The right one will shrink a pimple and can even help heal skin faster. The wrong one, however, may do more damage than good: Some treatments can dry out the skin, while others will break you out even more, making the experimental process slightly terrifying.
Lucky for you, sources tried at least 30 formulas, ranging in prices, ingredients and purpose—because papules (red pimples), pustules (pimples with pus) and cystic acne (deep bumps that are typically filled with blood rather than pus) are not created equal.
Which product beat out the rest in an all-purpose, good-for-most-skin-types competition?
Application: Although it is a gel, it feels a lot more like a serum. It's gentle enough where you can apply it to your whole face, twice a day, to prevent further breakouts or as a spot treatment to combat one-off pesky pimples. Though, some staffers dialed down the usage if skin started to dry out too much. The gel dispenses out clear and smells kind of like your dentist's office, but once it's on, you won't feel a stickiness or crust-like substance on your face like with other acne treatments.
Runner-Up: For those looking for more natural ingredients, E! staffers also raved about Tata Harper Clarifying Spot Solution ($32). "It was gentle and green in color, which felt like skin food," said one beauty editor. "It got rid of redness, but didn't tackle nasty cysts."
As always, consult your dermatologist if you have any questions.