Whether you only suffer from the occasional breakout or acne is a regular part of your life, acne spot treatments are probably something you are mighty interested in using. Spot treatments are anti-acne products that are meant to be applied only where the breakout is taking place in order to get rid of pimples by speeding up their healing process, and to prevent their return. Some acne spot treatments also create a protective layer over pimples to help prevent any skin picking you might be tempted to do.
Below, we’ve uncovered the 23 best acne spot treatments, and we explain how each one of them works so you can choose the one that is right for you. We also discuss how to choose the right spot treatment for you.
Our Picks of the Best Acne Spot Treatments
Acne spot treatments are the fastest way of getting rid of pimples and any kind of breakout, and these 23 options do really work!
1. Origins Super Spot Remover Blemish Treatment Gel
The combination of exfoliating salicylic acid and anti-inflammatory witch hazel makes this one of the best acne spot treatments for fast relief. This liquid comes in a little bottle, and just a tiny drop works quickly to relieve redness and to prevent further breakouts. It is available for sale at Sephora.
2. Pevonia Botanica Spot Treatment
This light lotion will quickly clear away your pimples with a mix of exfoliants and skin-soothing agents. It seriously removes damaged skin with glycolic and salicylic acid, while calendula and beta-glucan ward away the redness and irritation that come with a breakout. Order it online from Dermstore!
3. Boscia Clear Complexion Willow Bark Spot Treatment
This is one of the best spot treatments for gentle relief without harsh actives. If your skin doesn’t tolerate salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, then definitely give it a try. It utilizes willow bark extract to quickly soothe and minimize the look of pimples, which allows them to heal more quickly. This product comes as a light lotion stored in a pen, so it’s easy to apply. You can buy it at Sephora.
4. Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment
This little liquid is an unusual yet very well reviewed acne spot treatment. It is two-layered, with a sulfur and zinc oxide powder at the bottom and alcohol at the top. It kills bacteria and creates a protective layer over the pimple, allowing it to disappear more quickly. Pick it up from Ulta!
5. Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment
Salicylic acid is a proven ingredient, which is why it’s showing up in so many of the best acne spot treatments. It penetrates the skin to exfoliate within the pore and eliminate build-up. In this creamy formula, it is paired with skin soothers like horse chestnut extract and witch hazel. Find it at Sephora!
6. Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Fast-Acting Acne Spot Treatment
This creamy take on salicylic acid acne spot treatments is great for those with dry skin and the occasional breakout. 2% salicylic acid will help clear those pimples quickly without drying or irritating the skin. It is sold at Ulta.
7. Tarte Blemish Bully Acne Spot Treatment
This light, clear gel eliminates acne with a combination of potent acids. Salicylic acid exfoliates, while azelaic acid is known for its ability to soothe the skin and to prevent the proliferation of the acne bacteria. Together they work to get your skin looking flawless. Purchase this gel from Sephora!
8. Burt’s Bees Herbal Complexion Stick
A great natural alternative to traditional acne spot treatments is tea tree oil, which also happens to be the key ingredient making this one of the best spot treatments made with natural ingredients. This spot treatment comes as liquid contained with a roller-ball applicator, and also features willow bark extract. It is available at Ulta.
9. Peter Thomas Roth Acne Spot and Area Treatment
This is one of the best acne treatments for those whose acne is best vanquished with sulfur. It includes 5% colloidal sulfur to fight the acne bacteria and 4% glycolic acid to speed up recovery through exfoliation. It comes as a thin cream that doesn’t irritate the skin. You can find it at Sephora.
10. PCA Skin Acne Cream
This benzoyl peroxide cream is one of the best acne spot treatments, made with a proven anti-acne medication along with tea tree oil and some very gentle emollients to prevent irritation. This is the kind of product that could work both to prevent and speed up the healing of breakouts. It is sold online via Dermstore.
11. Kiehl’s Since 1851 Blue Herbal Spot Treatment
A mixture of natural ingredients like frankincense oil, witch hazel and ginger root extract works to calm down active breakouts, while salicylic acid penetrates the skin to exfoliate and help get rid of pimples. This clear gel is ideal for most, except those who have sensitive skin. Buy it at Sephora!
12. Jan Marini Bioglycolic Bioclear Lotion
If you suffer from a mixture of breakouts and dry skin (and even if it’s just breakouts), this might be the best option for you for getting rid of pimples. This treatment contains salicylic acid, which is totally bae for treating breakouts, along with azelaic acid, a totally underrated acne-fighting ingredient that is gentle, reduces redness, and is also antibacterial. Order it though Dermstore!
13. Paula’s Choice Resist BHA 9 for Stubborn Imperfections
Sometimes you have to go nuclear to get rid of an especially deep or stubborn pimple. That’s where this unique product from Paula’s Choice comes in. It contains an unheard of amount of salicylic acid – a full 9% – that acts like a localized peel to rapidly resurface your skin to speed up the disappearance of particularly tough breakouts. It can be purchased at Dermstore.
14. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide
You can always trust LRP to make skin care that works, so it is no surprise that this is one of the best acne spot treatments you can find. If your acne is particularly pesky, the 5.5% benzoyl peroxide should do the trick to kill off the acne bacteria. It is available for online sale at Dermstore.
15. Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing Booster
This liquid spot treatment is meant to work within 15 minutes to clear the acne bacteria, reduce the redness and size of active breakouts, and rapidly get rid of pimples. The star ingredient is 2% salicylic acid, though it is also made with niacinamide, an antioxidant that might be helpful for reducing oil production in the skin. Pick it up from Ulta!
16. Belli Beauty Acne Control Spot Treatment
Some pregnant women prefer to stay away from the more common anti-acne ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, but the sulfur and tea tree oil can work almost as well to help get rid of pimples. You don’t have to be pregnant to give this spot treatment a try! You can find it online through Dermstore.
17. Proactiv Emergency Blemish Relief
While the Proactiv system as a whole is dubious, it is undeniable that they’ve made one of the best acne spot treatments on the market. It is made with my personal go-to, 5% benzoyl peroxide, as well as skin-soothing urea and allantoin, and it should work for most skin types. If you’d like to give it a try, find it at Ulta.
18. Emuaid Overnight Acne Treatment
This take on acne spot treatments is not too different from EradiKate – it’s a two-layer spot treatment that combines zinc oxide and salicylic acid to cover, dry, and heal active breakouts. It is up for sale at Dermstore.
19. Formula 10.0.6 On Your Mark Blemish Mark Fader
If you like roller-ball applicators, then you’ll definitely enjoy this fun spot treatment! It helps get rid of pimples with the exfoliating, antibacterial powers of salicylic acid. It also contains some essential oils that might not work with certain skin types. It is available for purchase through Ulta.
20. Eminence Organic Skin Care Clear Skin Targeted Acne Treatment
Just because a product is all-natural that doesn’t mean it can’t be one of the best acne spot treatments on the market. This super gentle yet effective product includes salicylic acid as well as tea tree oil to fight breakouts, while calendula and willow bark extract sooth redness and reduce inflammation. You can order it online at Dermstore.
21. Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum
This is another option for acne treatments that are all-natural, and also free of ingredients frequently avoided by pregnant women. It’ll work primarily to calm down active pimples, but it’s not as good as a preventative or antibacterial agent. Buy it from Ulta!
22. Eve Lom Dynaspot
This pretty cream from Eve Lom helps to clear away acne with a mix of soothing zinc and exfoliating glycolic and salicylic acid. It is best for evening time, when the light layer of zinc can also keep you from picking and prodding at your skin. Get it it through Dermstore!
23. Indie Lee Blemish Lotion
The mixture of sulfur, zinc, and salicylic acid in this little bottle helps to dry out pesky pimples and to keep picky hands away. A little dab of this product dries down to a pink-toned finish as it works to soothe breakouts and kill bacteria. Find yourself a bottle at Dermstore.
How to Choose the Right Acne Spot Treatments For You
Normally I would just list different skin types, and tell you what tends to work well for each one. However, the more I read about acne and learn from different people’s experiences, the more I realize that cosmetic and over-the-counter acne treatment hasn’t been distilled to an exact science yet.
Two people with the same skin type and the same kind of breakouts might get very different results from the same acne spot treatment. The best way to get rid of pimples is through trial and error. This seems to be true even if you use the guidance of a dermatologist.
Because of this, I always recommend starting out with salicylic acid at a 1.5%-2% concentration. It works well for pretty much every skin type, is generally non-irritating, has various benefits to the skin beyond treating acne, and it works to address multiple different causes and side effects of acne breakouts.
If salicylic acid alone doesn’t work, or if you cannot use it due to allergies, then move on to trying out the next acne spot treatment alone, or in conjunction with salicylic acid.
It’s important to always patch test new skincare products, especially when they are high in active ingredients like most acne spot treatments.
Apply the spot treatment you would like to try out to an area of your skin where if any irritation occurs it won’t be a big issue. This can be the forearm, the inner part of the upper arm, or behind the ear. Do this for a few days in a row. If no irritation occurs, you can go ahead and apply the product to your face.
Photos via Sephora, Nordstrom, Instagram