Whether you have breakouts every time you get your period, or experience spots sporadically, there’s one thing we can all agree on – we want to get rid of them fast.
Inflamed, red, sore and often painful, spots are a common skin bugbear, but luckily there are a host of hardworking ingredients at our disposal to treat and prevent them.
Salicylic acid is one of the best-performing ingredients for dissolving clogged pores, while niacinamide is also a popular choice, thanks to how it is said to support the skin barrier and reduces inflammation.
We’ve been testing a number of targeted spot treatments for weeks to find the best money can buy. These are the IndyBest top eight – ranging from spot stickers, rollerball serums and cooling gels to calming creams – that we rated above the rest.
We examined each on how quickly they reduced the size, redness and inflammation of spots, while taking into account a variety of budgets and their ability to prevent future breakouts.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best spot treatments for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Murad rapid relief spot treatment, £20, Lookfantastic.com
- Best spot patches – ZitSticka killa patches, £27, Cultbeauty.co.uk
- Best for under make-up – Aesop control blemish serum, £15, Feelunique.com
- Best for cooling inflammation – Disciple Skincare what spot?, £15, Beautybay.com
- Best for preventing breakouts – Kate Somerville eradikate blemish treatment, £24, Spacenk.com
- Best spot sticker – Starface hydro-stars spot stickers kit, £7.99, Superdrug.com
- Best for sensitive skin – Medik8 blemish control pads, £27, Medik8.com
- Best for hormonal acne – La Roche-Posay effaclar A.I. breakout corrector, £12.50, Boots.com
Murad rapid relief spot treatment
This fast-acting gel gave transformative results in hours and we constantly reached for it as soon as a breakout hit. There’s an ever-so-slight tingle when put onto the skin, but it absorbs quickly and can be applied as many times as you need. We found it particularly effective when put on just before bed, as the salicylic acid, pine and thyme extract formula got to work at reducing redness, the size of a blemish and taking away the uncomfortable sting from inflamed skin. It dries down quickly, but, as it’s a gel, it’s clear and therefore leaves no trace.
ZitSticka killa patches
Best: Spot patches
While it’s easy to dismiss spot patches as nothing more than a gimmick, we can confirm these do a spectacular job at reducing the size and redness of a blemish. One kit comes with eight patches and eight salicylic wipes, which you use to clean the area before applying the circular stickers.
Designed to be worn for six hours to get the most benefits, we wore them through Zoom calls, Facetimes and overnight. They’re discreet and very comfortable – you quickly forget you’re wearing them. The next morning, or six hours later, we saw a noticeable difference in the size of our blemish, especially larger cysts, which is an impressive feat for a sticker with less than 1cm diameter. They didn’t slip once and stayed on even when we splashed our face with water. Each one is packed with hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, niacinamide and sodium hydroxide, which, combined, create a cocktail of skin-soothing, blemish busting and calming ingredients.
Aesop control blemish serum
Best: For under make-up
Perfect for popping in your handbag thanks to the compact 9ml tube, this gel-based serum has a slight citrus scent, making it the most pleasant-smelling treatment we tried. We loved the thin nozzle too, as it allows you to distribute enough but not too much product. It reduces redness and inflammation with regular use in a matter of days, but didn’t dry out surrounding skin nor leave it feeling sticky. It works well under make-up too, making it a great all-rounder from the Aussie beauty brand.
Disciple Skincare what spot?
Best: For cooling inflammation
This tiny rollerball treatment may be small, but it packs a punch. It’s great for applying on the go without getting any product on your hands, and it’s easy to control application so it’s only on the spot, for targeted treatment. Despite its small size, it doesn’t distribute a huge amount of product so it won’t run out within weeks, and the stainless steel rollerball adds a cooling effect to angry, red spots that cause discomfort. Each bottle contains vegan botanicals, anti-inflammatory oils, salicylic acid and a healthy dose of antioxidants to treat pesky breakouts that won’t budge.
Kate Somerville eradikate blemish treatment
Best: For preventing breakouts
This is your classic spot-drying treatment. The solution is a watery pink, but settled at the bottom of the glass bottle is a paste, then once applied to a spot using a cotton bud, it absorbs fluid and pus from a blemish. It dries almost instantly and then hours later, fades to an off-white colour, so it works best when used before bed and washed off in the morning. It won’t get mess on your sheets, however, and nor will drip down your face. Thanks to a formula packed with 10 per cent sulphur, zinc oxide and salicylic acid, it not only tackles blemishes head-on, it also absorbs excess sebum to prevent future breakouts.
Starface hydro-stars spot stickers kit
Best: Spot sticker
Loved by Caroline Hirons and Hailey Bieber, these fun yellow star-shaped stickers are an effective tool for ensuring you don’t pick or squeeze spots – which, FYI, will only make them more inflamed and harder to heal. They’re hydrocolloid patches, and work by drawing out fluid from the affected area, stopping bacteria getting in and preventing you from touching your face too much. Starface recommends you leave them on for six hours – we wore one overnight as well as during the day working from home. In each pod there are 32 stars, so you’ll always have a plentiful supply, and they’re so weightless you’ll forget you’re wearing them.
Medik8 blemish control pads
Best: For sensitive skin
These pre-soaked pads are perfect for travel and we found them very simple to slot into our routine for long-term, consistent treatment and spot prevention. Containing 2 per cent salicylic acid, they work to break down oil and dirt that clogs pores and leads to breakouts. Gentle enough to suit sensitive skin too, they’re not just limited to use on the face – they can be used on the neck, back or arms to reduce spots there too. There’s a light, but not overpowering scent of spearmint, which adds a refreshing boost to your skincare routine. Each pot contains 60 pads.
La Roche-Posay effaclar A.I. breakout corrector
Best: For hormonal acne
We loved the cream-based texture of this, which felt like rubbing in moisturiser, with no tingling effect or stickiness once dry. It’s part of La Roche-Posay’s brilliant effaclar range, designed to treat acne-prone skin, and the tube feels generous as only a small amount needs to be applied. It’s good if you have an area with multiple breakouts – we found it did a great job on hormonal acne on our chin, on clusters of stubborn spots. It’s not quite as fast-acting as others we tried, but with regular use, applied twice a day to cleansed skin, it’s a good one to keep on hand if you regularly experience breakouts.
The verdict: Spot treatments
The top spot undoubtedly goes to Murad’s rapid relief spot treatment, a fast-acting gel that gave us results in a matter of hours. It’s fuss free, quick to absorb and made a huge difference to spots, reducing redness and size. It ticks every box.
We were also very impressed by ZitSticka killa patches that are discreet but no less effective. They’re perfect for wearing while sitting at your computer working from home, beneath a face covering, or overnight.
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For more skincare recommendations, read our guide to the best cleansing balms for every skin type
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.