1960s by Mario Badescu and is still a top-seller today. “I like Mario Badescu Drying Lotion,” says Dr. Yadav. “It’s a classic formula that uses sulfur and salicylic acid to help treat a blemish overnight.” A clarifying, bi-phase solution, this acne spot-treatment lotion dries up blemishes by drawing out acne-causing debris while reducing the inflammation of these breakouts the next day. Without shaking the bottle, dip a cotton swab into the pink sediment and dab directly onto your breakout. Let the formula dry on its own without rubbing it into the skin. Then go to sleep and rinse off well with water the next morning.

What testers say: “When I get acne they are just huge pimples randomly placed around my face. When I put this on overnight they are significantly better in the morning! It will take a few applications for the issue to fully resolve! Only 4 stars because the smell is so strong it will burn a bit when used under or around the nose.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $16.15

Best benzoyl peroxide acne spot treatment

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo

Type: Lotion
Size: 1.35 fl. oz.
Key Ingredients: 5.5% benzoyl peroxide, 0.4% micro-exfoliating LHA, and glycerin
Pros: Clears black and white heads
Cons: Not the best for cystic acne
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

While some products high in benzoyl peroxide can be too much for some skin types this 5.5 percentage is mild enough to provide an effective result without the negative effects.  “For a benzoyl peroxide-containing spot treatment, I like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo,” says Jeffy. “It has micronized benzoyl peroxide making it much more tolerable than other benzoyl peroxide products.” This micronized formulation also allows for better penetration of the product and is great for stubborn inflamed acne. This treatment also includes a micro-exfoliating LHA, a derivative of salicylic acid, to help further unclog pores and deliver a smooth skin texture.

What testers say: “Good spot treatment for small pimples. Can be drying so it’s best to use a little bit at first and work your way up to multiple times a day. For larger pimples, it can take a few days to see improvement.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $35.99

Best acne spot treatment for sensitive skin

Rael Acne Spot Treatment

Type: Gel
Size: .14 fl. oz.
Key Ingredients: Succinic acid, cica, tea tree oil
Pros: Lightweight formula
Cons: Packing design could use an update
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

$11.99

$14.99

20% off

$11.99

One of the easiest ways to self-sabotage when clearing a breakout is to use unclean application methods like not washing your hands or face before. Rael spot treatment comes in an easy-to-apply hygienic applicator with a silicone brush, but it must be noted that upon first use that it might take close to 50 clicks to actually dispense the product. Heavy hitters include succinic acid which reduces blemishes, inflammation and unclogs pores while also acting as a restorative agent for the skin’s pH. Cica aids in reducing redness while tea tree helps with inflammation as well.

What testers say: “I have used Rael’s spots and those are great, but this works better for me. The spots keep the area moist and this allows them to dry out. I tend to break out after epilation of my facial peach fuzz. This allows me to only have two days of spots vs. a week.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $11.99

Best Splurge Acne Spot Treatment

Valmont Primary Solution Targeted Blemish Treatment

Type: Serum
Size: 20mL
Key Ingredients: Prebiotics, probiotics, borage oil
Pros: Gentle
Cons: Results over time
Saks Fifth Avenue Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4/5 stars
Neiman Marcus Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 
4.5/5 stars

For those who want a spot treatment infused with a bit of luxury, look no further than Valmont. This product’s aim is to aid in any skin emergency. This serum helps minimize the appearance of pimples, flakes and small lesions due to unbalanced skin. Pre- and probiotics help maintain and fortify a healthy skin ecosystem, while lightweight, fast-absorbing borage oil tackles inflammation. This serum is gentle enough for use in the morning and evening — all you need to do is apply to affected areas.

Price upon publish date of this article: $220

What to Look For in the Best Acne Spot Treatments

With everything on the market, finding the best acne spot treatment can easily become overwhelming. To break things down in a digestible way while shopping, reviewing the product’s ingredients, delivery, and formula to help you make a more informed decision.

  • Active ingredients: Ingredients matter when looking for an effective acne spot treatment (more on this next). Benzoyl peroxide, a popular ingredient kills acne causing bacteria, is best used on pus-filled pimples while salicylic acid, another popular ingredient, is an exfoliant that unclogs pores. This makes it great for zapping blackheads and whiteheads. Additionally, sulfur also addresses clogged pores but by targeting excess sebum and dead skin cells making it ideal for oily or congested skin types.
  • Delivery: Lotions, creams, gels and patches are all common methods of delivering acne-fighting actives in spot treatments. Dr. Jeffy notes that if your “pimple is raised or has visible pus,” a non-medicated hydrocolloid patch will help best. Gels or lotions might work best when trying to unclog pores and kill bacteria.
  • Formula type: Dr. Jeffy cautions that “spot treatments contain highly concentrated amounts of actives safe for use on small areas only,” meaning that formula type is important to consider especially for sensitive and dry skin types. Treatments with high concentrations of sulfur will be incredibly drying as might those with higher percentages of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid — so it’s important to factor in formulas with lower percentages of actives and those that are coupled with soothing ingredients or hydrators like niacinamide, calendula, and glycerin.

Top Acne-Fighting Ingredients in Acne Spot Treatments

Focusing on ingredients is key to an effective spot treatment because not every ingredient will treat every type of acne breakout. The reason so many acne spot treatments contain multiple actives is because each one will accomplish a different goal to help you reclaim clear skin. Here are some key players.

  • Benzoyl peroxide: “This treatment works by killing bacteria deep within the skin as well as helping to slough away dead skin cells and tame excess oil,” notes Dr. Yadav. Dr. Jeffy adds, “Benzoyl peroxide is an antibiotic that kills acne causing bacteria in and around the pimple,” and therefore it might be best to use on pimples like papules and pustules that contain pus.
  • Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid is an exfoliant that goes deep into the pores making it great for whiteheads and blackheads. “Salicylic acid works by unclogging pores of excess oil and dead skin cells,” explains Dr. Jeffy.  
  • Retinoids and adapalene: These vitamin A derivatives have been used in many prescription acne treatments and “have historically been used for treating more advanced acne,” says Dr. Yadav.  They help to jumpstart skin cell turnover to relieve you of a breakout faster. However, they’re also known for not being the kindest to sensitive skin types.
  • Sulfur: “Sulfur targets both dead skin cells and sebum, two of the main factors that cause pore congestion,” says Dr. Yadav. Note that this ingredient can be drying, so you’ll want to keep a rich moisturizer in rotation when using the ingredient.
  • Niacinamide: “Niacinamide and sulfur are also great spot-treating actives that help remove excessive oil and soothe inflammation without irritation,” says Dr. Jeffy. In addition to being gentle, niacinamide is also beneficial when refining pores.
  • Willow bark: “Willow bark is actually the precursor to salicylic acid and is both an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent,” says Dr. Yadav. Great for unclogging pores, willow bark is excellent for use on whiteheads.
  • Hydrocolloid: These new kids on the block are amazingly popular because of how fast they can absorb excess fluids from a breakout. “They work to reduce inflammation, deliver treatments and also help by deterring picking,” says Dr. Jeffy.
  • Witch hazel: This popular astringent is often, but not exclusively, found in the natural product space. Witch hazel, a plant native to North America, is lauded for its ability to ease inflammation and soothe the skin.

How to Apply Acne Spot Treatments

When to incorporate a spot treatment is just as important as what ingredients you’re using. Potent actives like benzoyl peroxide and retinoids are best left to nighttime routines, as they can lead to sensitivity during the day. “I recommend applying spot treatments at bedtime after cleansing the face and then cleansing in the morning to remove any residue or excess product that may remain on the skin,” says Dr. Jeffy. However, items like pimple patches are amazing for both day and night use and provide an extra layer of protection to the skin while also preventing unwanted picking.

  1. Cleanse: When using active ingredients it is always good to balance your routine with gentle products so that you don’t sensitize or cause irritation to the skin. Opt for a gentle cleanser. Or if you have a specific skin type, go for one of the best face washes for oily skin or a cleanser suited for dry skin.
  2. Tone: Then go in with a gentle or hydrating toner (as opposed to an exfoliating toner) that will make sure all traces of dirt, bacteria and makeup are removed.
  3. Moisturize: Choose a moisturizer for acne-prone skin that won’t further clog your pores or exacerbate existing breakouts.
  4. Spot Treat: A little goes a long way when using a spot treatment, and is usually the last step in a skincare routine. “Spot-treatment products are too strong to be used on the entire face,” says Dr. Jeffy. So one small pump should suffice for a small area. To maintain a sanitary environment, make sure your fingers are clean if you’re applying a cream or lotion. Q-tips always come in handy to provide easy application and are typically recommended when using bottled sulfur acne spot treatments.  

How Long Does It Take for Spot Treatments to Work? 

The timeline to zap pimples matters less than using the right formula for the right type of blemish. “The frustrating truth is that most acne treatments can take up to six weeks to work and fully clear a blemish, but many of the below treatments can help quell a blemish and make it less painful or noticeable, making them easier to manage and conceal with makeup, if desired,” says Dr. Yadav. 

It’s easy to view acne spot treatments as a quick fix — but that doesn’t mean you should go rogue and apply as frequently as you’d like. Follow the instructions on the packaging or you may inadvertently inflict unnecessary irritation. “It’s not recommended to apply most benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinoid/adapalene formulas more than twice a day at most, as these ingredients can be quite irritating to the skin,” advises Dr. Yadav. “Depending on the type of blemish, willow bark, clay, or pimple patches may be your best bet for a constant treatment, which can be helpful ahead of a major event,” she notes. 

Struggling with more cystic acne? “Those struggling with cystic acne should consider more professional solutions, as they require more dedicated and long-term attention,” says Rackley. 

How We Chose the Best Acne Spot Treatments

Since 1910, WWD — often referred to as “the fashion bible” — has been the leading industry voice of authority for senior executives in the global women’s and men’s fashion, retail and beauty communities, while also informing the consumer media that cover the market. Today, WWD’s breaking news and trend coverage continues to be a trustworthy resource for both fashion insiders and consumers alike. Our shopping editors continue to uphold WWD’s editorial standards and values with quality, expert-backed product selections.

Narrowing down the 15 best acne spot treatments was a collective effort. We conducted expert interviews with professionals in the fields of dermatology as well as aestheticians to determine top ingredients and products. We also garnered personal recommendations from them. In addition, we looked through customer reviews and product ratings while tapping into our own market research and product testing. Learn more about us here.

Meet the Experts

Dr. Brooke Jeffy is a board-certified dermatologist, acne specialist, and founder of BTWN, a simple skincare line for teens.

Dr. Geeta Yadav is a board-certified dermatologist based in Toronto. She’s an expert in both medical and cosmetic dermatology at her practice Facet Dermatology. She holds a master’s degree in international health from Johns Hopkins and completed her dermatology training at the University of Toronto, where she still teaches today.

Morgan Rackley is a celebrity esthetician as well as the owner of Luminous Skin Atlanta. She’s been licensed for over 10 years.

Meet the Author

Jamie Wilson is a New York-based beauty writer and editor. Prior to going freelance and contributing to brands like Glamour, she previously held the title of beauty editor at Harper’s BAZAAR writing both print and digital features, trend stories, celebrity interviews, and cover stories. She can usually be found testing out new products from her Brooklyn apartment, including top acne spot treatments.





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