Safer Swaps for Your Favorite Spot Treatments

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Name a more desperate moment than fighting a zit that just won’t go away. You try to play nice with your normal routine, but when that doesn’t work, you break out the big guns. Let us stop you right there. Nothing beats a reliable spot treatment. However, some of those “Hail Mary” products actually do more harm than good.

A bad spot treatment can make acne worse by irritating and overdrying skin; and despite these products appearing to kill off acne, their harsh ingredients leave lasting damage. Instead, keep pores clear with regular exfoliation and, if a blemish does trigger your “fight or flight” response, consider swapping for a safer, gentler option.

Using Burt’s Bees Herbal Complexion Stick?

Burt’s Bees Herbal Complexion Stick was once a personal go-to for painful, hormonal breakouts. At a glance, the product boasts “99.9% natural ingredients” and tea tree oil which sold me in my naïve skincare youth. Tea tree oil is a buzzy ingredient rumored to have acne-fighting superpowers (little research has actually been done). So, imagine my disappointment when I returned to this old fave to find the first ingredient was, in fact, alcohol denat. 

I’m not anti-alcohol in my skincare –– the ingredient can be used safely as an emulsifier, preservative and degreasing agent in the right concentrations. But, as the first ingredient in a formula, denatured alcohol can be extremely drying and irritating, plus damage to your gentle skin barrier. It may get rid of that pesky zit, but lasting damage far outweighs the benefits.

Replace with Versed Nix It Complexion Solution.

Versed has made waves this year with non-toxic, vegan and cruelty-free products available at drugstore prices. The Nix It Complexion Solution is one of their many cult-favorites using salicylic acid as an equally effective and popular ingredient as tea tree oil. However, this formula cuts the acid with glycerin, oils (including tea tree) and a lower, less irritating concentration of the active to give you safe acne-fighting power.

Dot this dry-oil formula directly onto the problem area morning and night. The fast-absorbing, no-residue solution can sit under or over makeup to soothe redness, fight bacteria and prevent new blemishes from forming.

Using Clean & Clear Advantage Spot Treatment?

Like Burt’s Bees, the Advantage Spot Treatment from Clean & Clear disguises overdrying as a breakout solution. While the first ingredient in this formula is also alcohol, the ingredients get worse down the list: including fragrance and parabens. There’s good reason skincare enthusiasts have taken such a strong stance against these ingredients.

Although fragrance improves user experience, it’s potentially dangerous for our health. Not only can they be potentially irritating, but some components have also been associated with cancer, reproductive issues and allergies. While parabens, typically used as preservatives, are another cosmetic no-no. Recent studies have suggested a relationship between parabens and hormone disruption, fertility & reproductive issues, negative birth outcomes and increased risk of cancer.

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The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% has always been one of our most well-loved products (so much so that we recently launched it in a cuddlier, larger 60ml format for die-hard fans of the formula). ⁣? ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Niacinamide, also known as Vitamin B3, is a high-strength vitamin and mineral formula that helps to support barrier function, while reducing the appearance of visible shine and signs of congestion. This ingredient has also been shown to have a brightening effect on the skin, making it a truly multifunctional ingredient that can be easily incorporated into any routine. We have included Niacinamide at a high 10% concentration within this formula. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Additionally, this formula includes a 1% concentration of Zinc PCA, which works to support the skin's function as a protective barrier. ⁣☂️⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Niacinamide can be applied in the AM and PM alongside other water-based serums, before oils and creams. We do not recommend applying Niacinamide in the same routine as pure Vitamin C as Niacinamide has the capacity to affect the integrity of Vitamin C, potentially reducing its efficacy. If you’d like to incorporate Niacinamide and Vitamin C into your routine, we would suggest applying them at separate times. ⁣☀️?⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ (30ml: CA$5.90/US$5.90/AU$9.90/£5.00/€5.90, 60ml: CA$10.60/US$10.60/AU$17.80/£8.90/€10.60).

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Replace with The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%.

A safer alternative is the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% solution from the one and only The Ordinary. This product is free of nasty parabens and fragrance, plus alcohol, silicone, animal byproducts and gluten. The Ordinary creates extremely effective products with super small markups. In fact, this treatment sells for only $5.90 USD (compared $8.69 for the Clean & Clear option).

This formula’s superhero is obviously niacinamide (i.e. Vitamin B3). A gentler, safer active, B3 chemically exfoliates the skin to reduce the appearance of blemishes and congestion. The ingredient also rivals Vitamin C as one of the top brighteners blessing today’s skincare collections. Zinc, on the other hand, has skin-healing and rejuvenating abilities when applied on the skin or ingested. In this formula, Zinc is used to stabilize the Niacinamide.

Using the Tweezerman No-Slip Skincare Tool?

As Lizzo said, truth hurts. So, we’re here to tell you: that extraction tool that’s oh-so-satisfying to use needs to go. No matter how easy Dr. Pimple Popper makes it look, taking zits into your own hands is never a good idea. Everyone knows that picking leads to scars and infection. And although tools can be more hygienic when cleaned properly, applying physical pressure to breakouts still poses risks of scarring and bruises.

Tools like the Tweezerman No-Slip Skincare Tool apply pressure to breakouts to force sebum out of pores. Although they remove the existing infection, these tools also open wounds with the potential to become reinfected. Plus, using this tool before breakouts are “mature” enough to be removed can result in greater pressure and therefore, more damage. Leave it to the pros to use this tool and, instead, find a safer alternative to tend to your breakouts.

Replace with CosRX Acne Pimple Master Patches.

We wouldn’t take away your #oddlysatisfying skincare pleasure without a substitute. Whether you’re a K-Beauty convert or just need to see what’s hiding in that comedone, the CosRX Acne Pimple Master Patches are the perfect way to get your gross-but-worth-it fix without tearing up your skin.

These patches are made with a unique hydrocolloid material designed to extract impurities and create a moist, healing environment for the zit. After cleansing, place a sticker on each spot before bed. Overnight, these patches will extract sebum, no pressure necessary. Then, wake up, remove the patch and see the proof. This product gives you zit-removing satisfaction with a quicker healing process and no damage. Win-win-win.