The 17 Best Acne Spot Treatments to Zap Pimples Fast

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Byrdie / Sabrina Jiang

When breakouts start to push their way through the surface of the skin, many of us enter attack mode. Forget letting it run its course. It's all about acting fast and breaking out the heavy artillery. Usually, this means applying one of the best acne spot treatments we can get our hands on. 

However, know that spot treatments work best on pustules (traditional pimples filled with pus). If you have cystic acne or papules (inflamed red pimples that haven't quite reached the surface), spot treatments won't cut it. (For more info on how to treat other kinds of pimples, check out our foolproof guide.) But if you're dealing with a pesky pustule, we've got the best hard-hitting products that will shrink your skin's new resident in no time.

Keep scrolling to see the best acne spot treatments your money can buy.

Our Top Picks
This celebrity go-to works fast to dry up whiteheads and reduce the appearance of breakouts overnight.
This drugstore classic dries clear and works quickly to calm pimples.
While labeled a serum, this fast-absorbing formula works just as well as a spot treatment to bring down swelling and redness.
A little of this gel spot treatment goes a long way to remove redness and flush out dead skin cells and excess sebum.
As cheap as this is, it's also effective and gentle on skin with salicylic acid and a milder form of witch hazel.
The characteristic pink formula uses sulfur and AHAs to shrink pimples overnight and control oil.
For on-the-go acne emergencies, look no further than this portable pen that shrinks pimples and calms swelling.
The paste-like formula includes anti-microbial peppermint oil and zinc oxide to fade bumps overnight.
These humble hydrocolloid patches from Cosrx are ideal for sucking the gunk out of pimples and healing picked-at skin.
This FDA-approved LED therapy device fights acne-causing bacteria while reducing inflammation and redness.

Best Overall: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

Drying Lotion MARIO BADESCU
What We Like
  • Quick results

  • Comes in a glass bottle

  • Treats one spot at a time

What We Don't Like
  • Can be drying

There's a reason this formula is one of the go-to spot treatments for celebrities and beauty editors alike, including here at Byrdie HQ. In short? It actually works (and fast!) to dry up whiteheads and reduce the appearance of pesky breakouts overnight. Simply dab a bit of the formula—laced with a hard-hitting combo of salicylic acid, sulfur, and zinc oxide—onto the problem spot(s) before bed, let it dry, and then hit the hay. When you wake up, rinse off the lotion and the spot should be virtually undetectable. It's that easy.

Type: Lotion | Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, sulfur, and calamine | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Testers Say

"Mario Badescu's Drying Lotion does just what it says: stops pimples in their tracks and calms them at the same time." — Bianca Lambert, Product Tester

Best Drugstore: Clean & Clear Advantage Spot Treatment

Clean & Clear Advantage Spot Treatment
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Helpful applicator

  • Absorbs fast

What We Don't Like
  • Contains fragrance

This drugstore classic is available almost anywhere. The gel formula contains witch hazel and salicylic acid and comes in a tapered squeeze tube. The applicator helpfully dispenses small doses without splattering everywhere, which helps if you’re in a rush. The spot treatment dries clear and sinks in quickly as it stops developing pimples and calms ones that have already popped up.

Type: Gel | Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Size: 0.75 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Daytime: TruSkin Tea Tree Oil Super Serum For Face

TruSkin Tea Tree Oil Super Serum For Face
What We Like
  • Absorbs fast

  • Will also fade acne spots

  • 90-day money back guarantee

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

In case of angry, inflamed pimples, dot this on. While labeled a serum, the fast-absorbing Tea Tree Clear Skin Serum works just as well as a spot treatment for daytime. The dropper bottle contains a potent mix of antibacterial tea tree oil, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, and even niacinamide. Together, they bring down swelling and redness, brighten, and refine skin texture while preventing future pimples from forming.

Type: Serum | Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, tea tree oil, retinol, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Gel: Origins Super Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel

Origins Super Spot Remover Blemish Treatment Gel
What We Like
  • Quick results

  • Will also fade acne spots

  • Tingling sensation

What We Don't Like
  • Small size

This gel spot treatment has everything—salicylic acid, red algae to (ironically) remove redness, and exfoliators to flush out dead skin cells and excess sebum. It's every pimple-busting weapon wrapped into one.

Breakouts clear within two to three days, with minimal scarring. Some reviewers preferred to use this at night, though the clear, unassuming gel also works during the day. As with most spot treatments, a little goes a long way. There’s even a slight tingle if you like to feel products working.

Type: Gel | Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Size: 0.3 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Budget: The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Won't strip skin

  • Reduces redness

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it doesn't absorb fast

As cheap as this is, it’s also effective and gentle on skin—nowhere near a clumsily formulated acid bath. The Ordinary’s solution contains acne-fighting salicylic acid as well as a milder form of witch hazel, an anti-inflammatory botanical extract that doesn't over-dry skin. Thanks to its exfoliating and soothing properties, the solution clears closed comedones, blackheads, and whiteheads while reducing redness, even balancing oily skin.

Type: Serum | Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Size: 1.01 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Classic: Kate Somerville EradiKate Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment

Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment
What We Like
  • Comes in a glass bottle

  • Effective on hormonal acne

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

Key Ingredients

Zinc is an essential mineral that is needed for numerous healthy bodily functions, including boosting the immune system, healing wounds, and assisting in DNA/protein synthesis and growth. Applied topically, it's shown to aid in wound healing and regeneration, as well as protect the skin by deflecting UV rays.

You’ve probably seen this product’s characteristic pink formula dotted all over people’s faces on Instagram. Housed in a vaguely medical-looking glass bottle, the EradiKate Acne Treatment uses sulfur and AHAs to reduce existing pimples while preventing new ones. As the treatment shrinks pimples overnight, zinc oxide absorbs excess sebum to control oil, which helps keep the area clear. Even hormonal acne disappears faster. Without shaking the bottle, dip a Q-Tip into the bottle, pick up the thick pink solution, and apply it to your blemish. 

Type: Lotion | Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, retinyl propionate | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Portable: Glossier Zit Stick

Glossier Zit Stick
What We Like
  • Travel-friendly

  • Can reapply over makeup

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note the packaging doesn't function well

Key Ingredients

Benzoyl peroxide is an organic acid in the peroxide family that has been used to treat acne because of its keratolytic, moderate comedolytic, and antibacterial properties, which include the reduction of P. acnes and Staph. aureus on the skin.

For on-the-go acne emergencies, look no further than this Glossier acne spot treatment. This portable pen shrinks pimples and calms swelling with a blend of benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, and capryloyl salicylic acid (a derivative of salicylic acid). It's also hypoallergenic, vegan, and cruelty-free, and you can reapply it up to three times a day—even over makeup. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the packaging is like a Tide to Go stick, but cuter.

Type: Pen | Active Ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, capryloyl salicylic acid | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Natural: Rosen Skincare Break-Out

Rosen Skincare Break-Out Spot Treatment
What We Like
  • Travel-friendly

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note product can dry up easily

Rosen Skincare has a different approach to acne — like the firm stance that blemishes are nothing to be a shamed of — so there's no surprise that this spot treatment is unlike any other. It's size and easy application make it great for travel, but the ingredients are the real winner. The paste-like formula includes peppermint oil, which act as a anti-microbial on large and active breakouts, while zinc oxide provides powerful astringent properties to fade bumps overnight.

Type: Lotion | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, apple cider vinegar, peppermint oil | Size: 0.37 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Mild Acne: COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch

Cosrx Master Pimple Patch
What We Like
  • Multiple patch sizes

  • Prevents picking

  • Easy to store

What We Don't Like
  • Patches aren't individually packaged

These humble hydrocolloid patches from Cosrx are ideal for sucking the gunk out of pimples and healing picked-at skin. These patches are your friend when you get too enthusiastic with extracting a pimple and accidentally create a small wound, or if you’re always touching your face. The protective covering reduces bacteria transfer while healing the skin.

The way they work is simple: Once you smooth on the patch, it slowly draws out all the oil and bacteria inside the blemish while keeping other contaminants out. They're not meant to work instantly, gradually shrinking blemishes through the least invasive means possible. The translucent patch grows opaque as it clears out the pimple, and a white dot becomes visible in the center to let you know when to remove it. 

Type: Patch | Active Ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Size: 24 patches | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

cosrx acne pimple master patch

Byrdie / Bianca Lambert

What Our Testers Say

"I wasn't expecting a quick fix the next morning, but I am happy to report that while the pimple wasn't gone, it was significantly smaller. I count this as a win in my book. I don't believe in overnight skincare treatments, but these patches changed my mind." — Bianca Lambert, Product Tester

Best LED: Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpotLite Acne Treatment Device

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare SpotLite Acne Treatment Device
What We Like
  • FDA-approved

  • Quick results

  • Automatic shutoff

What We Don't Like
  • Longer application time than other options

OK, we know this isn't the same type of spot treatment as the others on this list, but this FDA-approved LED therapy device is just as effective at treating acne. So how does it work? It's powered by blue and red LED light for a two-pronged approach—blue light fights acne-causing bacteria while red light reduces inflammation and redness. Just place it directly onto your breakout spot, hold the power button, and keep it there for the brand-recommended three minutes (the device will shut off automatically). Continue use and you'll see a reduction in redness, inflammation, and pimple size within a few days.

Type: LED therapy device | Active Ingredients: Blue and red LED lights | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Sensitive Skin: Kiehl's Breakout Control Targeted Acne Spot Treatment

Kiehl's Breakout Control Targeted Acne Spot Treatment
What We Like
  • Will also fade acne spots

  • Great for sensitive skin

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

Key Ingredients

Sulfur is a natural element that is an essential component for all living cells. Sulfur-based products can help reduce acne due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties.

If you have sensitive skin that gets irritated by benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, you may want to try a sulfur-based acne treatment like this one from Kiehl's—sulfur has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and it helps to soften and exfoliate dead skin. Plus, this formula contains niacinamide to help brighten the skin. Translation: your pimple will be a thing of the past before you know it.

Type: Lotion | Active Ingredients: Sulfur, vitamin B3 | Size: 0.68 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Patch: Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots

acne spot dots
What We Like
  • Quick results

  • Multiple patch sizes

  • Prevents picking

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note they don't stick well

We first heard about these miraculous acne treatment dots from celebrity esthetician Angela Caglia. Her claim: That even the most stubborn of blemishes will disappear overnight. In fact, she even told us she recommends them to her highest-profile clients. In other words, they must work.

Type: Patch | Active Ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Size: 30 patches | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Under Makeup: Eve Lom Dynaspot

Eve Lom Dynaspot
What We Like
  • Works for all skin tones

  • Wears well under makeup

  • Moisturizing

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

Formulated to suit all skin tones, this cream can be used underneath or on top of makeup to target breakouts. It's also moisturizing, so you can forget about dried-out, flaky patches. 

Type: Cream | Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, tea tree terpineol, zinc oxide, chamomile, yarrow, fennel seeds | Size: 0.3 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Hyperpigmentation: Tula Go Away Acne Spot Treatment

Tula Skincare
What We Like
  • Dries clear

  • Will also fade acne spots

  • Can be used day or night

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

Nobody loves dark marks that exist as a constant reminder to the pimples that once were, and this effective spot treatment does an awesome job at getting rid of them. Licorice and niacinamide work to even hyperpigmentation, while benzoyl peroxide clears up acne fast. It also has tea tree oil to soothe the skin, and we especially love that it dries completely clear — so it's perfect for day or night.

Type: Gel | Active Ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide, probiotic extracts, licorice, niacinamide, azelaic acid, tea tree oil | Size: 0.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best with Benzoyl Peroxide: Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment

neutrogena on the spot acne treatment
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Potent formula

What We Don't Like
  • Can be drying

This heavy-duty spot treatment (with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide) shrinks blemishes like no one's business. However, it's quite potent, so a little goes a long way.

Type: Cream | Active Ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide | Size: 0.75 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Overnight Treatment: Renée Rouleau Night Time Spot Lotion

Renée Rouleau Night Time Spot Lotion
What We Like
  • Quick results

  • Can also use on back and chest

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

For those times when an angry bump rears its head practically before your eyes, Renée Rouleau's fast-acting acne spot treatment is invaluable. Specifically formulated for surface-infected blemishes, it uses a down-to-business approach with potent blemish-clearing ingredients like zinc oxide, sulfur, and camphor. 

Type: Lotion | Active Ingredients: Camphor, sulfur, zinc oxide | Size: 0.5 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Mask: White Willow Sleep Mask & Spot Treatment

Marla Rene Beauty
What We Like
  • Can be used two ways

  • Gentle formula

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

You get the best of both worlds with this powerful blemish banisher. It improves the overall look and texture of your skin while soothing and protecting your skin's essential barrier. The all natural formula acts as a gentle exfoliant, sloughing off dead skin cells and reducing the appearance of dark marks. Use it overnight as a spot treatment or apply it all over as a clearing mask.

Type: Mask | Active Ingredients: Witch hazel, willow bark extract | Size: 1 ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Wessels I, Maywald M, Rink L. Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(12):1286. doi:10.3390/nu9121286

  2. Dréno B, Bissonnette R, Gagné-Henley A, et al. Prevention and Reduction of Atrophic Acne Scars with Adapalene 0.3%/Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% Gel in Subjects with Moderate or Severe Facial Acne: Results of a 6-Month Randomized, Vehicle-Controlled Trial Using Intra-Individual Comparison. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2018;19(2):275-286. doi:10.1007/s40257-018-0352-y

  3. Scott AM, Stehlik P, Clark J, Zhang D, Yang Z, Hoffmann T, Mar CD, Glasziou P. Blue-Light Therapy for Acne Vulgaris: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Ann Fam Med. 2019;17(6):545-553. doi:10.1370/afm.2445

  4. Li WH, Fassih A, Binner C, Parsa R, Southall MD. Low-level red LED light inhibits hyperkeratinization and inflammation induced by unsaturated fatty acid in an in vitro model mimicking acne. Lasers Surg Med. 2018;50(2):158-165. doi:10.1002/lsm.22747

  5. Liu H, Yu H, Xia J, et al. Evidence-based topical treatments (azelaic acid, salicylic acid, nicotinamide, sulfur, zinc, and fruit acid) for acne: an abridged version of a Cochrane systematic review. J Evid Based Med. 2020;13(4):275-283. doi:10.1111/jebm.12411

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