When Glossier’s brand new spot treatment, Zit Stick, landed on my desk last week, my shameless delight that it was shaped like a fat Crayola marker dovetailed nicely with my nostalgia for the product category in general. While my worst struggles with acne actually happened in my mid-twenties, my love affair with spot treatments was most lustful in my teenage years, when the promise of a quick fix the night before Homecoming was seemingly all that stood between me and my crush Stewart Fielding’s first kiss. (Ultimately it was my braces-induced self-consciousness and late-onset dance nausea that proved problematic, but that’s neither here nor there.)
My affection for Zit Stick’s aura notwithstanding, I wasn’t sure I’d have a use for it. Since I cut dairy out of my diet last year for one month (only one!) and then quit makeup cold turkey, my skin drastically and almost permanently cleared up. I know that’s an extreme how-I-solved-my-acne anecdote, which is why I haven’t preached about it, but I’ve only gotten two small zits since March 2017, and not even a cute new spot treatment could make me wish for another. Well, guess what? As serendipity would have it, the day after I received Zit Stick, I got my third. The biggest yet! Doesn’t that sound like a lie? I swear it isn’t. Was this divine intervention? I don’t know, ask Glossier’s marketing team! Either way, I got to try it posthaste.
The treatment is, much like my favorite makeup of the 90s, built right into the application tool. All you have to do is crank the bottom cap to the right until white liquid oozes out. (Pardon that imagery, but it does seem fitting, all things considered.) Once the liquid came, which, per the website, is 5% benzoyl peroxide and also contains tea tree oil and capryloyl salicylic acid, I applied it via the built-in rolling ball. Later than day, I did it again. The next morning, again. For the curious: It’s mostly translucent unless you really pile it on.
It’s hard to say whether my zit was just well-behaved or the treatment really works, but my spot had a remarkably fast recovery; it healed within a few days and without excessive drying. It wasn’t drastically different from other spot treatments I’ve used, but I have to say: The marker shape really got me. Call me a sucker, never said I wasn’t! It’s just fun to color on your face.
Anyway, in honor of fun and nostalgic spot treatments alike, I asked Team Man Repeller to tell me their go-to zit plan of attack. Whether a product, a middle school trick or an old wives’ tale, nothing was off limits. See what they told me below, and then add yours (or your Zit Stick review!) in the comments.
Nora, Managing Editor
Tip/treatment: This is an old lady choice but this Arbonne Intense Acne Treatment stuff is a miracle worker.
Why it’s good: It is good because it works in a night or two, doesn’t feel abrasive AND doesn’t dye my towels/pillow cases which was a big problem in my heavier acne days of yore. Bonus tip: If I’m feeling a breakout coming on and want to double down, I’ll put this on overnight, which smells amazing and isn’t overly drying.
Amelia, Head of Creative
Tip/treatment: An ice cube followed by a cotton-swab-dab of Apple Cider Vinegar.
Why it’s good: Old school and boring, but take this from someone who’s had pimples forever: When I feel one coming and/or when it arrives in the morning, I ice it. It brings down the swelling. When I can’t stand that, I pour Apple Cider Vinegar into a lid, take a cotton swap, dip it in the ACV, then gently jab (if you know, you know) it onto the spot in question. It helps! And then it dries quickly and you can do whatever you need to over it, be that makeup or fresh air. I learned about this trick when I wrote an article about ACV, and it actually worked!
I have also tried Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, which I liked a lot, but then I’d forget I had pink on my face and would leave the house (in fact, it turns a nice chalky white after some time — even more clearly “zit cream”). Another option I like a lot — this one is great if you’re prone to those little bumpy/rash-y breakouts after an eyebrow wax: Benefits’ Boo Boo Zap. I LOVE that stuff, I just haven’t repurchased it in a while.
Patty, Head of Partnerships
Why it’s good: My sister-in-law, Samantha, who is full of wisdom, clued me in that I should be both exfoliating (3-ish times a week) and toning (every day) to avoid breakouts. Where have I been? I feel out how much exfoliant to mix into my cleanser — I don’t want to irritate active zits, so if I have a particularly sensitive spot I’ll stick to the gentle cleanser only, but make sure that I tone regularly so that the area is clean and then I ride out the healing process. The exfoliant is great to prevent future clogs and bumps.
Imani, Editorial Assistant
Tip/treatment: Aloe vera gel
Why it’s good: Whenever I’m suffering from breakouts, I apply a layer of aloe vera gel on the problem areas. Although it’s gooey upon application, aloe vera gel becomes bone dry. I find that leaving it on overnight sucks the gunk out of my face, making my zits much smaller, if not gone.
Starling, Social Media Intern
Tip/treatment: Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment
Why it’s good: Two days before my one-year high school reunion I got the biggest pimple (or “spot,” as my British boyfriend calls them) I’ve ever experienced. I panicked and ran to my local Shoppers (Canadian drug store). After blurting out my dilemma to the patient makeup associate, she asked: “Ok, would you rather have something that looks decent on the pimple but takes a week to make it go away, or something that’ll make the pimple look absolutely disgusting but will make it completely disappear in a 24 hours?” I chose the latter and she gave me the Clean and Clear treatment, which I applied immediately before running to my shift as a sales associate at Anthropologie. It looked repulsive during my Anthropologie shift but sure enough, there was no trace of the pimple by the time I rolled up to reunion.
Jasmin, Director of Partnerships
Tip/treatment: Lemon juice!
Why it’s good: I think my mum told me about this but basically, putting a drop of lemon juice on the problem area with a cotton pad before going to bed helps dry it out. Still takes a while to fully go away but it’s a good, natural way of doing it.
Louisiana, Visuals Assistant
Tip/treatment: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion
Why it’s good: I used to have really bad acne and have tried A LOT of spot treatments. Over the course of the years, my skin has gotten a lot better thanks to other treatments, although I still get the occasional zit and I find that this is the only product that has worked for me. It only really works for whiteheads and pimples that are already on the skin surface. It doesn’t work on cystic-type acne because the solution is essentially drying out the pimple. (For cystic pimples, my mom actually taught me that you have to very gently squeeze the surrounding of the pimple, which helps bring it out, or down, if you’re lucky!)
Elizabeth, Market Assistant
Tip/treatment: Odacite BI+C serum concentrate
Why it’s good: I received this in a goodie bag at a fashion show last season and, when desperate, decided to give it a go. My pimple decreased in side within a couple of hours AND it doesn’t dry out the spot, which is my main issue with most spot treatments, in my experience. When moving, I lost the little jar but took a picture on my phone to refer to thankfully. It’s so good I put it in my digital Rolodex!
Why it’s good: I can’t remember who recommended it, but know I was in middle school. It may have been one of my friends’ moms. I don’t actually know if this is a good tip! What I have found is that it actually does dry out the pimples (and strangely, so does mouthwash), but it doesn’t really make it go away, so oftentimes I am just the asshole with a dab on toothpaste on her chin. There is also a widely held believe that breast milk clears your skin, and this might still be true for many, but my experience subjectively debunked that myth.
Photo by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.