Before I start, I'd like to recommend great skincare videos by the fabulous Dr. Schultz over at DermTV because I'm going to throw in some TERMINOLOGY here to make matters more
1. Benzoyl Peroxide (Bioelements Breakout Control Emergency Blemish Lotion). One of the two most common anti-acne ingredients, Benzoyl Peroxide works as an oxidizing agent on the acne-causing bacteria and increases cell turnover to help prevent blocked pores. The downside is that it is fairly drying and irritating, plus once you stop using it, your acne will come right back as it doesn't increase your body's ability to fight the bacteria. On my skin, it works best for tiny whiteheads on my forehead (mostly the result of too much head scratching) and small pustules and doesn't do much more than dry the spot out on bigger hormonal cysts.
2. Salicylic Acid & other AHA/BHA/LHA acids (La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo Corrective and Unclogging Anti-Imperfection Care). Salicylic and other acids fight acne by encouraging the sloughing of dead skin cells, thus unclogging your pores. Downside, it is quite irritating and might also feel drying, in which case I would recommend switching to glycolic acid. On my skin, various acids work best on non-inflammatory acne (whiteheads and blackheads) and also help fade post-acne scarring tremendously.
3. Sulfur (Mario Badescu Drying Lotion and Drying Cream). From my research, it seems that science is still not sure how exactly sulfur helps fight acne, other than it might have a similar keratolytic effect to salicylic acid. In my experience, the MB Drying Lotion works best on inflammatory pustules (with a white head), while Drying Cream performs better on papules (no head) and cysts. Actually, both of these products are a bit more complex and contain a number of anti-acne ingredients, such as calamine, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, but for clarity's sake I bundled them up here. A little tip: don't bother buying the full-size Drying Cream, I have had this sample for 4 months and it's not even half empty.
4. Herbal Remedies (Angel Face Botanicals Blemish Soother). This here is a 75% organic serum containing jojoba oil and a mix of essential oils: tea tree, lavender, sage and bergamot. I'm planning on writing a separate post on natural acne remedies, but decided to give this store-bought concotion a little review here. This actually works quite well on bigger cysts as it soothes the inflammation without excessive dryness. I also like to put it on any marks other blemishes might have left behind. It's worth a try, but to be completely honest I do think you can make your own pimple potion at home by blending a base oil of your choice with a couple favorite essential oils.
I hope this short overview has maybe given you an idea of what could work on your skin without resorting to the trip to a dermatologist, which is recommended if your acne is anything worse than mild to moderate. What are your favorite spot treatments?