It takes one pimple to ruin a good day. And luckily, it takes one good spot treatment to ruin a pimple.
Spot treatments are exactly what they sound like: one-off treatments that target individual pimples or blemishes as they arise; these can even include stubborn dark spots that refuse to disappear in the wake of a blemish.
Many acne-prone people use products that target the entire face, like a salicylic acid cleanser or serum, or an oil-free moisturizer to prevent clogging. These individuals are probably more cognizant of how each product can clog (or unclog) pores. But for anyone with a periodic pimple — or for acne-prone people who can usually keep the biggest, baddest ones at bay — every so often, there’s a blemish that simply refuses to stay quiet. You can feel it under there, stewing and steaming, or you wake up with it, practically ready to burst already. They’re sneaky like that. And what’s not sneaky is the open wound or active volcano they leave on your face.
That’s where the spot treatments come in handy. They can contain any variety of bacteria-fighting, pore-clearing, or complexion-brightening ingredients. Below is a roster of the best spot treatments, each with some unique way of disappearing, calming, or healing blemishes. You may want to stock up on a few of them, given the range of blemishes that can pop up at any time.
Best Overall Spot Treatment: Mighty Patch Hydrocolloid Patches
Familiarize yourself with the miracle of hydrocolloid patches. They are little stickers that you leave on for 6 hours or overnight (sometimes with microdarts to seep deep into a cystic pimple, sometimes flat-bottomed to focus on whiteheads). They soak up the oil and grime beneath the surface of the skin, and Mighty Patch sells one of the more affordable and more reliable patches in the game. They are discreet enough for daytime wear, and durable enough for day or night. Simply apply it to the spot (after cleansing), and after the 6-8-hour wait, you’ll have a less rabid pimple, with much of its goo now on the underside of the sticker. They’ll spare you any need to pop (and thus any week-long haunting / dark-spot agony after the acne is gone).
Best Upgrade Spot Treatment: First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum
This serum can be applied all over the face or can target specific dark spots and hyperpigmentation patches that just don’t want to turn over. You can expedite that cellular regeneration with First Aid Beauty’s blend of smoothing niacinamide and soothing allantoin. Both promote the production of healthy, new skin cells, and, if used all over, this serum also encourages long-term firmness and smoothness in the skin.
Best Budget Spot Treatment: Advanced Clinicals Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree has natural antimicrobial and antifungal powers, making it terrific for all sorts of things, like toning the scalp, neutralizing the feet, and of course, diminishing pus-filled pores. That buildup of bacteria is no match for tea tree oil; it kind of feels like a “fight fire with fire” scenario, too, though tea tree oil is non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores. Best of all, Advanced Clinicals’ tea tree serum is 1.8 oz., nearly 60 percent more than a standard 1-oz. jar that would charge you twice as much for the essential oil.
Malin+Goetz Sulfur Paste
Sulfur is a common ingredient in spot treatments since it can soak up excess oil and grime from within a pimple, and also eradicate dead skin cells that might be causing the blemish in the first place. And Malin+Goetz’s sulfur treatment contains salicylic acid, too, to further clear out pores and help you wake up with smoother, calmer skin. (It’s an overnight lotion paste, for that matter.)
Peace Out Skincare Salicylic Acid Acne Healing Dots
Peace Out’s hydrocolloid stickers also deploy salicylic acid into the pores to help extract trapped sebum and dissolve dead skin cells. They use Vitamin A to promote smoother, faster-healing skin, as well as aloe vera to mitigate redness and to calm the spot on contact. Wear them overnight for a miracle, or for 6-8 hours during the day, also for a miracle.
Maapilim Mud Mask
You can turn your trusted mud or clay mask into a spot treatment, by simply applying it to the budding blemish and the surrounding skin. Since muds soak up impurities from deep within the skin, they’re just as effective at extracting trapped sebum. Maapilim’s utilizes Dead Sea mud to boost circulation and soothe skin, as well as olive oil to moisturize and nourish (don’t worry, that olive oil won’t leave you feeling oily or clogged up, in fact, this mask does exactly the opposite of that).
Mario Badescu Drying Cream
This cult-fave product magnifies the aforementioned drying abilities of sulfur with zinc oxide. This sinz also sponges up any excessive or trapped sebum. The lotion also cools, soothes, and promotes cellular turnover with aloe and allantoin, while lifting away dead surface cells with citric acid, so as to promote smoothness and prevent future breakouts.