Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Overview: Spot Treatments

What a better time to give you a little overview of all different spot treatments I have in my posession than when I am particularly spotty? See, there must be at least one good thing about the mess happening on my face lately, and that is to throw in my two cents about different pimple fighters so you could choose something which actually works for a change.

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 unnecessarily complicated precise. My overview will focus on key acne-fighting over-the-counter ingredients and how exactly they work for my skin, with specific products given as examples.

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?


  1. Thanks for naming a few spot treatments. I absolutely -hate- cysts. They're so painful and difficult to get rid of. I will try some of these mentioned.
    I also bought the book "it's Not Just About Wrinkles" by Dr. Schultz. :') The man is a lifesaver.

  2. @Amyboo: I know, Dr. Schulz is amazing! I hate cysts too, especially because you can just feel them being there all the time... Ugh. x

  3. Greaaat post!! I really wanna try the La Roche Posay one.. My skin has been well-behaved lately but prevention is key ;)

    I tried both the Drying lotion and the Drying Cream and I much more prefer the Drying cream.. Helped me a lot with the under the skin spots (the comodones I think they're called).. Greay product for that!

    Thanks again =)

  4. What a great post! I usually spot-treat with salicylic acid, but you're right - it can get really drying with extended use. I may switch over to something else, but I haven't the time to do research on it right now :(

  5. @Delyteful Speaks: I used to use it everyday in place of a moisturizer, but it was still too drying for me (plus the scent is not the most pleasant). I now use it either as a spot treatment or a mask, the acids only work for about half hour anyway! I'll try putting the Drying Cream on my cheek bumps, thanks for the tip!

    @Larie: You can't go wrong with salicylic acid, but I guess it's more of a prevention measure for me. Try glycolic acid, it's not drying at all on me! x

  6. This post is very helpful, thank you!
    I've been using something similar to the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion and I use it on no heads. It takes about 4 days for them to disappear but for my white heads, I use acne dressing/patches. They work way quicker than spot treatments!

  7. Great post, my fave spot treatments are Benzac 10% and Paula's Choice BHA gel :) mind you my skin had been awesome lately and I think it's partle because of the cleanser I use (Antipodes lime & patchouli) :)

  8. @Ashley: I've actually never used acne patches, I think I need to investigate!

    @Jadegrrrl: I've heard a lot of good things about Paula's Choice, I think I'll try it next. And that cleanser sounds amazing! x

  9. This was a great breakdown...thanks! I like the acid treatments best, but my fave spot treatment is to apply Retin-A Micro. In my opinion, that takes care of the pimple and helps prevent scarring. Plus, it works for wrinkles!!

  10. @Kajal Couture: I have a bit of a bad history with Retinol treatments, but I think I might have to try them as a spot treatment next! I think SkinCeuticals do one...