If you’re a child of the early 90s, chances are you spent your teen years applying toothpaste to your blemishes as an acne treatment. And just like the DIY highlights, this was a terrible, beauty-related mistake. Toothpaste is great for teeth, but when it comes to skin it can be irritating, and more likely to leave your skin red and flaky than smooth and clear. Chances are you’ve moved on to bigger and better products, but even now, some fast-acting, targeted pimple treatments follow a similar suit – they’re loaded with alcohol or harsh ingredients that can lead to flaking, which is tends to be, ironically, more difficult to conceal than the aforementioned blemish. But you need not suffer. Gentle, but quick and effective options are at your disposal – you just need to know where to look. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for a stack of blemish treatments that won’t burn your face off, but will still reward you with visible results.

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Pimple Patches

Wounds are best kept moist and clean in order to heal effectively, and blemishes are much the same. Instead of zapping them of all moisture, try a pimple patch, (or hydrocolloid bandage, to use medical lingo). They’re little clear dressings you apply directly to pimples, and they work by absorbing fluid and encouraging rapid healing. Wear it overnight, or to work, if you’re bold. Mind you, most are so tiny and invisible that your boss might be none the wiser. We promise in eight hours, the offender will have shrunken significantly without drying out. These work best on whiteheads.

Spot Media Hydrocolloid Masks, $10. SHOP NOW

Skyn Iceland Blemish Dots, $31. SHOP NOW

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic is a gentle acid proven to work on congestion. This is because it dissolves sebum and unplugs pores – it’s essentially magic. The best part is, it works fast. It’s often paired with other harsh ingredients, so look for something gentle, like Votary’s Blemish Oil which contains zero alcohol, but anti-inflammatory tamanu oil instead.

Votary Blemish Rescue Oil, $70. SHOP NOW


Sulfur is often found in acne drying lotions because it’s great at absorbing excess oil, but look out for a products that delivers without the addition of alcohol (like so many drying lotions do). De La Cruz and Sunday Riley are ace options.

De La Cruz Sulfur Ointment, $20. SHOP NOW

Sunday Riley Saturn Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask, $89. SHOP NOW