The Best Acne Spot Treatments

Acne may be a regular part of adolescence, but it can eat away at your self-confidence and stay with you long beyond your teen years. Acne spot treatments are powerful creams, gels, pens, and patches that offer a high dose of acne-fighting ingredients. They’re designed for application on trouble spots. Depending on your skin type and sensitivity, different formulas may work better for you than others.

We reviewed dozens of acne spot treatments to find the best of the best. In our search, we considered whether the treatment was a cream, gel, pens, or patches, as well as an in-depth look at ingredients. Some formulas are made of natural ingredients and contain essential oils to soothe the skin, while others have the highest dosage of over-the-counter acne medications available. We also considered ease of application as we picked our top five acne spot treatments.

Best Acne Spot Treatment Overall
ACURE Incredibly Clear Acne Spot
ACURE breaks up oils and dead skin cells to zap acne. It manages to do it while lightening and brightening the skin, too.

ACURE Incredibly Clear Acne Spot takes on acne with 2 percent salicylic acid. However, this cruelty-free and vegan formula also contains the poet’s narcissus extract to lighten and brighten the skin. That means that while it takes care of acne it also reduces redness and discoloration at the same time. There’s nothing we like more than a two-in-one product.

The 5 Top-Rated Acne Spot Treatments

Editor's PicksBrandRating
Best Acne Spot Treatment OverallACURE Incredibly Clear Acne Spot 4.4
Best Acne Spot Treatment for Sensitive SkinPuriderma Acne Spot Treatment
4.6
Best Budget Acne Spot TreatmentClean & Clear Persa Gel 104.6
Best Acne Spot Treatment PatchesDermala Patch Me (If You Can)4.8
Best Acne Spot Treatment for Cystic AcneDRMTLGY 24-Hour Acne Serum 4.4

*Ratings are current at the time of publication and can change

Best Acne Spot Treatment Overall: ACURE Incredibly Clear Acne Spot

ACURE Incredibly Clear Acne Spot leaves blemishes running for cover. It’s made of 2 percent salicylic acid, which helps break down the bonds in the skin’s pores so that it can readily shed dead skin cells. The salicylic acid seeps deep into the pores to keep them clean and open. Salicylic acid sometimes takes a few days to take effect, but with the brightening power of this formula, it’s worth a few days’ wait.

We like ACURE not just because it’s great at clearing up acne, but also because it’s free of parabens, sulfate, mineral oil, petroleum products, and formaldehyde. It’s also vegan and cruelty-free. This acne treatment can be applied up to three times a day. However, it’s recommended to start with once a day and work with your up to an application number that works for your skin. You may notice some drying and flaking of the skin, which usually means you need to apply it a little less often or use a hydrating lotion after applying the spot treatment.

ACURE Incredibly Clear Acne Spot Key Features:

  • Contains 2 percent salicylic acid
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Free of parabens, sulfate, mineral oil, petroleum products, and formaldehyde

Best Acne Spot Treatment for Sensitive Skin: Puriderma Acne Spot Treatment

Best Acne Spot Treatment for Sensitive Skin
Puriderma Acne Spot Treatment
Puriderma’s natural ingredients are often gentler on the skin than the synthetic chemicals and acids found in other formulas.

People with sensitive skin may have a hard time finding and acne spot treatment but doesn’t irritate their skin more than the initial acne. Puriderma Acne Spot Treatment is full of natural ingredients like tea tree oil, lavender, and plant extracts to target acne and soothe irritated skin. Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It soothes the skin while killing the bacteria that cause acne-related inflammation. This formula has also been found to be effective against cystic acne, the deep, painful acne that causes excessive redness and swelling.

Puriderma is designed for all skin types and helps balance moisture and oil. It can also be used as a preventative treatment for problem areas. The cream can be applied two to four times per day. We recommend starting at the lowest number of applications and working your way up until you find the number of applications it takes to get rid of your acne.

Puriderma Acne Spot Treatment Key Features:

  • Contains acne-fighting tea tree oil
  • All-natural ingredients
  • Designed for sensitive skin but still fights cystic acne

Best Budget Acne Spot Treatment: Clean & Clear Persa Gel 10

Best Acne Spot Treatment
Clean & Clear Persa Gel 10
With 10 percent of benzoyl peroxide, this Clean & Clear product sink deep into the pores and clears out oil and bacteria fast.

If you’re handling severe acne on a budget, Clean & Clear Persa Gel 10 gets its name from its 10 percent benzoyl peroxide. At one time, you would have needed a prescription for a skin product with that much benzoyl peroxide. However, that high percentage has now been approved for over-the-counter use and acts as one of the most powerful acne spot treatments available.

The benzoyl peroxide sinks deep into the skin, where it breaks up oils and kills the bacteria that causes acne. This formula can be applied one to three times per day. Start with one application and see how your skin responds. If that doesn’t seem to be effective, increase your number of applications. You’ll know if you’ve done too much if the skin starts to flake and dry out. However, when this formula is used along with an appropriate skin cleaning regimen, it can greatly improve the condition of your skin and prevent breakouts.

Clean & Clear Persa Gel 10 Key Features:

  • Contains 10 percent benzoyl peroxide
  • Absorbs into deep skin layers
  • Breaks up dead skin cells and kills bacteria

Best Acne Spot Treatment Patches: Dermala Patch Me (If You Can)

Best Acne Spot Treatment Patches
Dermala Patch Me (If You Can)

A simple hydrocolloid patch absorbs oils and provide a barrier to prevent bacteria from further entering the skin.

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Acne spot treatment patches treat acne while hiding it from sight. The Dermala Patch Me (If You Can) contains hydrocolloid, a gel-like substance that’s key to moist wound healing techniques. It lowers the pH of the skin and absorbs oils while reducing redness and swelling.

The spread of bacteria can cause breakouts to get worse or last longer. Patches like this prevent the spread of acne-causing bacteria. After all, you can’t pop the pimple if it’s covered.  These tiny patches also blend into the skin. They’re meant to be left on overnight so they can soak up oils and reduce sebum (skin oils) production.

Dermala Patch Me (If You Can) Key Features:

  • Contains hydrocolloid to absorb oil
  • Prevents the spread of bacteria
  • Treats acne overnight

Best Acne Spot Treatment for Cystic Acne: DRMTLGY 24-Hour Acne Serum

Best Acne Spot Treatment for Cystic Acne
DRMTLGY 24-Hour Acne Serum
A mix of benzoyl peroxide and glycolic acid stop acne in its tracks, even the deep down cystic acne that comes back again and again.

DRMTLBY 24-Hour Acne Serum fights acne from a number of different angles. First, it spot treats blackheads, whiteheads, and full out pimples by dissolving oils with its 5 percent benzoyl peroxide. Second, it contains glycolic acid that gently exfoliates to remove dead skin cells and reduce skin discoloration due to acne. Finally, it reduces the production of sebum, a pore-clogging oil secreted from the sebaceous glands. This triple combination allows it to take on the toughest of acne.

This paraben, sulfate, alcohol, formaldehyde, and cruelty-free formula can safely be left on overnight. As with other acne spot treatments, we recommend starting with the lowest number of applications to see how your skin reacts before leaving it on overnight. But, with regular use, DRMTLGY can help reduce the most painful form of acne.

DRMTLGY 24-Hour Acne Serum Key Features:

  • Dissolves oils with 5 percent benzoyl peroxide
  • Contains 5 percent glycolic acid
  • Reduces production of sebum

Who Should Buy an Acne Spot Treatment

While teenagers are famous for their battles with acne, acne can strike at any age. Anyone who gets an occasional blemish can benefit from an acne spot treatment. In fact, if you only get occasional blemishes, you may only need an acne spot treatment to keep breakouts under control. However, if acne poses a bigger problem for you, acne spot treatments can be used along with a more rigorous skin regimen.

Severe acne may require a combination of cleansers and astringents along with an acne spot treatment cream, patch, or gel to keep acne under control. Spot treatments allow you to put a higher dose of medication on your acne trouble spots. Whether you’re a teen just beginning to get acne or an adult facing hormonal changes, acne spot treatments can be a simple way to put an end to embarrassing and painful breakouts.

Best Acne Spot Treatment Overall
ACURE Incredibly Clear Acne Spot
ACURE breaks up oils and dead skin cells to zap acne. It manages to do it while lightening and brightening the skin, too.

Important Features to Consider

An acne spot treatment should have a few important features. Here’s what to consider when selecting a spot treatment for your skin:

  • Active ingredients. There’s a wide range of ingredients used to break up oils, remove skin cells, and kill bacteria. However, the four most common are benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, hydrocolloid, and tea tree oil. Generally speaking, the higher the percentage of these ingredients, the harsher the formula will be. For example, a treatment with 10 percent benzoyl peroxide will be more powerful than one with 5 percent. While you may be tempted to buy a formula with the highest percentage available, remember that a higher percentage of these ingredients may be more irritating to your skin. Look for a balance of moisturizing and soothing ingredients like lavender and hydrocolloid to help the skin heal.
  • Treatment type. Creams, patches, and gels are the main types of acne spot treatments. There are a few acne spot treatment pens, but they’re not particularly effective so none of them made our list. The vast majority of acne treatments come in cream form. They tend to contain the highest percentages of acne-fighting ingredients. However, gels often contain similar ingredients and go on clear. Patches treat acne by absorbing oils, moisturizing the skin as it heals, and keeping the pimple covered, so it’s harder to spread the bacteria. Most patches are meant to be worn at night, but a few are designed to cover acne during the day. Patches don’t usually have the high potency of creams or gels, but they can be helpful for reducing redness and inflammation.
  • Price per ounce. Everyone takes price into consideration. Spot acne treatments can be expensive, so keep an eye on how much they cost per ounce. Some formulas may be only $5 to $7 per ounce, while others can be up to $40 per ounce, yet the effects may not be that much different. Patches can be pricey, too. Divide the cost by the number of patches per package to compare products.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are acne spot treatments?

Acne spot treatments are creams, gels, patches, and pens that contain high percentages of ingredients that absorb oil, breakup skin cells, or kill bacteria, all of which can cause acne. Rather than being applied to the entire face, spot treatments are only applied to problem areas. They can be used alone or along with a full skin regimen that includes a cleanser, astringent, and moisturizer.

Do acne spot treatments work? 

Acne spot treatments can be incredibly effective for controlling acne. If you have severe acne, you’ll most likely need to use additional skincare products to fully control breakouts. Spot acne treatments apply a higher dose of acne-fighting ingredients than a typical cleanser or astringent. Patches work by absorbing oil and “drying” the blemish. It can take some trial and error to find a combination of products that work for your skin type.

What dries up a pimple? 

Pimples are “dried up” by absorbing the oil and killing the bacteria that cause the pimple. Some formulas use hydrocolloid to absorb oil, while others use a combination of acids and oils to break up skin cells and kill the bacteria that cause pimples.

What causes acne? 

There’s more than one cause of acne. In fact, for many people, there are a combination of factors at work. The four main culprits are:

  • Bacteria at the base of the hair follicle
  • Hair follicles clogged with dead skin cells and oil
  • Excessive oil production by the skin
  • Hormone fluctuations

If you  have one or more than one of these issues, acne may be a regular occurrence. However, careful, consistent care of your skin can keep acne at bay.

Other Acne Spot Treatments We Reviewed

Best Acne Spot Treatment Overall
ACURE Incredibly Clear Acne Spot
ACURE breaks up oils and dead skin cells to zap acne. It manages to do it while lightening and brightening the skin, too.

We looked at the 20 other acne spot treatments. While these 20 didn’t make our 5 best acne spot treatments, they’re still some excellent formulas that may be a good fit for your skin type and acne problems. We’ve included the information you need to compare products.

Acne Spot Treatment Patches

No B.S. Healing Acne Patches

No B.S. Skin Care Healing Acne Patches

These patches take on acne with hydrocolloid, which can help reduce the redness and inflammation of the blemish.

Key Features:

  • Ingredients for sensitive skin
  • Contains hydrocolloid
  • Cruely free and vegan

Cost: $18

Avarelle Acne Cover Patch

Avarelle Acne Cover Patch

These patches take on acne with a mix of hydrocolloid, tea tree oil, and calendula oil.

Key Features:

  • All-natural ingredients
  • Contains hydrocolloid, tea tree oil, calendula oil, and cica
  • For use on all skin types

Cost: $9

Basic Concepts Acne Patches

Basic Concepts Acne Patches

Basic Concepts combines the power of hydrocolloid with tea tree oil to absorb oil and get rid of pore-clogging skin cells.

Key Features:

  • Natural, cruelty-free, and vegan
  • Contains hydrocolloid and tea tree oil
  • Clear patches

Cost: $6

Iconic Cosmetic Acne Patches

Iconic Cosmetic Acne Patches

These patches soak up oil while protecting the skin from pore-clogging dirt and oils.

Key Features:

  • Waterproof and breathable
  • Contain hydrocolloid
  • Clear patches

Cost: $12

Le Gushe Acne Patch

Le Gushe Acne Patch

Hydrocolloid acts as the main oil-absorbing ingredient in these clear acne patches.

Key Features:

  • Contains hydrocolloid
  • Clear, matte design
  • Comes in a resealable pouch

Cost: $12

Medical Miracles Advanced Healing Patches

Medical Miracles Advanced Healing Patches

With hydrocolloid and tea tree oil, these patches protect, absorb, and break up pore-clogging debris.

Key Features:

  • Clear patches
  • Extra-large size
  • Contains hydrocolloid and tea tree oil

Cost: $13

Mighty Patch Original

Mighty Patch Original

Mighty patches aren’t quite as invisible as some of the other brands, but they’re highly effective at absorbing oil and protecting the skin.

Key Features:

  • High oil absorbency
  • Contains hydrocolloid
  • Thin design that blends with skin

Cost: $13

OHeal Acne Healing Patches

OHeal Acne Healing Patches

Not all pimples are the same size, and neither are these patches. Multiple sizes give you some options depending on the severity of the breakout.

Key Features:

  • Multiple patch sizes
  • Contains hydrocolloid
  • Made for all skin types

Cost: $10

Acne Spot Treatments for Cystic Acne

Lorrelis Labs Cystic Acne Spot Treatment

Lorrelis Labs Cystic Acne Spot Treatment

This formula does more than get rid of cystic acne. It heals and renews the skin, lightening the darkening of the skin that comes from severe breakouts.

Key Features:

  • All-natural ingredients
  • Contains tea tree oil, bentonite clay, and witch hazel
  • Reduces scarring

Cost: $19

Terez & Honor Acne Spot Treatment

Terez & Honor Acne Spot Treatment

In this formula, natural ingredients take on cystic acne.

Key Features: 

  • Contains tea tree oil
  • Soothes with ginseng root and honeysuckle
  • Deep skin penetration

Cost: $13

TreeActiv Cystic Acne Spot Treatment

TreeActiv Cystic Acne Spot Treatment

TreeActiv includes bentonite clay in this unique treatment. It absorbs oils and clears pores to put a stop to painful cystic acne.

Key Features:

  • Contains benzoyl peroxide and bentonite clay
  • Balances skin moisture
  • Also contains tea tree oil, witch hazel,  and eucalyptus oil

Cost: $24

Acne Spot Treatment Creams and Gels

AcneFree Terminator 10

AcneFree Terminator 10

AcneFree’s powerful formula contains 10 percent benzoyl peroxide, the most powerful over the counter strength for this particular ingredient.

Key Features:

  • Made for oily skin
  • Contains 10 percent benzoyl peroxide
  • Also contains ginger and chamomile to soothe the skin

Cost: $5

Alba Botanica Acnedote Maximum Strength Invisible Treatment Gel

Alba Botanica Acnedote Maximum Strength Invisible Treatment Gel

Alba Botanica contains a blend of salicylic acid and willow bark that soothes the skin while breaking up pore-clogging skin cells and oils.

Key Features:

  • 2 percent salicylic acid
  • Paraben and phthalate-free
  • Light, non-sticky formula

Cost: $6

Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Spot Treatment

Burt's Bees Natural Acne Solutions Spot Treatment

A small dose of salicylic acid works on acne, while the rest of the ingredients soothe and moisturize the skin.

Key Features:

  • Treats acne and heals the skin
  • Contains 0.75 percent salicylic acid
  • Gentle treatment

Cost: $8

CBDMedic Acne Treatment Medicated Cream

CBDMedic Acne Treatment Medicated Cream

CBDMedic contains hemp extracts and natural moisturizers to nourish the skin while eliminating pimples.

Key Features:

  • Contains THC-free hemp extract
  • 1 percent salicylic acid
  • Approved for everyday use

Cost: $30

Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment

Clean & Clearn Advantage Acne Spot Treatment

A combination of salicylic acid and witch hazel give this spot treatment its acne-fighting powers.

Key Features:

  • Contains 2 percent salicylic acid
  • Oil-free formula
  • Reduces redness and swelling

Cost: $7

GENIUS Cure Acne Spot Treatment

GENIUS Cure Acne Spot Treatment

A quick drying serum might be what you need to send acne packing.

Key Features:

  • Contains tea tree oil
  • Non-greasy formula
  • Made for all skin types

Cost: $17

La Roche Posay Dual Action Acne Treatment

La Roche Posay Dual Action Acne Treatment

A blend of benzoyl peroxide and an exfoliator gives this formula the power to cut through oils and break down pore-clogging skin cells.

Key Features:

  • Fragrance, paraben, and oil-free
  • Contains 5 percent benzoyl peroxide
  • Non-comedogenic

Cost: $30

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne

Neutrogena’s no newbie when it comes to skincare. With regular use, this formula takes down persistent and cystic acne.

Key Features:

  • Contains 10 percent benzoyl peroxide
  • Takes effect within two hours
  • Gel formula

Cost: $7

NXN Acne Edit Spot Treatment

NxN Acne Treatment

A unique mix of probiotics, licorice root, ginger, and colloidal sulfur come together to put a stop to persistent acne.

Key Features:

  • Contains sulfur to kill bacteria
  • Evens skin pigmentation with ginger root
  • Green tea reduces inflammation

Cost: $10

Proactiv Emergency Blemish Relief

Proactiv Emergency Blemish Relief

With 5 percent benzoyl peroxide, this Proactiv formula hits zits hard and fast.

Key Features:

  • Contains 5 percent benzoyl peroxide
  • Deep pore penetration
  • Absorbs excess oil

Cost: $20

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