The Best Acne Spot Treatments Help Vanish Surprise Pimples in a Pinch

Keep your skin clear and your psyche stress-free.

As much as we'd like to pretend otherwise, sporadic breakouts happen to the best of us (and yes, even the most well hydrated, rested, and thoroughly scrubbed of us). And right now is the worst time of year to wake up with a throbbing red pustule smack in the middle of your face. Familial obligations are at their peak, and you don't want to be the guy tuning in to your family's virtual holiday get-together looking like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

You can do everything right—swap out your pillowcases on the daily, exfoliate with Pharell-like dedication—and still find yourself with a fat pimple perched prominently on your forehead without warning. We've all been there before. Although long term solutions might involve switching up your skincare regimen or looking into other forms of preventative care, there are a few preemptive steps you can take to help vanish unexpected pimples in a pinch. Step number one: invest in a go-to emergency spot treatment.

Having a solid spot treatment on hand is especially helpful if your skin tends to be overly dry or oily, and as a result, easily irritated. A spot treatment lets you tend to the area affected with a laser-like specificity (though, to be clear, there's no, ah, actual lasers involved). Here are 12 of the best available now to help you get started on your way to healthier, acne-free skin—through the holiday season and beyond.

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Spot Treatment Gel


If your pimples tend to be of the swollen, bright-red variety, Neutrogena's treatment works to reduce irritation and tackle even the most intimidating of breakouts in a matter of hours.

Clean & Clear Acne Spot Treatment

Real skincare gurus likely already know salicylic acid can be a game-changer when it comes to treating any unwanted pimples. Clean & Clear's no-frills option puts the ingredient front and center in a winning formula that'll help your skin stay, well, clean and clear all day long.

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

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Take it from someone who's used it more times than they care to count: Mario Badescu's lotion works, and works wonders. 

Acne Healing Dots Peace Out

If you're looking to zap a zit or two while hanging out at home (where else are you going, really?) invest in an acne-healing dot. Simply apply it to the problem area and let it sit for a few hours.

Peter Thomas Roth Acne Spot & Area Treatment


Peter Thomas Roth's specialty formula is great for both treating—and, crucially, preventing—any surprise flare-ups.

Origins Super Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel

A touch of this salicylic acid-infused gel on an unwelcome pimple will shrink it down substantially in no time at all, helping reduce inflammation and soothe affected areas of your skin in the process. 

Proactiv Emergency Blemish Relief


Proactiv's specialty relief formula derives its considerable powers from benzoyl peroxide—the silver-bullet ingredient of acne treatments, if you will—and is designed to zap unexpected blemishes as soon as they pop up.

Malin+Goetz Acne Treatment Nighttime

To help treat pimples while you sleep, simply apply a touch of Malin+Goetz's nighttime concoction to a cotton swab and dab directly on the blemish to minimize irritation. 

Clarins Blackhead Expert Stick + Mask


This dual-action product combines the best of an exfoliating stick with the deep-cleaning powers of a clay mask, leaving your complexion clear as can be. (In other words, a winning formula so good we had no choice but to include it in our annual Grooming Awards.)

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment Cream 

La Roche-Posay enlists the help of benzoyl peroxide and micro-exfoliating LHA (trust me) in a pocket-sized formula that packs a hell of a punch.

Kiehl's Breakout Control Targeted Acne Spot Treatment


This one uses sulfur to help reduce redness and absorb excess oil. Most important: it works—extraordinarily well.

Baxter of California Skin Concentrate BHA 

Baxter's acne treatment uses Beta Hydroxy Acid to reduce redness and unclog pores, all while calming irritated skin with a much-needed dose of vitamin E and—yes—a touch of caffeine.

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Christine Flammia
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Avidan Grossman
Avidan Grossman is the Style eCommerce Editor at Esquire, covering men’s fashion, shoes, grooming, and accessories. He spends way too much time deciding what to wear. Needless to say, his parents still have no idea what he does.
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