As we all know, breakouts are the worst. We spent our teen years trying every “miracle” salicylic acid product from the CVS acne section but it was hard to find something that truly cleared our skin for good. While our recommendations aren’t the cheapest, these treatments are our favorites to nip zits in the bud.
Obagi Clenziderm M.D. Foaming Cleanser ($30)
My dermatologist recommended that I try this over-the-counter cleanser to clear my acne years ago. It has worked wonders ever since and I totally credit my acne-free face to this face wash! While it is a bit pricey, this cleanser is an actual miracle product when it comes to keeping acne far far away. I am now 23, and I still use this once every day with no plans to stop anytime soon. Besides clearing acne, this wash removes makeup, dirt and oil and unclogs pores.
To use: I rinse my face with water and then massage the product in a circular motion, leaving it on for 30 seconds. I usually feel a slight tingly feeling while it’s on. Once I rinse it off, my face feels clean and refreshed. Because it contains 2% salicylic acid, this wash can sometimes dry my face out, so I make sure to moisturize after. I’ll also sometimes swap cleansers and use Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser for a day to give my face a break.
Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Mousse Mask ($20)
I tend not to break out much anymore but for those times I’m on the verge of an annoying stress breakout, I use this Mousse Mask. We’ve discussed in our clay mask reviews how this is my emergency go-to mask when I need to dry out and shrink those random zits that pop up out of the blue (usually at the worst possible time).
I apply this after washing my face with Obagi and leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. The foam will harden so it becomes a little difficult to scrub off. My advice is to gently massage the hardened mask with water in circular motions- after a minute or so it will loosen and come right off. This leaves my face feeling clean and visibly shrinks any breakouts. If I use this at night, any zits are usually almost totally gone by the morning.
Cosrx One Step Pimple Clear Pads ($17)
No matter how perfect your skin is or how strictly you stick to your skincare regimen, you’re probably going break out every once in a while. I tend to break out on my chin and when I do, I use the Cosrx Pimple Pads to dry those suckers out. Cosrx is a popular Korean brand that people all over the world rave about for their skincare needs. These pads come in a container of 70 wet pads, designed to unclog pores, eliminate blackheads and stop a zit in its tracks. And bonus: the packaging is totally adorable.
If I’m beginning to break out, I will use one pad in the morning and one at night by lightly pressing on each pimple to dry it out. This does the trick because day by day the pimple significantly shrinks until it disappears.
If you have oily skin and tend to break out everywhere, these pads are great for the entire face. Just lightly sweep the pad over your face after cleansing. Make sure to moisturize after, because these pads can be super drying. And while most acne pads can be harsh on the skin, these are effective yet gentle enough for even the most sensitive faces.
Proactiv Emergency Blemish Relief ($15 for 2)
Proactiv’s Emergency Blemish Relief is a godsend for the occasional annoying zit that just won’t quit. This is the only over-the-counter spot treatment I’ve tried that actually works like it says it will.
I know what you’re thinking… Proactiv? That’s a scammy infomercial product! You’re right: As an awkward zit-plagued 14-year-old back in the day, I gave the 3-step system a go. My face swelled up like a balloon and I blamed Avril Lavigne for enticing me with her charm in those super-convincing infomercials.
But alas, I gave this product a go almost a decade later and I’m never turning back. Unlike a lot of zit meds, this stuff goes on clear. That way it can be used both at night and during the day under makeup. If you suffer from severe acne, I’d recommend an acne-targeted face wash, toner and moisturizer in addition to this. But for the annoying occasional breakouts most of us get, this spot treatment is the way to go.