Here’s the hard truth — there’s no way to completely zap a zit within a matter of hours — but there is a way to significantly diminish its size and appearance (and its likelihood of scarring) quickly, which is where overnight acne treatments come in. The best overnight acne treatments contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur, and retinol, and can come in the form of a mask, spot treatment, pimple patch, or serum.
The best way to use an acne treatment is during your nighttime routine when your body’s natural circadian rhythm works to help skin restore itself. Before applying your treatment of choice, first ensure that your skin is completely clean and dry. Apply your acne treatments that come in the form of serums and gels directly onto your skin, followed by a gentle moisturizer. In the case of pimple patches and spot treatments, a trick is to complete your entire skin care routine and then remove any excess product from your active acne zones with a damp cotton swab before applying the patch or spot treatment onto your skin.
Remember, some of these ingredients — like retinol — can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage. Make sure to wear SPF during the day to protect your skin from further inflammation, which is, of course, something you should be doing anyway. You can find a list of the best sunscreens for acne-prone skin, here.
Shop The Best Overnight Acne Treatments
Want to eradicate your acne in a flash? Shop the best overnight acne treatments:
- The Overall Best Overnight Acne Treatment: JORI Daily Leave-On Acne Treatment Mask
- The Best French Pharmacy Acne Treatment: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment
- The Best Sulfur Acne Treatment: Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment
- The Best Pimple Patches: Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch
- The Best Acne Serum: Peace Out Skincare Acne Serum
- The Best Adapalene Treatment: Differin Gel 0.1% Adapalene Acne Treatment
1. The Overall Best Overnight Acne Treatment
- Formulated by a top dermatologist.
- Specifically made for people with hormonal acne — though anyone with any type of acne can benefit from this product.
- Can be worn on the entire face as a sleeping mask or during the day under makeup.
- Benzoyl peroxide can bleach fabrics.
- This mask is not recommended during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
JORI’s founder, Cori Zeichner, admits that she formulated this product to help with her own adult hormonal acne alongside her husband, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, who just so happens to be one of the top dermatologists in the industry. The JORI Daily Leave-On Acne Treatment Mask contains saw palmetto, which helps to balance DHT’s relationship with androgenetic receptors. (DHT, aka dihydrotestosterone, is the hormone that can exacerbate hormonal acne.) Furthermore, this leave-on mask contains alpha-linoleic acid to brighten the complexion and a micronized 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, which is clinically proven to treat acne. Unlike other chalk-like benzoyl peroxide treatments on the market, JORI’s mask is one of my go-tos due to its gel-like texture that melts into my skin. To be frank, it’s one of the only masks that successfully helped clear up my hormonal acne after the age of 25.
Key Ingredients: saw palmetto, alpha-linoleic acid, linoleic acid, micronized 2.5% benzoyl peroxide Cruelty-Free: yes Size: 1.5 oz
2. The Best French Pharmacy Acne Treatment
- Can be used to spot-treat acne patches or individual blemishes.
- Can be used either day or night.
- Can be drying.
- Not cruelty-free.
If you’re looking for something to help treat cystic acne, whiteheads, and blackheads in a flash, reach for La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment. This spot treatment contains 5.5% micronized benzoyl peroxide, which helps to slough off dead skin cells and diminish the production of excess oil. In this formula is also lipo-hydroxy acid, a salicylic acid derivative that causes “cell-by-cell exfoliation,” as one study put it, helping to dig deep into the pores to prevent blackheads and whiteheads from forming. This is a spot treatment, though, so make sure only to use it on acne zones to avoid drying out the rest of your skin.
Key Ingredients: 5.5% micronized benzoyl peroxide, lipo-hydroxy acid Cruelty-Free: yes Size: 0.7 oz.
3. The Best Sulfur Acne Treatment
- Effective at drying up blemishes overnight.
- Does not treat the entire face — only active acne zones.
- While you can wear it during the day, it does have a light pink color, so you’ll probably prefer to use it at night only.
Although all acne treatments work to diminish breakouts, many of them can also be harsh on dry, sensitive skin. One study claims that sulfur is a great acne treatment for people with sensitive skin, as it has antibacterial properties and can dry out acne spots in a flash while still being gentle on rosacea- and eczema-prone skin. 10% sulfur (the highest concentration of sulfur allowed in clinical acne treatments, by the way) is the key ingredient in the Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment, and it also contains salicylic acid to exfoliate and diminish clogged pores.
Key Ingredients: 10% sulfur, salicylic acid Cruelty-Free: yes Size: 1 oz.
4. The Best Hydrocolloid Pimple Patches
- Can help stop pimple-picking since it creates a physical barrier between active acne and your fingers.
- The patches appear almost invisible on skin, so you can wear them discreetly during the day.
- Does not cover large breakout zones.
The Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch is a one-and-done patch that helps heal pimples while they’re still active. Hydrocolloid patches first hit the scene as wound care, given that its adhesive hydrocolloid layer absorbs things like oil, pus, and grime from wounds, while the outer layer helps to retain moisture in the skin to assist with healing. These days, people use hydrocolloid patches at home to help diminish pimples in all their stages, whether they’re just developing or have come to a head. In this box, you’ll get 36 patches — pop one on, and within eight hours your blemish should appear much smaller and less red.
Key Ingredients: hydrocolloid Cruelty-Free: yes Comes with: 36 patches
5. The Best Acne Serum
- It’s an all-over serum, so it’s ideal for treating and preventing acne flareups of all sizes.
- Can be used either day or night.
- Like most face serums, it’s on the pricey side.
Looking for an acne treatment that slots right into your current skin care routine? Consider swapping out your serum for Peace Out Skincare’s Acne Serum, which contains several ingredients formulated to keep breakouts at bay. In here, 2% salicylic acid targets acne and blackheads, while niacinamide and vitamin C promote a bright, even complexion and provide antioxidant protection. Finally, centella asiatica extract works to calm redness and keep skin hydrated.
Key Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C, centella asiatica extract Cruelty-Free: yes Size: 1 oz.
6. The Best Adapalene Treatment
- It’s an all-over gel, so it’s ideal for treating and preventing acne flareups of all sizes.
- Contains adapalene, which is a retinoid studied for its effects on acne.
- Favored by dermatologists.
- Once required a prescription — now you can get it without one.
- Not cruelty-free.
- Can only be used at night.
- May not be suitable for people with dry, sensitive skin.
Using a retinoid is one of the best ways to treat and prevent acne in one fell swoop. Differin Gel contains 0.1% adapalene, a derivative of vitamin A that specifically targets acne (adapalene is so powerful that it once required a prescription; however, you can now get it over the counter via Differin Gel). In the immediate sense, adapalene treats breakouts by soothing redness and inflammation, and in a longer-term sense, it helps prevent acne by encouraging skin cell turnover to keep your pores clean (and therefore less likely to become clogged). Best of all, this ultra-effective acne treatment is relatively affordable at less than $15 for a 30-day supply.
Important note: You’ll want to use this at night only, and be extra diligent about slathering on the SPF in the morning, since retinoids are among the ingredients that can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Key Ingredients: 0.1% adapalene Cruelty-Free: no Size: 0.53 oz
Serenoa Repens: Does It have Any Role in the Management of Androgenetic Alopecia?, Sundaram Murugusundram, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2840915/
Serum levels of androgens in acne & their role in acne severity, Usma Iftikhar and Nakhshab Choudhry, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6408631/
Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid lightens ultraviolet-induced hyperpigmentation of the skin, H Ando, A Ryu, A Hashimoto, M Oka, M Ichihashi, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9749992/
The Use of Lipohydroxy Acid in Skin Care and Acne Treatment, Joshua A Zeichner, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5300717/
An update on the management of acne vulgaris, Jonette Keri and Michael Shiman, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3047935/
Wound care: fact and fiction about hydrocolloid dressings, H R Barnes, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8509607/