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These fast-acting, doctor-recommended products will help you zap zits in record time

By Rebecca Carhart
May 31, 2019 10:15 AM
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Best acne spot treatments

Even if you typically have clear skin, chances are you’ve found yourself dealing with pesky pimples on occasion. Sudden breakouts are something we’ve all had to deal with — even A-list celebs — but thankfully, acne spot treatments make it easier than ever to zap zits without changing your entire skincare routine.

Topical acne spot treatments not only help shrink blemishes, but they also work to reduce redness and calm irritated skin. NYC-based dermatologist, Dr. Janet Prystowsky, raved about how effective these fast-acting treatments can be. “Apply a small dab to the lesion at night and it will typically be dried up in the morning,” she said. “Not only do they help to ‘nuke’ the pimple, but they also decrease the risk of infection.”

But with so many options available from both drugstores and luxury beauty retailers, how can you possibly choose just one? To help you cut through the clutter, we’ve rounded up six top-rated acne spot treatments that not only have glowing customer reviews, but are also all recommended by dermatologists. The best part? These zit-zapping products are super affordable and retail for less than $20 each!

These are the best acne spot treatments you can buy, according to dermatologists: 

1. Neutrogena On The Spot Acne Treatment

Best acne spot treatments

If you feel a deep breakout on the way, reach for this oil-free spot treatment. “This is a go-to treatment for red, angry pimples,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research Department of Dermatology at The Mount Sinai Hospital. “It contains benzoyl peroxide which lowers levels of acne-causing bacteria to help reduce inflammation in the skin.”

Amazon customers love that the treatment is non-comedogenic — meaning it’s safe for acne-prone skin and won’t clog pores or cause future breakouts — and that it shrinks blemishes without drying out skin. One shopper said, “Works really well. Shrinks swelling and gets rid of redness. Put it on at night and the next morning acne is noticeably smaller or even gone.”

Buy It! Neutrogena On The Spot Acne Treatment, $22.65 (3-Pack); amazon.com

2. Peace Out Acne Healing Dots

Best acne spot treatments

If you’re in the market for a fast-acting spot treatment patch, New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD recommends this option from Peace Out. “These dots stick to the skin and are a good way to treat a breakout by helping to reduce bacteria and infection. They use hydrocolloid technology, along with some very good ingredients such as salicylic acid and aloe, which help treat and fight acne,” she said.

Sephora customers are big fans of the acne-fighting patches as well. The product has over 50,000 likes and a 4.3-star rating on the retailer’s site. The spot treatment dots are formulated to reduce the size and redness of a pimple in just six hours. “These dots are amazing. You can literally see the gunk it pulls out. I try my best not to pick so when I notice a pimple or a spot starting, I just put one of these bad boys on and it’s almost completely gone within a couple of hours,” said one rave review.

Buy It! Peace Out Acne Healing Dots, $19; sephora.com

3. Origins Super Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel

Best acne spot treatments

Dr. Jaliman also gave her stamp of approval to this blemish-blasting gel by Origins. “The formulas salicylic acid eases inflammation and unclogs pores, while the witch hazel works as a natural astringent to help decrease oil and redness,” she said.

Ulta customers also love the fast-acting gel and have given the product an impressive 4.1-star rating. One customer called it “a must buy” while another said, “This product is amazing, it literally got rid of the pimple without leaving a scar! All you have to do is put a pea size amount on the pimple and you’ll wake up with nothing!”

Buy It! Origins Super Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel, $18; ulta.com; $19; origins.com

4. Paula’s Choice CLEAR Daily Skin Clearing Treatment

Best acne spot treatments

When it comes to choosing a topical acne spot treatment, Dr. Prystowsky suggests looking for an option that features benzoyl peroxide as its main ingredient, like this product from Paula’s Choice. The super-effective formula has 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide in it that works to fight current and future breakouts. It also leaves a matte finish so you can wear it under makeup.

Some Amazon customers say they apply it all over their face, but most said they just use it as a spot treatment. “Overall I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who struggles with acne breakouts because this is by far the best and fastest spot treatment I’ve ever used,” said one reviewer. While Dr. Prystowsky calls benzoyl peroxide one of the most effective acne-fighting ingredients, she also warns that “it can bleach clothing and/or bed linens”, so be careful when applying.

Buy It! Paula’s Choice CLEAR Daily Skin Clearing Treatment, $18.00; amazon.com

5. Clean & Clear Advantage Spot Treatment

Best acne spot treatments

Dr. Zeichner’s other top pick is this super affordable option from Clean & Clear. “The salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that helps remove excess oil and exfoliate dead cells from the surface of the skin,” he said. “This is a great option to help dry out an angry pimple, and can even treat blackheads and whiteheads.”

Over 450 Walmart shoppers have also given it their seal of approval. One customer raved, “This really works! I get these painful, red bumps often and this takes the pain and swelling away within a day. Instead of bringing it to a head it decreases the pimple until it fully disappears. No scars! Will definitely buy again.”

Buy It! Clean & Clear Advantage Spot Treatment, $6.47; walmart.com

6. ProactivMD Adapalene Gel

Proactiv Gel
Credit: Proactiv

For quick results, S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD, founder of the Miami Skin Institute, recommends this Proactiv gel. “It’s ideal for comedonal acne, which manifests as stubborn blackheads and whiteheads,” she explains. Besides zapping zits, the powerful treatment also reduces any redness and inflammation caused by breakouts.

Proactiv customers are such big fans of the product that more than 2,800 reviewers gave the gel a 3.8-star rating. One shopper called the treatment, “very effective” before adding, “I have been using this product for several years and this is the only acne treatment that clears all my pimples.”

Buy It! ProactivMD Adapalene Gel, $17.95; proactiv.com