If You’re Dealing with Acne in Your 20s, These Spot Treatments Help

Best Acne Spot Treatments For Your 20s

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The fact that acne is common in your 20s doesn’t make it any less annoying to deal with. What’s worse is that it’s really difficult to pinpoint the exact causes. You can get acne if your skincare is lousy. You can get it if your skincare is too perfect. So how are you supposed to get rid of acne and all those bothersome blackheads and whiteheads? Enter acne spot treatments. You can use acne spot treatments in your 20s to tackle acne fast!

You’re frustrated with acne in your teenage years. Then you find out about makeup and choose to cover it up as opposed to treating it. You turn 20 and it’s still there. Sometimes painful cystic acne and sometimes pesky blackheads and whiteheads…

There are a ton of options and you start to explore. Accutane, other prescription treatments, drugstore-made weird-smelling special creams you’re supposed to use day and night… Meanwhile, you’re desperately staring at that whole stash of fancy skincare you can’t wait to jump into once the acne is over.

Well, you’re not alone. You might be surprised but acne is very common in women over the age of 20 (1). It’s sometimes called adult acne, or hormonal acne, and it can be triggered by several factors.

Some of them are stress, hormones, and the use of cosmetics (2). Either way, acne spot treatments offer a quick way to manage acne in your 20s.

Why Use Acne Spot Treatments in Your 20s

Spot treatments are highly concentrated and made with active ingredients with a proven track record such as benzoyl peroxide (3). That’s why they are effective in reducing pimple size, severity, and redness overnight.

1. They’re practical.

The benefit of using spot treatments for acne in your 20s is mostly about practicality. Spot treatments are highly convenient acne treatments for someone who, understandably, doesn’t want to walk around with a smelly face in broad daylight. Most of the other options require you to take some time off your life!

2. They’re super targeted.

Another advantage of spot treatments is their laser-focused action. In general, acne treatments can be drying and irritating for the skin. Why would you want to expose your whole face to the ingredients for the sake of a few pimples here and there? Spot treatments go on the acne and acne alone. This is especially helpful for 20-somethings with dry skin.

3. No commitment necessary.

Prescription acne treatments require dedication and close supervision. By using spot treatments, you’re making sure you tire up other options before committing to something like that.

4. They don’t interfere.

They are invisible and disappear into the skin. So you can wear your makeup comfortably if you’re using spot treatment during the day. You can isolate your acne treatment and just deal with it as part of your nighttime routine as well.

How to Choose an Acne Spot Treatment For Your 20s

The most common key ingredients you can find in spot treatments are benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur. Oily and acne-prone skin is, by default, more tolerant than other skin types. In that case, benzoyl peroxide can work wonders as it’s the most aggressive in the bunch.

For normal and combination skin, salicylic acid and sulfur should help with acne without causing irritation. And if you have dry or sensitive skin, maybe start with salicylic acid first. Sulfur, in lower concentrations, will also be safe to use.

But know that you should go easy on your skin to avoid irritating it. So make sure your spot treatment also contains anti-inflammatory ingredients to calm the skin and reduce redness as well.

Best Acne Spot Treatments For Your 20s

Below are the best spot treatments to deal with acne in your 20s.

1. Paula’s Choice Clear Daily Skin Clearing Treatment

Paula's Choice Clear Daily Skin Clearing Treatment -Best Acne Spot Treatment For 20s

Why you’re going to love it? Because it’s effective but still gentle on the skin. It can be used on the body as well. And more importantly, it won’t interfere with your makeup with flaky and peeling skin. The 2.5% benzoyl peroxide is an ideal concentration if you’re a beginner. The lightweight lotion form is oil-free, non-drying, and disappears into the skin.

And it contains the super skin-soother allantoin to minimize irritation and redness. With its gentle formulation and convenience, this is the best spot treatment for acne in your 20s. If your skin has been around the block and seen things, a higher concentration of 5% is also available.

Active Ingredients: 2.5% benzoyl peroxide
Size: 2.25 oz/67 ml
Good To Know: Oil-free, fragrance-free, cruelty-free

2. Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment

Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment - Best Acne Spot Treatments For 20s

If your problem is more along the lines of blackheads, whiteheads, mild acne, and congestion, then this salicylic acid spot treatment is the one to slather on. No need to get too aggressive with it by using benzoyl peroxide if you don’t have severe acne. 2% salicylic acid effectively unclogs pores and eliminates open and closed comedones.

In doing so, the treatment also prevents future breakouts. Additionally, it contains witch hazel as a potent astringent. It tightens pores and reduces their appearance. Apply the cooling gel on the problem areas to clear your complexion.

Active Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid
Size: 0.5 oz/15 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free

3. Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion - Best Drugstore Acne Spot Treatment For 20s

Zinc oxide, by the way, is incredibly helpful in dealing with acne for its anti-inflammatory and oil-controlling properties. And this one utilizes sulfur, zinc oxide, and salicylic acid. The spot treatment has been a hit since day 1.

It’s a must-have if you regularly deal with pimples but don’t have the time or patience for a whole skincare routine modification. It works super fast and simply dries out acne and inflammation, and reduces the look of redness.

Active Ingredients: Sulfur, salicylic acid
Size: 1 oz/29 ml
Good To Know: Oil-free, vegan, cruelty-free

4. Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment

Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment

And speaking of the zinc and sulfur combo, this one has the same formula, but with a higher sulfur concentration of 10%. A couple of things about sulfur. Sulfur clears up acne by drying the surface of the skin and causing a peeling action. This dries out the acne in the process and peels off the dead skin, preventing it from clogging your pores.

It also absorbs excess oil and is super effective in killing acne-causing bacteria. Sulfur is gentler than benzoyl peroxide, yes. But 10% is the highest concentration allowed in over-the-counter acne treatments. So, while this can be the option to tackle acne if you’re not a fan of benzoyl peroxide, it can still be too much for dry and sensitive skin.

Active Ingredients: 10% sulfur, salicylic acid
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free

5. Proactiv Emergency Blemish Relief

Proactiv Emergency Blemish Relief

This high-concentration benzoyl peroxide treatment is suitable for moderate and stubborn acne in your mid, and late 20s. Chances are your skin has built up some kind of tolerance over the years with AHAs, BHAs, or retinol. This spot treatment can kick things up a notch with 5% benzoyl peroxide to target blemishes head-on.

The spot treatment will fade red and inflamed acne overnight by effectively killing bacteria. To reduce irritation, the formula also contains allantoin. This one is also helpful when you need to get rid of acne fast. Even if you won’t regularly use it, it is super helpful with last-minute breakouts before a big event.

Active Ingredients: 5% benzoyl peroxide
Size: 0.33 oz
Good To Know: Contains fragrance

6. PCA Skin Acne Cream

PCA Skin Acne Cream - Best Acne Spot Treatment For 20s

This spot treatment has an impressive formulation with 5% benzoyl peroxide as well as chemical exfoliants. It has gluconolactone, a polyhydroxy acid. Its whole deal is that it’s a super gentle exfoliant. But more importantly, it has antioxidant properties to guard the skin against free radical damage. To put things into perspective, your skin is more prone to sun damage when you’re spot-treating it and not being careful with sun exposure.

In that sense, it’s incredibly helpful to have an ingredient to cover that up. Additionally, the small concentration of lactic acid works as a humectant to make sure your skin doesn’t become dry, tight, and flaky from the treatment. Additional benefits include anti-inflammatory tea tree leaf oil and soothing aloe and allantoin. Remember to use this one exclusively as a spot treatment!

Active Ingredients: 5% benzoyl peroxide
Size: 0.5 oz/15 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free

7. First Aid Beauty FAB Pharma BHA Acne Spot Treatment Gel 2% Salicylic Acid

First Aid Beauty FAB Pharma BHA Acne Spot Treatment Gel 2% Salicylic Acid - Best Acne Spot Treatment For 20s

This one puts 2% salicylic acid to work on acne. By adding glycolic acid into the mix, the spot treatment reduces acne through exfoliation. Plus, it contains enzyme exfoliants like papaya for its resurfacing and anti-inflammatory benefits.

To counteract potential irritation and dryness, the spot treatment also contains a blend of soothing botanicals like aloe and oatmeal. The gel formula makes the product absorb better and work faster, making it a super effective spot treatment for women in their 20s with inflamed pimples.

Active Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid
Size: 0.75 oz/22 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free

So these are some of the best acne spot treatments to use in your 20s to tackle acne fast! Even though they work quickly, following a proper skincare routine in your 20s that includes skincare products suitable for your skin type goes a long way to keep acne at bay.

How to Use Acne Spot Treatments

  • Apply the spot treatment on your clean, bare face.
  • Check the instructions for day or nighttime use.
  • For liquids, dab a cotton swab into the bottle and gently apply it to the problematic area.
  • For creams, get a tiny amount on your finger and dab it on the pimple. Remember to wash your hands right after.
  • Squeezing the cream directly onto your skin is not hygienic.
  • Don’t apply other creams and serums on the spot-treated area. It’s going to move the product.
  • Using more than a pea-sized amount will increase your chances of irritation, redness, and more breakouts.
  • Remember that your skin will need time to adjust to the treatment. Use it a few times a week at first to make sure your skin is OK with it.
  • Then you can gradually increase the frequency, but not the amount!
  • Spot treatments with hydroxy acids like salicylic or glycolic will make your skin prone to sunburn. Remember to wear SPF daily.
  • And finally, be patient. It will get better.


  1. Collier, C. N., Harper, J. C., Cafardi, J. A., Cantrell, W. C., Wang, W., Foster, K. W., & Elewski, B. E. (2008). The prevalence of acne in adults 20 years and older. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology58(1), 56–59. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2007.06.045
  2. Zeichner, J. A., Baldwin, H. E., Cook-Bolden, F. E., Eichenfield, L. F., Fallon-Friedlander, S., & Rodriguez, D. A. (2017). Emerging Issues in Adult Female AcneThe Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology10(1), 37–46.
  3. Bagatin, E., Freitas, T. H. P., Rivitti-Machado, M. C., Machado, M. C. R., Ribeiro, B. M., Nunes, S., & Rocha, M. A. D. D. (2019). Adult female acne: a guide to clinical practice. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia94(1), 62–75. https://doi.org/10.1590/abd1806-4841.20198203

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