Whether you’ve struggled with acne your entire life or are experiencing a sudden flare-up due to increased hormone levels during pregnancy or, heck, just plain ol’ stress—we’ve all been there. Don’t worry: We’ll spare you the horror stories and get down to business. The three key ingredients to look out for in acne treatments are Retinoids, Benzoyl Peroxide, and Salicylic acid—all of these work overtime to erase scarring, reduce redness, and unclog pores. With so many forms of breakouts, ranging from cystic acne to blackheads to mild acne, it’s just a matter of finding the acne wash or scar treatment that works best for you. While spot treatments (super cute pimple patches, anyone?) work like a charm in the p.m., daily cleansers and scrubs are just as vital in the a.m. Think of it as prepping your skin for the day ahead.
Thankfully, you don’t have to spend a fortune to find a remedy that works for you. It may take a little trial and error (everyone’s skin reacts differently), but we’ve got you covered with the best drugstore acne treatments of 2020 that we’d recommend to all our best girlfriends in a heartbeat.
For clearer, healthier-looking skin starting in just one week (for real, for real), allow this 3-step acne clearing regimen from Honest Beauty to cleanse, treat, and soothe your skin. In this kit, you get a clearing cleanser, a clearing night serum with pure retinol, and a soothing daily moisturizer. It’s cruelty-free and made without icky chemicals or synthetic dyes. Start your day off right by using the clearing cleanser (work into a lather and use twice daily). Then, follow up with the soothing daily moisturizer by massaging the product onto your face and neck as needed. After cleansing your skin in the evening, apply the night serum all over your face and neck for miracle-working magic in the a.m. Beyond clearing breakouts, you’ll notice more radiant skin in just four weeks.
Says this Amazon customer, “I’ve been using the entire line for a little over 3 weeks now, initially I started using the wash and lotion daily but the night treatment every other day, I am now however able to use it once a day. My skin is extremely sensitive and reactive and I’ve had zero issues with anything from this line, the biggest thing is to make sure your over-moisturizing when using… ALL acne products can and usually do cause dryness and irritation especially initially, I use the lotion this line came with twice a day as well as a cream moisturizer at night, I’m also using a vitamin c serum. My face is much clearer than it has been in a long time, and before this, I was using a prescription-strength cream I got from the dermatologist.”
Dare we say, Patchology *almost* makes having a breakout look fun. Their Breakout Box 3-in-1 Acne Treatment Kit is practically made for an adult slumber party. Tell a fellow mom friend to bring the vino—you can supply the pimple dots. Wild Friday night, amirite? As we all know, zits have a way of popping up at the most inconvenient times. Mercury is either in retrograde or you’re stressed AF about work, life, the kids, or all of the above. Enter the Pimple Patrol. This kit, containing 3 blackhead-eliminating nose strips, 24 pimple-shrinking Salicylic Acid Dots, and 24 Whitehead-Absorbing Hydrocolloid Dots, works to heal spots and unclog pores in record time. Key ingredients like salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and witch hazel work like a charm to keep inflammation away while targeting bacteria. Application is pretty straightforward; keep the dots in place for 6-8 hours or overnight, then once removed, say “gotcha sucker” (their words, not ours). Says this customer, “I have tried almost every acne patch available- Patchology, hands down, is the winner for quick healing time and excellent adherence to my skin- through workouts and sleeping!”
C’mon, you must be at least the teensiest bit intrigued by Glossier’s Zit Stick? If you haven’t already stolen (err, borrowed) the zit zapper from your teenage daughter then here’s your chance. As part of your blemish emergency plan, this quick-drying formula will help you out the next time you find yourself in a pickle. It’s made from 5% Benzoyl Peroxide and can be reapplied up to three times a day. By killing the germs that cause blemishes, it works to clear up your skin and minimize swelling. Additional ingredients include Tea Tree Oil and Capryloyl Salicylic Acid (a way less harsh derivative of Salicylic Acid). Part of what makes this product so enticing is the fact that it’s made for on-the-go mamas like you (it can be reapplied up to three times a day—yes, even over foundation). We love that it’s hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, and cruelty-free. Did we miss anything? Says this Glossier babe, “This is the best spot treatment/acne treatment I’ve ever tried! I get a lot of hormonal acne in my chin area and this keeps the pimples from getting huge, red, and painful! I put it on as soon as one is forming and within a day it’s starting to heal and reduce in size…doesn’t turn into a giant red monster.”
Zap away surface blemishes while you sleep with this cult-favorite drying lotion from Mario Badescu. The next time you get a pimple the size of Mt. Vesuvius don’t sweat it, boo. To use, dip a cotton swab into the pink sediment and lightly dab onto your blemish. Word to the wise if you’re too lazy and don’t read the label: Do NOT shake the solution. After a little research (okay, we googled it), we learned that you want to keep the pink sediment as clay-like as possible to ensure that it applies to your bump like a mask. #TheMoreYouKnow
Says this Mario Badescu convert, “Honestly, I assume that this dainty bottle is powered by some sort of magic, because this stuff is truly ah-mazing! Not long ago, I had a deep pimple that was building to a slow crescendo of awful (important to note, I usually have clear skin), and my mother-in-law recommended this stuff to me. She promised that it would drastically reduce the pimple, if not zap it altogether, overnight. I was wary, but I also had a business trip coming up and I was worried that the tender mound was going to blossom into a third eyeball by the time I stepped off the plane for client meetings. I dabbed a tiny amount of this stuff on the zit after my nightly facial routine (it kind of looks like calamine lotion) and went to bed not expecting much. No joke, this miracle elixir managed to shrink the nasty little sucker so much, that the tenderness had gone away!”
Raise your hand if you grew up using Burt’s Bees’ line of all-natural skincare products. SAME. As far as spot treatments go (hello, unwanted cystic acne), this $h!t works. Not only does it target oily skin, but consider breakouts a thing of the past thanks to tea tree and parsley extracts. Says this customer, “This product really helped dry out new acne that would pop up and also ones that were already surfaced… I use a cotton round and I add 3-4 drops onto it to use all over my cheeks and it works. It does have a small tingling sensation when applying but it goes away after a couple of seconds. I recommend using this at least every 2-3 days because it can dry your skin a little bit, but overall it really is a good product.”
It may not come in the fanciest tube but don’t be fooled, ladies. Differin’s FDA-approved gel acne treatment containing retinoid works wonders by clearing breakouts before they start. Voted as the best allover acne treatment by Allure, it also reduces the risk of scarring while combating inflammation and clogged pores. Says this Amazon customer, “I have been using Differin gel now for well over 2 years…I can now say without a doubt that it works. I started out using it once a week, gradually went to two days, and so on. Now, for over a year, I use a small amount over my whole face every night. I do have fair skin, so it was important I did that slowly. I can tell you these regular treatments got rid of all small bumps/blemishes and those stubborn little bumps around my eyes. Gone, all gone! I barely break out anymore. The key to this stuff is patience. It’s good for reducing wrinkles too. A small amount goes a long way.”
If you’ve ever used Neutrogena products in the past, then you already know this stuff smells ah-mazing. While naturally derived aloe and chamomile help to soothe your skin and reduce redness, MicroClear technology works to keep breakouts at bay. Add this facial cleanser to your skincare routine for one less worry when you feel a nasty pimple coming. Clear skin is “in” according to this Amazon customer, “I loveeee this product! My main problem with my skin is that it’s oily and SUPER red and after a few washes I’ve already noticed that my natural redness has definitely decreased. It’s so nice to be able to not wear makeup and feel more confident about my skin!” You know that feeling you have when you have a really good hair day and feel like Beyoncé? Well, waking up with clear skin—and not having to worry about pesky zits—is the equivalent of that.
See ya never, adult acne! A set of Peace Out’s miracle-working healing dots will practically fight zits and pimples overnight. (It actually sucks out the junk while you are asleep!) These li’l lifesavers are filled with blemish-fighting ingredients (like salicylic acid) that work to kill bacteria and free up your pores. Meanwhile, aloe vera soothes and reduces redness. They’ll also help prevent picking, which as you know, can lead to scarring. Says this devoted Sephora shopper, “I have tried different brands (all of them cheaper) but they don’t work like these. Not only do they heal my large, painful pimples, they also quicken the healing process! These are a must-have for me. I always have these when I get stress acne!”
For more drugstore buys, be sure to check out the latest beauty must-haves!