How to Treat Spots and Blemishes

I’ve never been one to struggle with spots. During my teens I was fortunate enough not to suffer from acne; my skin teetered on the fence, sometimes swaying towards normal, sometimes dry, but always sensitive. Which is why, as a 22 year old, it confused the shit out of my when my chin suddenly erupted in whiteheads, blackheads and who-knows-what-else. I feel that teens today have a much better advantage over people my age and over when we were teens, as we didn’t have quite as much information available to us at the touch of a button – I’m talking of course about the internet. Ten years ago or so, if I’d been plagued with the same issues, my first instinct would be to hit the GP surgery to see a doctor, and perhaps get referred to a dermatologist if the issues were particularly complicated  – but in today’s technologically advanced world, my first port of call was my good friend Mr. Internet. Or rather, the depths of Reddit: the Skincare Addiction sub-page. Normally I wouldn’t recommend self-diagnosiis by using the internet, but when it comes to skincare, it could be a while to get a GP appointment, so I think it’s an exception.

So anyway, I asked a few questions, read a few older posts, and got a few ideas on how to treat the issue. Here’s what I’ve learned are the most effective ways to treat problem skin:

First things first…

Identify the cause. Is your acne caused by hormones? Are you using a harsh cleanser, stripping your skin and causing your skin to overcompensate by producing too much oil? Is it something you are eating? In my case, it was a moisturiser I’d recently switched to with highly comodogenic ingredients. You can check the ingredients of your products using CosDNA, which is infiniitely useful in pin-pointing if something you are using is causing breakouts or irritation.

While you’re figuring out what’s causing your skin concerns, here are some treatments:

Chemical Exfoliants

These are much gentler than physical exfoliation, which can cause micro-tears and long-lasting damage to the skin. They come in two forms: AHA’s (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHA’s (beta hydroxy acids). Alpha hydroxy acids work by dissolving the bonds between cells in the upper surface of the skin, allowing it to regenerate quicker and easier, promoting new cell growth and revealing a healthier looking complexion. BHA’s work differently in that they unclog pores and provide a mild inflammatory effect, making it great in the treatment of acne. Common AHA’s include glycolic acids, and common BHA’s include salicylic acid. You’ll find that these work great as part of an every day routine in order to prevent breakouts – just make sure you patch test first, and introduce them slowly, starting with a low strength, and don’t use AHA before sun-exposure as it makes skin more susceptible to damage. (Well, okay you can, but follow it with a high-SPF, you rebel without a cause!)

My experience: I’ve been using these together about 4 times a week with great results. My skin looks more glorious and radiant. Great for preventing spots and treating mild breakouts.

Recommended products:


Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Exfoliation Pads. I use these and love them; they’re quite a low strength at 2.5%, which I find effective yet gentle enough for nearly every day use.

St. Ives Exfoliating Pads. These have a stronger percentage of glycolic acid, although I’m not quite sure what it is exactly – I think it’s about 8%.

Pixi Glow Tonic. This is a raved about cult-product in the blogging community, and with good reason – it’s got a sold 5% glycolic acid in it.


Stridex Daily Care Acne Pads. These contain salicylic acid, and are favoured among the SCA community.

Neutrogena Visibly Clear Rapid Clear Treatment. I found this very effective at clearing up a large spot overnight.

Benzoyl Peroxide

This is a really popular acne treatment which used to be commonly prescribed by GP’s here in the UK, also being available over the counter, however it’s recently disappeared from pharmacies due to EU laws. You can still get it online though. It’s an antibacterial product, so it works by killing the bacteria on the surface of the skin that cause acne. It’s sold in a number of strengths starting at around 2.5% going up to 10%, but it’s recommended that you don’t go higher than 2.5% as this works just as effectively as the higher concentration, but with less adverse reactions (redness, irritation, burning etc). As it contains peroxide, it’s best not to use this near dark clothes, as it will bleach things!

My experience: I ordered some of this online because I couldn’t find it in any UK pharmacies. I ordered the 2.5% one, and applied it all over my chin. When I woke up the next day, all my spots had decreased in size and some of my whiteheads and sebaceous filaments had cleared up. After about 3 days, it was basically all gone.

Product Recommended: Benzac 2.5% gel seems to be the most popular. I bought mine on eBay.


I have no used these, but I understand that they work by unplugging the cells that line hair follicles, which causes blackheads and whiteheads. Tazarotene and Adapalene are both retinoids, which are only available by prescription. Their side effects include skin irritation, redness and sun-sensitivity.

If you’re struggling with skin issues, I’d highly recommend a visit to r/SkincareAddiction, as there’s a wealth of knowledge on so many skin-related concerns. But please, if it’s really getting to you, make an appointment to see your GP and get referred to a dermatologist.

Big thanks to r/Skincareaddiction, Skincare Addiction and Hoojoo Skincare for making the information used to write this post so readily available – and for helping me fix my skin!

What are your favourite spot remedies?


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