Sudden breakouts are incredibly frustrating. And even if you eat a healthy diet, wear makeup that won’t clog your pores, change your pillowcase regularly, and use acne-fighting skincare products (such as cleansers that contain ingredients like salicylic acid), you can still wake up to the unpleasant discovery that a pimple has pushed its way to the surface of your skin.
The good news: Topical spot treatments can quickly and effectively aid in the skin’s healing process, shrinking existing pimples and preventing acne scars from forming. But with so many products on the market, it can be difficult to figure out which zit-zapping formulas are the most effective, so we turned to skincare professionals to get their expert opinions. Here, six powerful acne spot treatments that dermatologists swear by.
1 Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Eliminating Spot Gel
New York City-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules ($15; amazon.com) Debra Jaliman, MD, recommends this drugstore find to help unclog pores and prevent future breakouts. Because it contains glycerin, it also helps with dryness.
2 Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Acne Clearing Gel
San Francisco-based dermatologist William Kwan, MD, swears by this treatment-and its powerful ingredients. “It has a combination of glycolic acid (AHA) and salicylic acid (BHA),” he explains. “These are helpful to exfoliate the comedone and heal the acne.” Dr. Kwan also likes that this gel contains licorice extract, which helps lighten dark spots left behind by past blemishes.
3 Differin.1% Acne Gel
Differin has become a fan favorite since it was approved by the FDA for over-the-counter purchase last year. One such fan: Bruce Katz, MD, a New York-area dermatologist. “It is prescription strength without a prescription, and works to unblock pores and treat acne better than any other OTC product,” he says.
4 ProactivMD Adapalene Gel 0.1%
S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD, founder of the Miami Skin Institute, recommends this gel for fast-acting results. “It’s ideal for comedonal acne, which manifests as stubborn blackheads and whiteheads,” Dr. Jegasothy explains.
5 Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment
“It provides the right balance of benzoyl peroxide, a favorite acne treatment ingredient among dermatologists, in a base that won’t irritate the skin-or the wallet,” says Mary Gail Mercurio, MD, professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
6 Oxy Vanishing Spot Treatment Acne Medication
Jeanine Downie, MD, a dermatologist from Montclair, New Jersey, describes this spot treatment as being consistently effective and readily available. “It has 10% benzoyl peroxide, and most people can tolerate it well,” she says. To shrink a breakout, she recommends applying it up to twice a day for three to four days.
The $17 Acne Treatment That Kylie Jenner and Bella Hadid Are Obsessed With
When celebs with gorgeous skin recommend a product, run-don’t walk-to pick it up.
It’s true that celebs often have hair stylists and makeup artists to help them look gorgeous, but even A-listers struggle with skin issues like acne from time to time. And while they may look flawless on the red carpet, social media allows for a little more realness. Case in point: Bella Hadid, Kylie Jenner, and Riverdale actress Lili Reinhart recently shared social media snaps of their go-to blemish cream. The best part? It rings in under $20.
Mario Badescu Drying Lotion ($17; nordstrom.com and amazon.com) is a cult favorite for a reason. Often described as the holy grail of acne treatments, this pimple-fighting product is as unique as it is effective. Unlike most spot treatments that are squeezed from a tube, you apply Drying Lotion by dipping a cotton swap into the bottle and placing the pink formula on top of a breakout. The two main ingredients, salicylic acid and calamine, work to “dry out” a stubborn zit and quickly heal the surrounding skin.
The two-part mixture has pink sediment on the bottom and clear liquid on top, and is not meant to be shaken (but don’t worry-if you accidentally give it a shake, it will settle in a few minutes). One thing to note: The pink spot will be visible until you wash it off, so this works best as an intensive overnight treatment.
Jenner and Reinhart have shared selfies with the signature pink dots on their social platforms in the past, and earlier this week, Hadid posted a snap of a care package she received from the brand.
“This is not an ad,” the model wrote in the post. “My favorite skin care just sent me the best care package ever before my flight.”
In addition to the Drying Lotion, Hadid received the brand’s Facial Spray With Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater ($7; amazon.com), Facial Spray With Aloe, Cucumber, and Green Tea ($7; amazon.com), Flower & Tonic Mask ($18; amazon.com), Vitamin C Serum ($45; amazon.com), Buttermilk Moisturizer ($18; amazon.com), A.H.A. & Ceramide Moisturizer ($20; amazon.com), and Herbal Hydrating Serum ($30; amazon.com).
Seeing stars get real about acne is seriously reassuring when we’re stressed about our own skin. Judging by the gorgeous complexions of these A-listers, we’ll no doubt be dabbing on some Drying Lotion in the near future-and crossing our fingers for similar results.