How to Choose the Right Acne Spot Treatment

skin problems

Waking up to discover a fresh zit in the middle of your forehead is guaranteed to ruin your day. And even those with dry and normal skin types are not immune to the occasional eruption.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin disorder, affecting up to 50 million Americans and nearly 85 percent of people experience it at some point in their lives. Breakouts can occur on any skin type, especially when hormones fluctuate during stressful events and menstruation.

So what are you supposed to do when a big whitehead pushes its way to the surface? That’s where spot treatments come in. These powerful treatments contain a more concentrated amount of active ingredients than products meant for the entire face, so they’re able to deliver a more potent punch to either an existing zit, or one that’s just forming.

When it comes to choosing the perfect one, consider the different types of spot treatments out there and what they do:

  • Benzoyl peroxide works by breaking down into benzoic acid and oxygen when it touches the skin. The oxygen helps kill P. acnes bacteria, and the benzoic acid exfoliates deeply, getting rid of dead skin and sebum that’s built up inside the pores. It’s effective, but powerful, so it can be harsh and drying if you overuse it.
  • Salicylic acid does not kill acne bacteria. It’s an effective exfoliant, called a beta hydroxyl acid, which unclogs pores, as well as an anti-inflammatory, so it’s soothing. Reducing inflammation and getting the gunk out of your pores helps eliminate the blemish in a gentler way than the benzoyl peroxide.
  • Sulfur has both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. It also helps remove dead skin cells from pores, and man, does it seriously dry out a zit overnight! Plus, sensitive skin can tolerate it better than the other two options.

With any spot treatment, it’s important to apply it directly to clean skin before any makeup or moisturizer to get the biggest benefits. If you can, reapply throughout the day as well. If your skin starts to get dry or irritated, cut back on the number of applications. If your skin is red, broken or irritated, avoid the temptation to spot treat until it heals, and if you’re pregnant or nursing, avoid spot treatments containing salicylic acid.

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