All acne presents itself in different ways, which makes perfect sense when you consider there are a combination of factors — hygiene, hormones, genetics, etc. — that play a part in your breakouts if you have acne-prone skin. But knowledge is power, and having a sense of each acne type’s modus operandi can help you map out the best defense (and offense) plan, setting you way ahead of the clear-skin curve.

Once you figure out what you’re working with (a pustule vs. a cyst, for example — more on that below), you’ll find that there are a variety of treatment options at your disposal. From there, you’ll want to determine what kinds of ingredients and acne products will work most efficiently to clear up breakouts and prevent new zits from popping up.

Seeing a dermatologist is the best way to identify the best acne treatments for your skin (and get any necessary prescriptions in the process). Until then, we’ve done some of the legwork for you by talking to board-certified dermatologists to curate the ultimate guide to taking down every type of acne out there — from subcutaneous “blind pimples” and cystic acne to overnight whiteheads that seem to always conveniently pop up before some kind of major event. You’ll also find out how to deal with that constellation of blackheads on your nose to help you avoid too many extractions at your next facial.

An important thing to keep in mind is that not all purported acne-fighting formulas effectively fight all types of acne, and some skin types will require different variations on their skincare routine to effectively target acne breakouts. Cystic acne may require a multi-pronged approach of over-the-counter retinoids (say, isotretinoin, for example) and at-home products like the ones mentioned here. Meanwhile, routine whiteheads along your T-zone or hormonal acne may just require a simple cocktail of tea tree, alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), and a beta hydroxy acid (BHA, like salicylic acid) — which can all be easily obtained at your nearest drugstore. Sensitive skin types might want to use ingredients like AHAs intermittently to avoid any further irritation to the skin.  

Without further ado, here’s the scoop straight from dermatologists on some of the best acne treatments for every type of zit, cyst, and pustule threatening to implode on your skin.

All products featured on Allure are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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