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Blitz blemishes and say adios to acne with our best spot creams, gels, stickers and more Gloss Boxes
We can’t count how many times an angry red pimple has popped up to say hi right before that job interview, party or date. There’s a reason why ‘What is the quickest way to get rid of a spot?’ is such a commonly Googled question, after all. But if you think that TikTok toothpaste trick is really going to work, think again – it’s one of our best spot treatments that you need.
From creams and gels to stickers and drying lotions, there are tons of spot treatments vying for your attention. The problem is that lots of them are high in harsh types of alcohol – these help tighten pores, dissolve dirt and grease and give you that clinically clean feeling, but they can also strip your moisture barrier to leave your skin as dry as the Sahara, in summer.
Unfortunately, even if you have oily skin, this drying effect can increase irritation, leading to ramped up sebum levels and, in turn, more breakouts. Sweaty workouts will only anger acne further, so this is one problem you’re going to want to get on top of, stat.
The best way to banish breakouts is by tackling the grime at the heart of each blemish while either nourishing the surrounding skin or leaving it the hell alone – aka exactly what our best spot treatments do. Here they are in one handy list, as tested by over 280 women in tandem with the Women’s Health Lab, with our guide and reviews below:
Spots can be caused by everything from hormonal changes (that week before your period when your sebum glands go into overdrive…ugh) to stress, medication changes, pollution and your diet.
Other than using a good spot treatment (more on that to come), Dr Hana Patel, a GP specialist in skin and women’s health, suggests the following self-help techniques to patients with oily skin or acne:
Dr Ross Perry, medical director of Cosmedics Skin Clinics, aka a big name in dermatology, told us that the most popular over-the-counter spot treatments contain a few key ingredients that work in different ways.
“Look for benzoyl peroxide, which kills the bacteria that causes acne, helps remove excess oil from the skin and removes dead skin cells,” he says. “Then there’s salicylic acid, which helps prevent pores from clogging, and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to exfoliate and reduce inflammation.”
If this all sounds *a bit much*, panic not, because the Women’s Health Lab has found the best spot treatments you can buy.
Our panel of over 280 women put 19 spot treatments to the test for a month to find the best. They judged each product on how easy it was to apply, its texture, and how effective it was at blitzing blemishes. They also kept a beady eye on the frequency of future breakouts, and noted any irritation or sensitivity.
In the Women’s Health Lab, our beauty pro used a VISIA Complexion Analysis machine to assess any changes to the appearance of our testers’ skin. They had two ‘before and after’ appointments – one on the first day of the trial and the other on day 30.
So, without further ado, here are the 10 spot treatments we’ll be turning to for clearer, healthier-looking skin:
Our panel bowed down to this “brilliant” fast-acting gel, which shrunk spots for everybody in only a few days and quickly calmed redness – fantastic results that our lab tester backed up.
They all found it lightweight to apply, with no sticky residue, and plan to make it a permanent addition to their washbags. Sensitive skin sufferers, good news – nobody suffered any irritation whatsoever.
We’re already obsessed with The Ordinary – our #shelfies are full of their cute bottles – so we were thrilled to find this serum stellar in both style and substance.
Its glass dropper made dispensing agg-free, it absorbed in a flash and it healed even the nastiest spots quickly. Our lab pro branded it “impressive”, and almost all testers experienced fewer breakouts since using it – a major coup for just over a fiver.
These mini patches couldn’t be simpler, cleaner or more discreet to use – simply stick one on before bed and take it off in the morning.
They stayed put all night for our testers, felt instantly cooling and were “amazingly fast” at healing their spots, with some noticing an improvement the next day. Not convinced? They also proved “extremely effective” in the lab.
Proclaimed the best for sensitive skin in our lab test, and effective at shrinking spots, this purifying gel also earned glowing reviews from our panel.
They found it helpfully quick-drying on busy mornings and all said it sped up their healing time. Best of all, one tester said it “massively reduced” recurring acne on her chin and forehead in just two days, when her usual product takes three weeks!
Those clever kids at The Inkey List have harnessed the oil-balancing superpowers of succinic acid for this spot-kicking cream.
Our testers loved its creamy yet cloud-like texture and said it layered well under makeup. It gently exfoliated without causing flaking, leaving most with “much better skin”, while our lab tester found it great at calming redness (helped by its green tint). Not bad for sub £8.
Let’s face it, there are more fun things to spend your hard-earned dollar on than spot treatments, and this budget buy lets you do just that (hi, fancy new gym leggings).
Easy to apply with a refreshing feel, it did the trick for most of our panel, with our lab test finding it speedy at drying out blemishes. Spennier products did more to calm redness and keep further breakouts at bay, but hey, it’s still a total bargain.
This gentle yet effective gel left our testers raving, and you get a generous 40ml of the stuff, making it very decent value for money. Enriched with anti-inflammatory AHAs, including 2% salicylic acid, it also features fatty ceramides to help keep your skin’s moisture barrier intact.
Everybody found it a breeze to apply, without drying out the skin, and our lab analysis confirmed that it quickly sent spots packing.
This guy is almost cute enough to make us want to get a spot. Just look at his little face! Inside are 32 star-shaped stickers for overnight use – that’s less than 40p per patch.
Our testers woke up to find them still in place, before peeling them off to find their spots smaller and less furiously red. Their only ask is for some bigger stickers for those particularly beastly blemishes, but these got our lab pro’s thumbs up.
Rarely sitting still? This spot pen is super travel-friendly, so you can fight those pesky pimples on the move. Our panel liked the cooling sensation of the metal roller ball and the lightweight, non-greasy liquid it dispensed, but they were split on how well it tackled spots – just over half saw improvements to size and redness. Still, it dried quickly, without stinging, and our lab test found it effective at zit-zapping.
Compact Powder Packaging Fab as our lab test found it at improving the overall look of spots, this serum earned special kudos for how easy it was to apply. Our testers waxed lyrical about its fine-tipped applicator, which helped them target blemishes without using their finger or affecting the surrounding skin. It squeezed out just the right amount from the compact tube and soothed redness overnight for many.