The best spot treatment allows you to do something when you see a pimple developing. It’s an understandable impulse—but one that often leads to picking and popping, which is about the worst thing you can do to your face. It’s bad enough that these treatments would be worth it even if they did nothing but redirect that impulse—but they’re packed with oil-drying and skin-soothing ingredients, so there’s a lot more to it than that.
Now, these are last-resort sorts of treatments. Before you need them, there’s a lot you can do to prevent acne and dark spots. But there’s no way to stop blemishes completely. You can’t predict if too much sun will leave a tiny, never-vanishing freckle, or if a hormone fluctuation will clog a single, solitary pore on your brow. In fact, in some way these random incidents that are often more frustrating than a correctible bout of acne. That’s because they defy the rules, or the precautions you’ve taken to prevent them. These spots are also often persistent: They’re anchored deep in the skin, they might last months.
Clearly, they require a different approach from your typical skincare regimen. A targeted approach. Like, say, one of our picks for the best spot treatment. We’ve got some favorites at the ready, and hope you’re taking notes. Next time a spot rears its ugly head on your perfectly nice head, you’ll recover—without picking.
The Best Dehydrator
This spot-checker works the same way as a detoxifying clay face mask, which extracts impurities from all around the face. However, this one targets those pesky one-off spots, and can be worn overnight to soak up all the gunk and grease from inside new blemishes.
The Best Salicylic Acid Treatment
As big fans of the way salicylic acid can clean things up, we were immediate fans of Dr. Dennis Gross’ complexion clearing line, which makes great use of the ingredient. Salicylic acid soaks up impurities deep within the skin, working from the inside to keep the outside looking healthy—namely by preventing clogged pores. Give your pimples a dose of this stuff for an overnight miracle.
The Cheekiest Pimple Patch
These cutie patches soak up impurities from within the skin with hydrocolloid. Wear them overnight for a proper pimple reduction, and any other time to add a bit of humor to an otherwise miserable situation.
A More-Discreet Pimple Patch
These invisible patches also deploy the gel-based hydrocolloid to detox your skin. But they also use tiny micro dart needles to send the ingredient into the skin, which also helps mitigate a blemish the very second you notice it. We all know that dreadful moment: ‘Oh shit, I’m gonna have a volcano tomorrow…” This patch can prevent Krakatoa from happening on your face.
The Vitamin C Skin Brightener
When applied to the skin, Vitamin C helps tone your complexion, in that it brightens dark spots (those pesky remnants of pimples past, among other offenders). Apply this Vitamin C serum regularly to the spot itself, or evenly to your whole mug, for a more consistent, clear finish.
The Tea Tree Neutralizer
Tea tree oil is one of the best natural toners, in that it is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and ant-fungal. In other words, it kills all the bad stuff, while leaving skin calm, soothed, and clear. The Body Shop has an exquisite entire assortment of tea tree products that target acne and other topical maladies, and among its best blemish busters is this targeted treatment gel.
The Best Dark Spot Corrector
Clinique for Men’s formula rids the skin of all kinds of blemishes, including acne scars, sun spots, and aging spots. It works on dry, oily, and combination skin, and should be in your arsenal in addition to an acne eliminator. A twice-daily application helps reduce hyperpigmentation over time, and ensures far faster, brighter results than waiting it out.
The Best Sulfuric Solution
Sulfur is the key pore-clearing ingredient in Kiehl’s acne treatment, which will dry out and calm budding zits. It also uses Vitamin B3 (aka our good friend niacinamide) to fortify and smooth skin, while preventing post-pimple acne marks. One nightly application to your pimple before bed (on cleansed skin, and sans any other product on the spot) should have you back to a clear complexion within the week.