Best acne spot treatments



Slather - Best acne spot treatments

A blog article written for Slather, Apostrophe's blog, entitled Best acne spot treatments

Katelyn Hagerty FNPDoctorateDegreeAmerican Board of DermatologyBoard Certified DermatologistChief Medical OfficerDermatologist100A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in conditions involving the skin, hair, and nails. A dermatologist can identify and treat more than 3,000 conditions. These conditions include eczema, psoriasis, and skin cancer, among many others.



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Best acne spot treatments

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Slather post photo


Best acne spot treatments

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty FNP, MD

Written by Apostrophe Team

Last updated 6/1/2023

You feel it before it even breaks the surface–those giant pimples that seem to take over the reflection you see in the mirror.

And before your acne is at its worst, you’re brainstorming ways to annihilate it. 

Spot treatments for acne are marketed as a way to treat pimples one at a time. But that’s not always the best way to treat acne. 

Your desire to eliminate that one pesky pimple, in particular, is understandable, yet knowing how to prevent future breakouts is also valuable.

What Is Acne? 

We don’t need to tell you what acne looks like—you wouldn’t be seeking acne treatment if you didn’t already recognize pimples for what they are. But acne isn’t only caused by oily skin. 

In fact, pimples are caused by a complex relationship between sebum, hormones, genetics, dead skin cells (follicular hyperkeratinization), the bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes (or Cutibacterium acnes) and inflammation. 

Before you even see a pimple, these factors are at work setting the stage for one or several acne lesions. 

Your menstrual cycle, UV radiation, obesity, stress, diet, sleep, smoking, cosmetics, medication, and hormonal disorders can all aggravate one or more of these factors, leading to acne breakouts.

Using a spot treatment for acne can help if your breakouts are infrequent, and you only see a pimple or two.

Spot treatments for acne are especially helpful before a date or other event, and when you want a single zit gone.  

Read on for info on the best spot treatment for acne and elevate your total skin care knowledge.

Spot Treatment for Acne Lesions

When you’re met with a glaring red zit you want to get rid of, what you’re likely hoping to do is reduce inflammation (make it smaller, if not completely gone), dry it out, and reduce redness. 

Look for ingredients that can help you get rid of your pimple faster, and at least make it less of an eyesore as it heals. 

First: Don’t pop it. Popping and picking at a pimple will make it worse. It will take longer to heal and could increase your risk of scarring, according to the

If your pimple is red and inflamed, it might hurt. Applying ice to it can reduce redness and pain, and may bring down some of the swelling.


Science-backed topical + oral acne treatments from the experts.

Benzoyl Peroxide

One ingredient to for in acne spot treatments is benzoyl peroxide. It can reduce bacteria and the clogging of pores, and you’ll frequently find it in over the counter acne treatments

One of the possible side effects is dry skin, but when you’re looking for a spot treatment to cover or heal a large pimple, dry skin is often worth it.

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that’s been shown to have similar efficacy to benzoyl peroxide. It can reduce the number of acne lesions and reduce inflammation.

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids

Alpha-hydroxy acids may also be present in over the counter acne spot treatments. AHAs include glycolic, lactic, and citric acid which can work to break down the dead skin cells that clog pores. 

One beta-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, is found in numerous acne spot treatments and cleansers. While it can cause peeling, it stimulates natural exfoliation and helps prevent clogged pores.

Corticosteroid Injections 

Corticosteroid injections can be used by dermatologists for only the most extreme cystic acne spot treatments. 

In these instances, a healthcare professional injects medicine directly into the cystic pimple to help speed healing.

What you’ll notice about most of these spot treatment ingredients is that they are largely preventative. 

While some may help reduce inflammation or contain pigmentation to cover a pimple,  there isn’t much evidence that they’ll speed the healing of current acne lesions. 

If you do have a large pimple that doesn’t seem to go away, the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends waiting four to six weeks for the acne to heal before becoming alarmed and contacting a healthcare professional. 

However, if you feel you’re in need of severe cystic acne spot treatment, a quick visit for a corticosteroid injection can help speed healing and reduce your chances of scarring. 

For more cases, you can likely reduce the redness and inflammation of a single pimple with a spot treatment on your own. Your best bet, too, is to also prevent future active breakouts.

Getting Ahead of Acne Breakouts 

Treating the cause of your acne breakouts is likely the most effective way of preventing them and the emergency need to spot treat one giant zit. 

First, consider if stress, diet, or sleep might be at play. These are factors within your control, and taking good care of your overall health can promote healthier skin. 

There are numerous products on the market that can help you get ahead of your acne. Here are some treatments that can help prevent future breakouts: 


Tretinoin, adapalene, and other retinoids are used to prevent clogged pores and

They are highly effective at decreasing the number of acne lesions, by as much as 70%, according to research. 


Target acne, dark spots, and signs of aging with this science-backed ingredient.

Found in numerous acne treatments, retinoids are often suggested as a monotherapy (where you don’t need anything else) for mild acne, or to be used in conjunction with other products in the case of moderate to severe acne.

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid may be recommended as the first-line treatment for acne, meaning it’s the popular go-to, or the first thing you might want to try. 

One of the big selling points for this active ingredient is it’s safe for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or who may become pregnant.

Oral Contraceptives

It’s long been known that birth control pills can help manage acne by regulating your hormones. 

Several studies have indicated such, and the of using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) can be particularly attractive when you know your acne worsens at certain points during your cycle.

Systemic Antibiotics 

For severe acne, a doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics in conjunction with topical products. They’re generally used with topical products in order to prevent antibiotic resistance.

What Is the Best Spot Treatment for Acne?

If acne is a disease, then a pimple is a symptom, and as with most instances, treating a symptom doesn’t always mean a full cure.

Preventing breakouts by addressing the causes of acne can help keep your skin clear for the long run, and if you do get a pimple, using a spot treatment for acne can provide a quick fix.

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