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Which Acne Gel Is Most Effective? Find Out Here!

Acne gels can be great for spot treatment of unsightly pimples. Acne gels can begin to fade the brown spots left behind when acne heals just about as soon as you notice them. All acne gels are not equally effective, however, and finding an acne gel that works takes careful reading of the product label—but we have done the work for you.

Acne treatment gel
Acne gels that work best usually contain the ingredient benzoyl peroxide.


  • Acne gels are usually used for spot treatment of pimples, blemishes, or brown spots after acne fades.
  • Most acne gels contain irritant ingredients that can make pimples more noticeable, even if the product fights acne bacteria.
  • The few acne gels for fighting pimples that work contain benzoyl peroxide.
  • It is important not to put the benzoyl peroxide on healthy skin or to get it on clothes.
  • The acne gel for fighting brown spots on Asian skin contains the ingredient arbutin. Hydroquinone gels can trigger formation of black and blue spots were brown spots were before.
  • It is easier to buy an acne treatment system than it is to try many different acne gels while trying to find the right one.

What Makes an Acne Gel Effective

Acne gels have a distinct advantage of over anti-acne face washes. You rinse the active ingredients in a face wash down the drain just a few seconds after you put them on your face, but the active ingredients in an acne gel can stay on your face for hours.

Of course, you have to have the right active ingredients to do your face any good! Let’s take a look at the bestselling acne gels and how they work.

Aubrey Organics Rosa Mosqueta Rose Hip Seed Oil (US $12.98 for 0.36 oz/10 ml)

With Aubrey Organics Rosa Mosqueta Rose Hip Seed Oil, you get exactly what the label says, 10 ml of pure, organic oil from rose hip seeds. The reason to use rose hip oil is to provide vitamin C for your face.

The problem with rose hip oil is that the vitamin C in it degrades after about six months on the shelf, and most of the time, any product you get in the store will be more than six months old before it reaches the consumer. However, this product is still good as a gel-like spot treatment for moisturizing dry skin around blackheads, if you don’t mind paying 30 to 100 times what you would pay for organic olive oil, which would work just as well.

Avon Clearskin Immediate Response Spot Treatment (US $4.99 for 0.5 oz/14 g)

Here is an “emergency” response treatment gel for the emergency of brown spots after acne heals. It contains the right amount of alpha-hydroxy acids at the right pH (in this product, 3.8) to begin to lighten brown spots right away.

The only drawback to the product is that it contains nearly 40% alcohol. That’s enough to kill acne bacteria, but it’s also enough to dry out the skin if you do not use moisturizer after you rinse off the spot treatment.

BeautiControl Skin Logics Clear Spot Treatment Duo (US $16.00 for 0.5 oz/14 g)

Here is a two-part product that promises both to kill acne bacteria and to get rid of unsightly blemishes. The first part of the product is a topical disinfectant gel with benzoyl peroxide. It’s OK for your skin, although you should test a dot of the product on the skin of your inside forearm the first time you use it, waiting 8 to 12 hours to make sure you do not have inflammatory reaction to the gel.

The second part of the product is an alpha-hydroxy acid  (AHA) gel that contains the right ingredient in the right concentration to loosen up dead skin constricting pores containing whiteheads or blackheads. The problem with the second part of the treatment is that it is at a pH (2.8) that will work “too well,” leaving irritation where it has removed whiteheads and blackheads. If you use this product, at least apply a slurry of baking soda and water to skin where you have use the AHA exfoliant, to neutralize any excess acid.

Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Targeted Spot Treatment (US $10.00 for 0.26 oz/8 g)

Here is a product that you could use to treat a spot of unblemished skin to make acne break out. It contains about 46% alcohol, which is enough both to kill acne bacteria and increase sebum production, so you would get a whitehead or blackhead even without the bacteria. The product also contains lemon oil, eucalyptus oil, and other botanicals that can trigger an outbreak of rosacea in sensitive individuals.

Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Control Kit (US $20.19)

This acne control kit contains three products to control acne on your skin. The Advantage Acne Control Cleanser contains 10% benzoyl peroxide, which is enough to cause burning, peeling, and redness if you leave it on your skin. Fortunately, you won’t, because the instructions tell you to rinse it off almost as soon as you put it on your skin. That is a good thing, because the cleanser also contains sodium C14-16  olefin sulfate and menthol, both of which can dry out the skin.

The acne spot treatment gel in the kit, Advantage Fast Clearing Spot Treatment, contains the beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) salicylic acid, which helps open pores on oily skin. The spot treatment also contains about 46% alcohol, which dries out the skin and causes increased sebum production, creating new blemishes, along with cinnamon and cedar bark extracts, which can cause skin to break out.

Dermalogica Clean Start Hit the Spot (US $22.00 for 0.3 oz/9 g)

Here is a product that leaves out all the nice-smelling ingredients such as camphor, cedar, and eucalyptus that can cause your skin to break out. It’s a little pricey, but it contains alpha-hydroxy acids that loosen tight skin around pores and help them drain. There is no active ingredient in this formula with proven ability to fight acne bacteria.

DHC Skin Care Acne Spot Therapy (US $12.00 for 0.3 oz/9 g)

This product contains 3% sulfur, which is enough to kill bacteria in a pimple, but also enough to keep the pimple red.

DHC Alpha-Arbutin White Powder (US $20.50 for 0.17 oz/5 g)

If you have Asian skin and you want to lighten the brown spots left when acne heals, here is a product with a safe ingredient. Free of hydroquinone, DHC Alpha-Arbutin White Powder will lighten spots on Asian skin, without triggering the black and blue skin discoloration hydroquinone can cause.

Good Skin All Right Spot Treatment (US $8.50 for 0.50 oz/14 g)

Here is an acne gel with the right hydroxy acid for oily skin in the right concentration and at the right pH to help break up whiteheads and blackheads right away. Unfortunately, it also contains menthol—but if you have especially inflammation-resistant skin, it might be worth a try. Test a dot of the product on your forearm, leaving it there for 8 to 12 hours, to make sure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients.

Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Spot Treatment (US $15.50 for 0.5 oz/14 g)

Herbs are natural and natural is always good, right? Unfortunately, this product contains so many botanicals, including camphor, cinnamon, ginger, mint, and witch hazel, that the herbs themselves can make sensitive skin break out.

Kiehl’s Brightening Botanical Spot Treatment (US $50 for 1 oz/28 g)

Here is a botanical product that won’t irritate the skin. It contains ellagic acid, which is found in pomegranates and strawberries. The only way it will remove brown spots caused by acne, however, if by the action of your rubbing it in. Ellagic acid has little or no effect on pigmented skin.

MD Skin Care by Dr. Dennis Gross Correct and Protect Spot Treatment (US $28.00 for 0.5 oz/14 g)

This Correct and Protect Spot Treatment acne treatment gel will just aggravate and irritate pimples and blemishes. The sulfur in the product will kill acne bacteria, but keep pimples red.

Medibac Clearing Concealing Spot Treatment (US $31.00 for 0.5 oz/14 g)

Here is a relatively expensive product that not only won’t conceal pimples, it can make them worse. Medibac Clearing Concealing Spot Treatment is 5% sulfur. The sulfur is antibacterial, but it is also irritating, so even if the sulfur kills bacteria, it keeps pimples red. The product also contains camphor, cinnamon bark, and witch hazel, all of which can irritate and redden sensitive skin.

MyChelle Clear Skin Spot Treatment (US $14.95 for 0.5 oz/14 g)

This spot treatment for acne will induce irritation on the spot because of its excessive use of herbal ingredients and sulfur. While it may kill acne bacteria, it will make pimples redder.

Neoceuticals Acne Spot Treatment Gel (US $15.50 for 0.5 oz/14 g)

Here is a product that will kill acne bacteria, but because of its excessive alcohol content, will also increase sebum production. Using it may just replace pimples with whiteheads and blackheads.

Olay Definity Anti-Spot Treatment (US $29.99 for 0.5 oz/14 g)

Here is a product with a different ingredient for fighting brown spots left when acne heals, undecylenoyl phenylalanine. It won’t harm your skin, but it may not help your skin, either.

Oxy Spot Treatment Acne Fighting Gel Formula (Canadian $6.99 for 0.5 oz/14 g)

Available only in Canada, this formula contains “dragon’s blood” from an herb in the Croton family. It’s great for burns, but awful for pimples, since it will seal bacteria inside a pore where they can form a cyst.

Patricia Wexler’s Acne Spot Treatment with Acnostat (US $15.00 for 0.5 oz/14 g)

Here’s a 10% benzoyl peroxide that will kill acne bacteria fast, in a formula that won’t irritate your skin—if you use the treatment just on the spot that pops out in a pimple.

You will notice that very few acne gels really work. But for far less than you would spend trying to find a gel that works, you can buy a complete acne treatment system with a money-back guarantee, such as Exposed Skin Care.

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