Best Acne Spot Treatments to Zap That Pimple
There’s nothing worse than waking up to find that one of our little red enemies has decided to make its home on our chin. When this happens, of course our rightful instinct to do whatever it takes to get that monster under control. But while spot treating is a good short term solution for tackling that occasional stubborn zit, it’s also important to remember that when it comes to our skin, we are always playing the long game.
Mirra Mirra on the wall, how do I get rid of that zit on my face?!
If we are going to spot treat for that pesky zit that we just cannot have before our next Bumble date, let’s be as informed as possible about what we are putting on our faces. Luckily for you dear readers, Mirra is here to break down the most popular ingredients found in over the counter spot treatments. We’ve got you covered. Literally.
Please welcome to the stage, Salicylic Acid
Fancy Name: Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)
Salicylic Acid truly does it all. Not only does it attack your pimples, but it is also a great exfoliator. It’s oil soluble, which means that it can penetrate into the pores of your skin, breaking up the intercellular “glue” that holds skin cells together. Salicylic Acid goes deep in contrast to Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), which mostly exfoliate the skin’s surface. As we mentioned above, it also makes a fab exfoliator, aiding in removing and loosening the skin cells and helping to dissolve blackheads.
Pro Tip: If you are going to use products with Salicylic Acid, it is v important that you also wear sunscreen every day. Using SA can make you very sensitive to the sun and highly susceptible to sunburn, discoloration and other ultraviolet damage. The good news? Most skin types can handle SA or can eventually handle using it regularly.
Christmas Morning for Derms: Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl Peroxide is an industrial chemical, and from a derm’s perspective, this bacteria killer is where it’s at. It’s best quality? It acts FAST. Unfortunately, it has a handful of side effects that we want you to know about before you opt for this treatment. Using too much BP too often can make your skin dry, red and irritated and can also lead to hyperpigmentation. It can also make your skin super sun sensitive and put you at high risk for sun damage. Here at Mirra, we don’t want you looking like your Grandma prematurely, so be sure to use BP in moderation and pay close attention to how your skin is responding to determine your frequency of usage, or if you should be using it at all!
Next Up: Sulfur
Sulfur is a mild “antimicrobial” whose precise mechanism of action is unknown, causing some doctors to avoid recommending it to patients (even though the ancient Chinese have been using it for thousands of years!). Products containing sulfur are generally used as alternatives to antibiotics, so if those tend to work for you, you’ll probably respond well to sulfur too. In the short term, it will help dry out your acne and probably won’t be as sensitizing as other options. It’s worth noting that sulfur can also be combined with other ingredients like Salicylic Acid.
Some things to Consider:
Sulfur will come off as a pink color on your skin, so unless you don’t mind some funny looks on your morning commute, it’s probably best to save your sulfur-containing products for night-use.
You’ve heard it a hundred times in this article already, but we’ll say it again. Everything in moderation Mirra readers! Sulfur is a double-edged sword in terms of fighting acne because while it does a badass job of cutting down on sebum production, sometimes drying out your skin to combat breakouts will actually cause your skin to overproduce oil, which will make your acne worse.
Our Pick: Indie Lee Blemish Lotion
Last, But Certainly Not Least: Tea Tree Oil
A recent study in Australia cited tea tree oil as an effective alternative to the aforementioned benzoyl peroxide, which is the most commonly used acne treatment. The data showed that tea tree oil reduces both whiteheads and blackheads as effectively as other treatments and is generally less damaging to the skin.
While tea tree oil is effective and can be less sensitizing than the more traditional benzoyl peroxide-- if used in the right concentration--the biggest issue with “natural” products is that they are harder to quality control. Do we trust how the company is sourcing their oil? Something to consider if you’re thinking of going the down the natural route.
What Tha Docta Ordered: Concentration is Key
Doctors recommend a 5% solution of topical tea tree oil to treat your acne, applied once or twice daily. So directly applying that 100% tea tree oil, courtesy of your local farmer’s market, can put you at a higher risk for skin allergy, irritation or blistering.
Our Pick: Body Shop’s Tea Tree Night Lotion
A Final Reminder
Now that you are an expert in spot treating, don’t forget that generally speaking, spot treating should really be a last resort and should be executed in moderation. Plan A skincare is a skincare regimen packed with skin restorative ingredients to promote the health of your skin barrier, active ingredients to promote cell renewal, and one that eliminates ingredients that sensitize your skin. With a solid daily skincare regimen, you may only need to come back to this article for an occasional emergency zit remedy. :)