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As someone who doesn't have oily skin but does suffer from hormonal breakouts, spot treatments are a really great way for me to treat specific areas affected by them without stripping my otherwise normal-to-dry skin. Today I'm walking you through three spot treatments I've tried that genuinely worked for me to tackle different elements of the breakout!
The first line of defence for me is the Inkey List's Succinic Acid Blemish Treatment* | £6.99. Since I originally wrote up this post, there has been some controversy over this product, so I just wanted to provide some clarity. I have both been gifted this product and purchased it myself and here in the UK it's just marketed as a blemish treatment; there are no 'medicinal claims', so that is the angle from which I approached this product. I was looking at is as a kind of a multi-pronged attack; succinic acid is an interesting newer ingredient and there are also two 'tried and true' anti-blemish ingredients in here: salicylic acid and sulphur. As I mentioned in my original Instagram post discussing this product, when I first started using it: I really couldn't find a lot of information on succinic acid in terms of studies carried out and its potential benefits, so I was like: 'this has some other good ingredients in it too, it's £6.99, so let's give it a go' rather than thinking 'succinic acid is the new must-have anti-blemish ingredient'. I hope that provides some clarity as to where I'm coming from and why I still included this product in here (because it was a good spot treatment that worked for my skin).
Salicylic is a BHA chemical exfoliant and it's oil-soluble so can penetrate deep into the pores to clear out debris and blockages that cause spots. It's great at helping reduce scarring after a breakout and it also increases cell turnover, which means that if you have an 'under the skin' spot, it can help to bring it forwards, and if you have a developed whitehead, it can reduce that swelling and shrink the head. What it's effectively doing is speeding up the lifecycle of the spot. Then sulfur is going to absorb any excess oiliness in the area. It's a leave-on treatment with a green tinge that easily disappears as you spread the product over the affected area and you can re-apply it a couple of times a day, if needed. Personally, I find this so helpful at shrinking the 'anger' of the spot, so within 24 hours that sore, active phase has usually passed. I also really enjoy the fact that it contains glycerin and hyaluronic acid because: repeat after me 'spot treatments don't need to be drying to work'! Spot treatments that operate by drying out the area can also lead to hyperpigmentation. I know they work for some people, but as someone whose skin is prone to hyperpigmentation, I would much rather use something like this that maybe takes a tad longer to work, but isn't going to do any lasting harm to my skin.
I was also pleasantly surprised that the Starface Hydrostars | £12 (32 patches) | work really well for me! These patches are hydrocolloid, which is used as a wound dressing, so there's nothing 'active' in here as such to get rid of spots; think of this as primarily helping protect the skin. I pop it on once I've successfully reduced the spot itself to ensure it's left to heal properly. These patches will gently help with healing but I primarily like that they shield the broken skin from bacteria and picking that's just going to lead to scarring (I don't even pick on purpose, sometimes I just absentmindedly scratch my face and realise I've taken the scab off!) It keeps the area calm and I quite often use them overnight because they stay in place even when my face is rubbing against my pillow, unlike a traditional spot treatment, which sometimes rubs off pretty quickly. They aren't a miracle-worker, but they do help. Please don't rip giant hydrocolloid patches off your face as I've seen some people do on TikTok...
Lastly, let's talk about Zitsticka Hyperfade | £29 (12 patches). I honestly didn't realise when buying these that you only get 12 patches! It is kind of steep for the price, but let me talk you through what these are and how I use them. These patches (designed to tackle the pigmentation left behind after the spot has healed) use micro-dart technology, which is kind of like micro-needling, though obviously safe because the points are tiny, the patches are single-use and this application stops you applying too much pressure. Micro-needling is done to help with acne scarring, so it makes sense that we see it here to increase the penetration of the ingredients. These are formulated with all the ingredients I love for shifting stubborn pigmentation: ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), niacinamide, licorice extract, arbutin and tranexamic acid, alongside hydrators and moisturisers like hyaluronic acid, rosehip oil and macadamia oil. You leave this on for at least a couple of hours and they're pretty discrete; I often use them overnight or when I'm just working from home. And, honestly: they work! I was very sceptical, because to me: consistency using these sorts of ingredients is what works for my skin, but I think it's the micro-dart delivery system that really speeds things up and means I can see a noticeable improvement in pigmentation marks within hours.
Ok, so my tips for using these are: they're expensive, so I think if you have serious cystic acne all over your face; it's probably not feasible to be using these given you're spending £30 for 12! I would instead be looking into professional micro-needling and topicals you can use daily with these sorts of ingredients. I also noticed that these worked better on new scars vs. old scars, so I use them only on spots that have just healed over to ensure I'm not wasting them on areas where they won't be as effective. I also reserve them for large single spots, as I can treat mild uneven skin tone with my usual Vitamin C serums, retinoids etc. But, these have been a bit of a revelation! I won't lie; I was a little sceptical as everyone seemed to have been gifted these, and I was offered them but they were really funny about 'you must produce x-content in y-ridiculously-short-timeframe', so I just said 'no thanks' because it seemed like they weren't willing to just let me use the product and for the technology / formula to speak for itself. I'm not really sure why: it's a solid product!
And there you have it; how I treat each stage of the spot journey with three very different spot treatments I've really been relying on for the past several months. They have my seal of approval and work really well for specific, isolated, occasional spots. As always: if you are suffering from acne all over your face, I would recommend having a chat with your GP to get a dermatologist referral so you can find out what your options are.
Do you use spot treatments? Which ones have worked for you?