Skin Secrets
12 Products That Actually Work For Breakouts, According To Elite Daily Editors

12 Products That Actually Work On Breakouts, According To Elite Daily Editors

This stuff is the real deal.

Elite Daily/Shutterstock

Yes, everybody breaks out. But everyone’s skin is different, which means your bestie’s Holy Grail pimple product might do diddly squat for you. That’s one of the reasons treating pimples, pustules, and every blemish in between can be such a chore. While it can feel overwhelming to try to treat breakouts at home, I like to think a vast array of products to choose from is actually a good thing. The more options you have, the more likely you are to find a skin care product that actually works for your breakouts. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, here are 12 tried-and-true faves among the Elite Daily editors that might just be a fit for you, too.

Granted, finding the right acne-fighting products isn’t easy, especially with new skin care lines popping up daily (or, at least, it feels that way). To simplify the search and streamline the shopping process, my general rule when I can’t test a product myself is to read reviews from people with skin like mine. If that’s your go-to methodology, too, you’re in for a treat.

In celebration of shopping for skin care based on skin type — instead of whatever happens to be blowing up your #FYP — I asked my fellow Elite Daily editors to share their go-to skin care products for when they break out. Since not all breakouts are created equally, some intrepid editors shared more than one product because, let’s face it, you’re not going to slap a hormonal breakout serum onto a fungal acne flare-up, amirite?

Whether you prefer hydrocolloid patches, gentle cleansers, or spot treatments, you’re bound to find a product you’ll love among this bunch. Read on to match your skin type and concern with one of Elite Daily’s editors, and see which product they swear is about to become your new skin care ride-or-die.

We at Elite Daily only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

01

Pimple Patches For Combination Skin And Cystic Acne

Kaitlin Cubria is Elite Daily’s deputy experiences and style editor. She has combination skin with “dry patches, oily patches, cystic acne, and hormonal acne.”

Why Kaitlin recommends COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patches: “I love that these patches are cheap, easy to use, clean, and the most effective product I've ever used. Overnight, the redness of my pimples will visibly reduce and the bumps will be practically non-existent.”

How she uses them: “I usually apply the patches to my hormonal acne before bed so they can work their magic overnight. They're most applicable during breakouts. Simply choose a patch big enough to cover the spot(s) and use until the bump is gone.”

02

A Niacinamide Serum For Dry Skin And Stubborn Acne

Theresa Massony, BDG’s senior manager of editorial operations and Elite Daily’s former senior style editor, knows a thing or two about skin care. She also has incredibly dry skin that “materializes in the form of redness, flaky patches of skin, and pesky blemishes that don't always respond to typical acne treatments, which makes getting rid of them harder than you realize.”

Why Theresa recommends Paula's Choice CLINICAL Niacinamide 20% Treatment: “The main reason I love this treatment is right in the name: niacinamide. It's one of the few ingredients I've found to successfully heal my blemishes over time without making my driest areas worse, like, say, a retinol would,” she shares. She also loves the high concentration of her go-to skin care ingredient in this treatment as well as the extra vitamin C. But wait, there’s more! “Aside from diminishing active breakouts, niacinamide works against stubborn scarring, too. The $50 price tag is steep, but considering this product's benefits — along with the fact that a little goes a long way — the treatment is worth it for me.”

How she uses them: “Because my skin is so dry, I cleanse my face at night and only splash some water on my face in the mornings. I use this product immediately after that, daily, depositing a full dropper's worth onto my fingers and massaging it into my skin until it's fully absorbed. I make sure to follow it up with a gentle but rich moisturizer and an SPF 50. I tend to use this product only in the mornings, as I prioritize supremely hydrating products at night.”

03

A Sulfur Mask For Combination Skin

Hannah Kerns is a contributing dating editor at Elite Daily and has combination skin that is very sensitive and acne-prone. She adores this sulfur mask from Roccoco Botanicals, which was recommended to her by Nichola Weir, an aesthetician she trusts.

Why Hannah recommends Roccoco Botanicals’ Sulfur Mask: “Although this mask is a little pricey, I really think it's worth it,” she says. “The ingredients are really acne-safe, and I see it making a difference in the severity and frequency of my breakouts. It's also really easy to use and doesn't take intense scrubbing to wash away, which is a bonus since I don't want to irritate my sensitive skin any more than I have to.”

How she uses them: “I use this product two to three times per week. You only need a thin layer applied to your breakout-prone areas. It's gentle enough to use on active acne, too. I use it regularly on my nose and chin.”

04

An AHA Exfoliating Mask For Dry Skin

Brace yourselves because I, Amber Rambharose, Elite Daily’s beauty editor, am about to share a lot. Because my skin is so dry, the gunk that gets into pores and causes pimples gets locked deep in my skin. When my skin breaks out, mainly due to hormones, my blemishes are very painful and impossible to extract. My only option is to coax them to the surface of my face and hope they purge naturally. That’s where this little duo comes in.

Why I Recommend Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ AHA + BHA Mask Mini: The mask portion of this duo contains a powerful 25% AHA, so I always recommend people start with minis to see how their skin reacts. A single session with this mask usually brings my deep pimples right to the surface, which is visually gross but also weirdly magical. The face oil helps to soothe my skin — after a megadose of acid, it’s a critical step — and soften it up so the blemish can push out its gunk on its own.

How I use it: Drunk Elephant recommends you wear the mask for 20 minutes, but I suggest testing it for 10 and seeing how your skin feels. I use this mask whenever I notice the tell-tale redness, tenderness, and swelling that comes before a pimple, and I apply it in the evening. After the mask, I massage in the oil, go to bed, and wake up with smoother skin.

05

A Vitamin C Serum For Normal Skin With Cystic Acne

Tina Kolokathis, Elite Daily’s executive editor, has normal skin that’s not too dry or oily, but she's dealt with cystic acne for her entire adult life. “I've tried all the things — drugstore products, high-end products, prescribed medication from my dermatologist, acupuncture, diet changes,” she shares. “Nothing worked until I stripped sodium lauryl sulfate from all of my products (skin, hair, toothpaste, everything) and started using SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic.”

Why Tina recommends SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid: “This little bottle changed my life. It's expensive as heck, but you don't need a lot, and my breakouts were so painful I knew I needed to try anything I could. I saw a difference in my skin within a week. It felt smoother and brighter, my acne scars looked less pronounced, and new acne started clearing up quick. Plus, the vitamin C is anti-aging and helps protect the skin against free radicals.”

How she uses it: “Every morning, I pat four to five drops onto my face after my cleanser and before my moisturizer. I use this product before, after, and during breakouts.”

06

Salicylic Acid Dots For Sensitive Skin

Sarah Ellis is Bustle Digital Group’s updates editor. “My skin type is extremely sensitive and rosacea-prone, and I struggle a lot with redness,” she shares. “I also get hormonal acne around my mouth and chin.”

Why Sarah recommends Peace Out Salicylic Acid Acne Healing Dots: “These dots are super sticky and will stay put all night long when you wear them to sleep. I like how thick the patch is and how you can literally see the stuff it's extracting from your face. (Gross, I know, but it's how you can tell it's effective!)”

How she uses them: “I use one dot before bed when I notice a zit popping up. It helps combat them before they get too bad.”

07

A Sulfate-Free Moisturizer For Normal Skin With Cystic Acne

During her search for the right products for her cystic acne, Tina came across this drugstore cult-favorite brand. “One change that made a big difference for me in healing my acne was stripping any products that contained SLS (sodium laurel sulfate) from my routine. That's how I found CeraVe — it's sulfate-free and was recommended to me by my dermatologist,” she shares.

Why Tina recommends CeraVe’s PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion: “I absolutely love this lotion. It's so lightweight and isn't oily or greasy at all. It's still super hydrating, though — it's got ceramides and hyaluronic acid, which help keep skin moisturized. It's super affordable and easy to use. When you apply it, it soaks right into the skin.”

How she uses it: Tina uses this product in the morning and at night, though she points out there’s a morning moisturizer from CeraVe as well. “I pat two to three pumps worth of product onto my face as the last step of my routine twice per day. If you use this in the morning, make sure to add some SPF to your routine, since this product doesn't contain it,” she shares.

08

An Overnight Treatment For Combination Skin With Clogged Pores

Lara Walsh, Elite Daily’s associate experiences editor, has combination skin with “pores that tend to get clogged easily, so exfoliation is important.”

Why Lara recommends Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant: “When I use this liquid exfoliant, I can tell a huge difference in my pores and skin texture by the next day,” Walsh shares. “Plus, all my blemishes disappear overnight.”

How she uses it: “I use this at night, ideally three or four times a week,” she says, “before breakouts or during breakouts.”

09

A Gentle Cleanser For Sensitive Combination Skin

Abby Lebet is BDG’s associate manager of editorial operations, and they have sensitive combination skin. “I’m always looking for something gentle that won’t dry out my skin too much while still clearing out any oily spots,” they say.

Why Abby recommends Honest Beauty’s Gentle Cleanser: Lebet loves *literally* everything about this cleanser, from the price to its ingredients to how effective it is. “Most importantly, it helps take off my makeup,” they say, “and gently cleanses without drying out my skin. It's made with calendula and chamomile, which both have relaxing scents and calming properties, and it's easy to dispense from the pump bottle. I've been using it for over three years now.”

How they use it: Abby emulsifies one pump of the cleanser with a few drops of water. If Abby’s dealing with a breakout, washing their face with this cleanser clears it up within a few days.

10

A Moisturizer For Sensitive Combination Skin

Abby’s sensitive combination skin soaks up this moisturizer. “Although this is pricey for a moisturizer, I've been using it since 2018 and it is so worth the money for me,” they say. Abby also loves its gel-like texture and how light it feels on their skin “while still packing a huge hydration punch.”

Why Abby recommends belif’s The True Cream Aqua Bomb: “I find it super versatile for both cooler and hotter temperatures, and it works wonders for my sensitive skin. It’s my favorite part of my skin care routine.”

How they use it: “I'll use about a nickel-size amount of this moisturizer all over my face and neck after cleansing, and I find it perfect for delivering hydration without clogging my pores.”

11

A Serum For Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Because my skin is so dry, if I don’t regularly moisturize, I start having issues with skin texture. The dryness also exacerbates my post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. If I so much as poke a pimple, that pimple will scar. This is the only serum I’ve found that makes my skin look better and feel healthier during and after a breakout.

Why I recommend Sunnie Skincare’s Plump It Up: Hyaluronic Hydrating Serum: I got this serum from Dr. Alexis Parcells. She’s the reason I’m no longer afraid of dermatologists, and this serum is the reason I advocate speaking to a derm, even if you’re not dealing with major skin issues. When I told Parcells my skin was dry, she recommended this serum. It literally changed how my skin looked and felt during a hormonal acne breakout in a matter of days. It’s definitely a splurge, but you only need a few drops at a time.

How I use it: I apply the serum twice a day, after cleansing and before moisturizer. When I can tell a breakout is on the way, I’ll take an extra few drops and really massage it into any problem areas.

12

Pimple Patches For Combination Skin And Cluster Breakouts

Tianna Soto is a contributing dating editor at Elite Daily and has combination skin that’s “pretty dry most of the time with more oil during summertime.” Tianna tends to break out along her jawline and sometimes on her cheeks. “I have pretty clear skin overall, but when I do break out, it's in the form of one or two large red spots that are sensitive to touch,” she says.

Why Tianna recommends Hero Cosmetics’ Mighty Patches: “I love that this product is affordable and you get a ton of patches in each pack! You can buy them pretty much anywhere and they're easy to fit in my cosmetic bag, purse, or wallet. I travel often, which means I'm on lots of trains, planes, in dry hotel rooms, and dealing with unpredictable weather conditions. These patches hold me down through it all. Not only are they convenient, but they’re so effective for me as a spot treatment. I'll wear a patch during the day or night, depending on my schedule, and after a few hours, there's reduced swelling, redness, and sensitivity. Usually, the spot is gone within a day. Can't ask for more than that!”

How she uses it: “I use these patches when I have an acne flare-up or one spot on my face that needs attention. If I can catch the spot forming in its beginning stages, that's always good, but I'd say the best time for me to use the Hero patch is when the bump is at its ‘peak.’”