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We’ve all been there: You get a pimple. You immediately fight back against said pimple with the strongest spot treatment you can find. You end up with a peel-y, dried out, irritated mess that’s practically impossible to conceal. Most spot treatments contain varying percentages of either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide as active ingredients. In a nutshell, salicylic acid is an incredible chemical exfoliator: “Once it has penetrated the skin, [it] dissolve[s] some of the intercellular ‘glue’ that holds skin cells together,” cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller previously told Allure. For this reason, it’s great for treating blemishes caused by clogged pores (blackheads, whiteheads — you get the picture).
On the other hand, benzoyl peroxide thwarts the bacteria that causes zits in the first place, so it’s an ideal active for treating inflammatory acne blemishes. The best spot-squelching products balance zit-zapping actives (such as the aforementioned ones, among others) with skin-soothing ingredients to avoid the dreaded dryout.
Below, 27 products that tackle breakouts quickly — without stripping your skin in the process.
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