I Tried $328 Worth of Acne Spot Treatments — & The Cheapest Pick Won

Sometimes the best things in life come with some less-than-ideal side effects. Crave fame and fortune? Hope you don't mind a 24/7 media cycle tracking your every Instagram comment. Desire platinum boarding status? Prepare to log 150,000 miles back and forth to a Best Western in Cincinnati. Want clear, pimple-free skin? Get your Aquaphor ready because the flakes are coming.
But that last one doesn't necessarily have to be that way. In fact, there are plenty of new acne spot treatments that zap zits without sucking all the moisture out of your face. I spent weeks testing the best ones and gave my unfiltered opinion on them, ahead.
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1 of 10
When beauty editors feel a monster coming on, they run to their bathroom cabinet to smooth this serum over the spot ASAP. The liquid formula, which contains citric acid, works fast to gently exfoliate the skin, shrink the zit, and prevent scarring. I tapped it over a cyst and it looked significantly smaller and felt less painful by morning.
2 of 10
I found this formula, which contains salicylic acid, to be better as an all-over serum than a high-powered spot treatment. I noticed fewer clogged pores and whiteheads everywhere, but when I used it to target a single zit, it took several days to clear up.
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3 of 10
I was a bit hesitant to use this gel on my sensitive skin, given that it contains essential oils, but it definitely didn't further irritate my skin. I wouldn't say it improved my zit dramatically, but it didn't get worse.
4 of 10
These packets come with 24 stickers in multiple sizes, from "tiny pimple" to "day ruiner." Slap one on before bed and the hydrocolloid patch works overnight to draw out impurities, meaning you'll see a satisfying glob of white stuff on it in the morning. The patches are specifically designed to reduce redness and inflammation, which made my larger zits smaller and easier to cover the next day, and my smaller zits gone completely. The most gentle yet effective of the options, this definitely was my favorite find.
5 of 10
This treatment packs mineral sulfur and Vitamin B3 to reduce breakouts while brightening the skin. While my acne didn't vanish overnight (an unrealistic goal, I'm aware), it certainly looked significantly less inflamed after using this.
6 of 10
This formula, which contains two-percent salicylic acid, promises to reduce blemish size and redness within four hours, and it pretty much held up to that claim. The cluster of hormonal acne I had on my chin had significantly calmed down by morning. The best part about this product, though, is that it blends to be completely invisible, so it's easy to layer under makeup.
7 of 10
While the skin around my acne was noticeable drier in the morning, the pimple itself was completely gone after using this just once. Given its effectiveness, I'd probably pick it up for emergencies — but wouldn't use it longterm to avoid over-drying my skin.
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8 of 10
This spot treatment is completely natural, which I appreciate, but the formula was a little lackluster. The fruit extracts in the cream didn't necessarily do anything good or bad for my skin — it pretty much looked the same after using it.
9 of 10
This stick is formulated specifically for on-the-go use and claims to be suitable both under and over makeup. I found it wore well under makeup, but smudged my concealer when I tapped it on top. I like to use this one throughout the day on particularly vulnerable spots; it calms redness and reduces the size of the pimple without totally drying up my skin. I will say, this was the only product that made my skin burn a little upon application, but it was a manageable pain.
10 of 10
This benzoyl peroxide treatment works hard, but also left my skin dry. If you're looking for overnight results, it definitely works to shrink zits. Just know that there will be flakiness around the pimple, which can make it even harder to cover.
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