The Acne-Clearing Beauty Buys That Look SO Pretty — & Work, Too

Acne in and of itself is definitively not sexy. To be clear, that does not in any way mean that you can’t have acne and also be sexy — of course you can. Just look at the long list of conventionally attractive famous people who’ve had pictures of their breakouts played on loop on national television in Proactiv ads: You’ve got your Bieber, your Adam Levine, your Katy Perry, your Vanessa Williams…
But acne isn’t sexy to deal with, mostly because it’s a nuisance and definitely because it’s been known to eat away at your self-esteem (anything that does that is not sexy). As an additional drawback, it can mean spending a lot of money on products in hideous packaging basically indistinguishable from off-brand wart cream that you’d never in a million years want to leave out on your nightstand for a new lover to wake up next to, or perched on the bathroom sink for your impossibly stylish friend staying with you from out of town to see. Are you cringing yet?
It doesn’t have to be this way. No, really, it doesn’t — because cool indie brands have accepted that their cool, sexy customers are not immune to a forehead that feels like an alien landscape or a chin that sprouts several smaller chins around the same time every month. Ahead, the acne-fighting products you’ll actually want to use, not just because your dermatologist told you to. Believe it or not, they’re going to fit in perfectly with your next Instagram flat lay.
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This bright green mask is wonderful and ever so slightly weird, in the best way possible. The texture is like honey — which makes sense, since it’s the first ingredient — without the stickiness, but it has the pore-cleansing powers of kaolin clay paired with fruit enzymes, antibacterial essential oils, nourishing fatty acids, and breakout-fighting salicylic acid. It never dries, so after 15-20 minutes, you add a bit of water and massage it into skin so that the microcrystals can work their gently exfoliating magic.

Tata Harper Clarifying Mask, $68, available at Space NK.
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“Tabula rasa” is a Latin phrase that roughly translates into English as “clean slate,” which is exactly what you’ll get when you use this potent yet non-irritating acne-fighting formula — a combo of lactic and salicylic acid eliminates current breakouts while helping fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation left behind by breakouts past.

Arcona Tabula Rasa, $28, available at Arcona.
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A tiny, apothecary-style glass vial contains a unique Ayurvedic blend of anti-bacterial essential oils — tea tree, juniper berry, clove, lavender, and clary sage — in a base of grapeseed oil to keep dry spots from developing where a zit used to be. Bonus points for its mild numbing properties, which help ease the very real pain of inflamed, under-the-skin cystic acne.

UMA Deeply Clarifying Blemish Spot Treatment, $55, available at UMA.
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This isn’t your middle-school astringent anti-acne face wash — quite the opposite, in fact. You can tell as soon as you start to massage it into wet skin that this cleanser is the real deal for making skin feel fresh and, well, clean. It’s as gentle as it gets, but that doesn’t mean it lacks potency; rather, it’s formulated with a complex blend of plant-based ingredients, including black willow bark and helichrysum, that are just as kind to skin as they are effective.

True Botanicals Hydrating Cleanser - Clear, $48, available at True Botanicals.
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Treating breakouts on sensitive complexions can be difficult — there’s a delicate balance between zapping zits and taking much-needed moisture out of your skin with them. This serum pairs exfoliating fruit acids to slough away dead skin cells with soothing botanicals and amino acids, so it balances skin with hydration and healing properties as it fights breakouts.

Kypris Clearing Serum, $67, available at Kypris.
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If you’re still not convinced that toner is worth the extra step in your routine, this innovative clarifying and soothing formula will change, and potentially blow, your mind. It pumps out like a gel, but once it’s been smoothed on skin, it turns watery and absorbs instantly. The bentonite clay mattifies your complexion all day without drying it out, so it has the added benefit of helping your makeup stay on longer.

Sunday Riley Martian Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner, $55, available at Sephora.
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The packaging may be as minimalist as it gets, but it’s what inside that counts — and in this case, it’s a pore-decongesting, inflammation-reducing, antioxidant, antibacterial spot treatment gel that’s lightweight and absorbent enough to layer under any moisturizer or makeup, day or night.

Grown Alchemist Blemish Treatment Gel, $49, available at Grown Alchemist.
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Clay masks can be terribly drying, especially to skin that’s already being exposed to other acne-fighting ingredients, but this formula is the opposite. It uses highly absorbent kaolin clay to clear pores and draw out impurities while nourishing honey, antibacterial rosemary, rejuvenating sweet orange peel oil, and healing rosewater do the rest of the work.

Chantecaille Detox Clay Mask, $82, available at Space NK.
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