Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Sure-fire Ways to Kill Your Acne – Fast!

By Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, Double board-certified dermatologist

Are you looking to kill acne fast? Some of the products you probably have will kill acne. Some acne products are fast. Others are slow. But some acne products actually make acne worse. This article will tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly of anti-acne products you can buy for under $20.

Benzoyl Peroxide Gel
Benzoyl peroxide helps kill acne fast, but be sure to use the lowest concentration available.


  • Some products kill acne fast. Some just kill your skin.
  • Isopropyl alcohol (not the kind you drink) kills acne bacteria, but only if the concentration is at least 45%.
  • If you use a product with less than 45% alcohol, it won’t kill bacteria, but it will irritate your skin. This makes your skin make even more oil.
  • If you use a product that contains more than 45% alcohol, it will kill acne bacteria, but it will also make your skin oilier.
  • Most people don’t benefit from alcohol wipes, lotions, and facial masks. The wipes are great for disinfecting your cell phone, however.
  • Benzoyl peroxide kills acne fast, usually in two days or less. You need to use the lowest concentration you can so you don’t also kill skin cells.
  • Dragon’s blood has awesome healing powers, just not for acne.
  • Tea tree oil is a great way to kill acne bacteria and get redness out of pimples, but younger guys might find it causes a problem that is more embarrassing than acne.


Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is a kind of alcohol you can put on your face but you can’t drink. You can buy pure isopropyl alcohol in bottles for a few dollars at the store. Most acne pads and face washes contain 20% to 50% alcohol with other ingredients that are supposed to help your skin.

It takes about 45% alcohol to kill acne bacteria on contact. Anything less than 45% alcohol just irritates your skin. Your skin repairs itself by making more oil. This means that if you use a 20% alcohol solution on your face, not only will you not kill any bacteria, you will make your skin even oilier.

But a 45% solution makes your skin oilier, too. Alcohol won’t be a disaster for your face if you have dry skin, but there are better products for your skin. You don’t need to throw out your alcohol-soaked acne pads, however. They are great for killing the acne bacteria on your cell phone—something you should do once or twice a week.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Countless face washes, lotions, foams, and gels fight acne with benzoyl peroxide. This synthetic chemical breaks down into hydrogen peroxide, which dissolves the cell membranes of acne bacteria, and benzoin, which makes acne bacteria more sensitive to the blue rays of visible light that can kill them.

The problem with benzoyl peroxide is that not only can it kill bacteria, it can also kill your skin, at least  until it peels down to a healthy layer. That’s not a bad thing. Dead skin makes your skin tight, and tight skin keeps pores clogged. Along with other peeling agents, such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide both kills the bacteria that cause pimples and loosens the hardened oils that cause whiteheads and blackheads.

You just need to be careful with how you use this product. Always start with the mildest concentration of benzoyl peroxide you can find, preferably 2.5% or less. Use a gel to treat pimples before you use a lotion to treat your whole face. Test a dot of the gel on your forearm to make sure it doesn’t make your arm break out. It makes your arm break out, it will certainly make your face break out. But if you can leave the product on your arm for 8 to 12 hours with no irritation, it’s probably safe to leave for 3 or 4 hours on your face.

There are two times benzoyl peroxide is a must for killing acne. One is for back acne, also known as bacne. The skin on your back is tougher than the skin on your face, so you need something stronger to break up hardened oil.

The other time it is a good idea to use benzoyl peroxide is when you are taking antibiotics, whether you are using an antibiotic lotion or you are taking an antibiotic pill. Sometimes a few acne bacteria develop resistance to an antibiotic. Antibiotic treatment wipes out all the other bacteria that would compete for them with food, and the next thing you know you have an untreatable infection on your face.

Bacteria don’t develop resistance to benzoyl peroxide. Your antibiotic will miss some bacteria that benzoyl peroxide will get. Using both treatments at the same time can save you the experience of a really nasty infection. Just be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want to irritate your skin, just to disinfect it.

Clay, Also Known as Mud

Medicinal clay is great for getting oil off your face. Medicinal clays are also known as “mud,” but don’t go digging up dirt in the yard or the park to make a mud pack. You don’t know what’s in that mud. Instead, use sterile mud packs you can buy at the store.

When it comes to clay for your face, cheaper is almost always better (as long as it is a packaged product). You don’t want products that have lots of alcohol or emollients or botanical essences, because they can irritate your skin, and when you irritate your skin, it makes more oil. (Some companies intentionally add these ingredients so you keep buying their product.)

All you want in a mud pack is mud. It is especially important to avoid any products that heat your face—because heat makes your skin break out.

Dragon’s Blood

Dragon’s blood does not come from dragons. It is the red sap of a South American tree known as sangre de drago, and also as a croton.

Dragon’s blood has awesome healing powers. You can put a dab of it on a cut, and it seals it like a botanical bandage. You can smear it on a scrape, and it stays put until your skin heals beneath it.

That’s not what you want to happen if you have acne. If you have acne, you want to open pores, not close them off. Dragon’s blood sounds like a cool acne fighting ingredient, but don’t use it. It actually makes acne worse.


MOM, not your mom, but Milk of Magnesia, is a cheap way to cover up a zit. It conceals redness, and it also relieves inflammation. If you have brown or black skin, however, a dot of milk of magnesia over a pimple may be even more noticeable than a pimple—but it will still relieve inflammation.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is, you guessed it, oil distilled from the leaves and branches of the tea tree, a mangrove plant that grows in Australia and New Zealand. Bees feeding on the flowers of this plant make Manuka honey, which has some of the same healing properties.

Tea tree oil is a great addition to your acne treatment program. It kills acne bacteria. It kills staph bacteria, the kind that cause “pimples” filled with pus forming a yellow ring in the middle of the bump. It gets the redness out of a pimple in just a couple of days. But it won’t work unless you have at least 10% tea tree oil in the product. Products that smell nice because they have a little tea tree oil added won’t necessary do anything for your skin.

Pure tea tree oil applied to pimples with a clean cotton swab is the best way to use this natural product. But don’t use it if you have not passed puberty. There have been no reports of problems with girls, but some boys who have used tea tree oil soaps before puberty have developed gynecomastia, also known as enlarged breasts. Most guys consider this to be a bigger problem than acne, so it’s probably not a product you want to use before you are enrolled in middle school, unless you flunked several grades.

Finding products that kill acne can be a matter of trial and error, unless you buy an acne treatment system. One of the best on the market comes with a money-back guarantee, Exposed Skin Care.

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Gabrielle Reply

Thank you! Great info!

October 22, 2018 at 4:44 am Reply