The Best Acne Spot Treatment DIY Recipes for Every Situation

Jeff Hautala
By Jeff Hautala, Co-Founder of Exposed Skincare

We’ve all had times where we wish we knew the best acne spot treatment. Sometimes you wake up on picture day only to find a bright red, painful pimple blooming on your chin. Or maybe you’re picking at your skin nervously the night before a big presentation, hoping that breakout magically disappears overnight. The truth is, nothing can make these things go away immediately. The best acne spot treatment can only reduce the visibility of acne for a short while. What you really need is a regular skin care routine to prevent acne from forming in the first place. But even with the best skin care, breakouts are bound to happen. These simple DIY solutions can make a world of difference, in as little as 5 minutes.

Woman wearing with a shocking face
If you’re dealing with a last minute breakout, don’t panic! We’ve found some of the best acne spot treatment DIY recipes that are sure to help.

What’s the Best Acne Spot Treatment for Your Breakout?

There are countless different types of acne, and each kind requires different care. This is no different when it comes to last minute solutions. So how do you know what kind of acne you have?


Even though blackheads are one of the most common kinds of acne, they’re usually misunderstood. Many people believe blackheads are caused by dirt, when really, hygiene has nothing to do with it. Blackheads get their dark color from a simple process of oxidation. Blackheads form when the skin becomes inflamed. This causes the pore to constrict slightly, trapping oil and dead skin cells. In blackheads, the pore doesn’t close all the way, so the oil is exposed to the air, which oxidizes it. Think of it like an apple that you cut up and then left on the counter. Eventually, it starts to turn brown, but it’s not because there’s dirt on it all of the sudden. That’s just how oxygen affects certain substances.

This type of acne is not truly inflammatory, because the initial inflammation that caused the blackhead was very minor. Reducing inflammation always helps reduce acne, but in a time crunch, the best way to get rid of blackheads quickly is with a very gentle exfoliating agent.


Incredibly similar to blackheads, whiteheads form in much the same way. The only difference is that the pore closes all the way, protecting the oil and dead skin cells from the air, and thus giving them more of a white or flesh-toned color. Unlike blackheads, exfoliating is unlikely to help get rid of whiteheads quickly, because they are protected by the surface of the skin. The best acne spot treatment for whiteheads is one that reduces inflammation.


These are a lesser known type of acne, but they are actually quite common. Papules are like pre-pimples. They form a small, raised bump, bigger than a whitehead but without the clearly defined head of a pimple. Papules are caused when bacteria also get trapped in a pore and start generating an infection. To get rid of these quickly, the best thing to do is reduce inflammation as much as possible.


Also known as pimples, pustules are raised, red bumps with defined heads that are yellow or white in color. The head forms as the immune system kills off the acne-causing bacteria and pus is produced as a byproduct. These are one of the most highly visible forms of acne, so many people search for the best acne spot treatment to get rid of them quickly. Your best chance at getting rid of pustules at the last minute is a combination of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory products.

Cysts & Nodules

Cysts and nodules are some of the more severe kinds of acne. It can be difficult to find regular, consistent skin care that reduces nodulocystic acne, and finding the best acne spot treatment can be even harder. The best way to reduce the visibility of cysts before a big event is to reduce the inflammation as much as possible.

Addressing Skin Care Myths

Now that you know what kind of acne you have and what it generally needs from a spot treatment, we can start exploring specific options. But before that, we need to address a few major questions in the spot treatment department. For instance, should spot treatments sting and burn? Is popping allowed? Are there really spot treatments that get rid of acne overnight? Read on to determine fact from fiction.

Myth #1: Burning/Stinging Sensations Mean It’s Working!

You may have heard that the best acne spot treatments are the ones that burn or sting. That spot treatments need to be “extra-strength” and that burning sensation is “proof” that it’s working. Unfortunately, the complete opposite is true: when your skin burns or stings, it’s trying to send you a message that something bad is happening.

The myth that you can tell an acne product is working if it burns or stings probably originated from the use of rubbing alcohol on minor scrapes and wounds. If you haven’t tried it, applying rubbing alcohol to a wound often hurts worse than actually getting wounded because it stings so badly, but it can kill any bacteria that may have gotten into the wound, making it a helpful first-aid tool in a pinch. The key part of that, though, is “in a pinch.” Anything that causes serious burning or stinging is not actually that great for your skin. Those feelings are clear signals from your skin saying that it’s being damaged. Even though it might be killing bacteria, it is also slowing down wound healing and irritating the skin, and when it comes to acne treatment, that is a very big deal.

Irritation is one of the main sources of acne. When the skin is irritated, it tries to protect itself in two ways: first, it triggers the inflammation response, which causes the skin to swell slightly; and second, it produces a burst of extra oil, to provide a layer of protection between the skin and whatever is causing the irritation. Together, what usually happens is the skin becomes inflamed and all that extra oil simply gets trapped in the pores, along with whatever oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria were already there. This is exactly how acne forms.

Myth #2: Popping Pimples is Always Bad!

One of the big debates in skin care right now is whether or not popping pimples is bad for you. Our take is fairly straightforward: you should avoid popping pimples excessively, but occasional popping is not the end of the world, especially if you know how to pop a pimple.

If you have a pimple with a very visible head, even the best acne spot treatment won’t make that disappear in less than 24 hours. The best way to get rid of the head is to pop the pimple. If the pimple is just forming and there’s no defined head, you should definitely not pop it. The same goes for whiteheads. In these cases, you would have to break through the skin in a much more serious way, and it could lead to significant scarring, not to mention redness. Popping a pimple before it’s ready typically leads to more visible acne, not less.

To pop a pimple properly, wash your hands and your face in cool water. Then, gently use the pads of your fingertips to press down and in toward the center. Be careful not to use your fingernails, as that will almost certainly cause scarring. You can try this from several different angles, but if blood or clear fluid starts to come out, or if it won’t pop, then you need to stop, wash your face and hands again, and leave it alone. This can be frustrating, but forcing things will only make it more swollen and visible.

Myth #3: Acne Spot Treatments Can Get Rid of Acne Completely!

If you’ve had acne for a while, you already know this one is a myth. Even the best acne spot treatment only lessens the severity of acne, and usually only does so temporarily. The real key to clear skin is gentle, consistent skin care.

If you want to treat your acne, it’s important that you find a skin care routine you can do every single day, and is gentle enough to prevent the kind of irritation that can lead to inflammation, extra oil production, and clogged pores. Some skin care routines out there involve four, five, even six steps, and for many people, that’s just not realistic. It’s okay if a skin care routine is too involved for you, even if it feels like it should be simple. If your current acne system is just too complicated, that’s okay! Find a simpler system. Consistent skin care will almost definitely help you see better results.

Our other bit of advice is to make sure your skin care routine is gentle. As you may have noticed from the descriptions of the various kinds of acne, it all starts because the skin is inflamed, and many times, irritation is the cause of this inflammation. It might sound backwards, but many acne treatment systems are so harsh that they can actually irritate the skin and cause more acne.

At Exposed Skin Care, we use a combination of scientific and natural ingredients to help you get rid of acne without causing more, and our treatment system is only three simple steps. Our Basic Kit contains, well, the basics: a Facial Cleanser, a Clearing Tonic, our Acne Treatment Serum to be used in the morning, and a Clear Pore Serum to be used at night.

Even the best acne spot treatment can’t prevent future acne. For that, you need a gentle, consistent skin care routine, like Exposed Skin Care’s Basic Kit.

The “I Only Have Five Minutes, What Do I Do?” DIY Spot Treatment

This is a tricky one, but it happens all the time. We oversleep or get ready in the dark, and only notice a breakout as we’re about to walk out the door. If you only have a few minutes, it might feel like there’s no hope, but we found a clever DIY solution that could be the perfect last-minute spot treatment: green tea ice cubes.

For this to work, you need to have these prepared ahead of time. Whenever you have a free evening, brew some green tea and let the leaves/tea bag steep as long as possible. Then pour the cool tea into an ice cube tray, let them freeze, and then dump the cubes into a plastic sealable bag. Then, whenever you need to make your acne less visible as quickly as possible, simply take one out and gently press it to your skin. If you have time, do five minutes on, five minutes off, then five minutes on again. Ice and green tea are both well known for their ability to reduce inflammation, so if you have a particularly large pimple that won’t pop, or papules that aren’t ready to pop, this is the best acne spot treatment on a time crunch.

The “This Has to Disappear in the Next Hour!” DIY Spot Treatment

So you have a little more time, but what’s the best way to use it? The green tea ice cubes are always a good trick, but if you have the time, we recommend applying a generous amount of honey. Yes, we know it’s sticky, but it can work wonders for inflammation, and it even has antibacterial effects, so this is the best solution for pimples or cysts. If you have blackheads or whiteheads, you can add a small amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice to help exfoliate the skin as well. Honey is so restorative, it should prevent the lemon from being too harsh and drying out the skin.

Simply apply a generous dab of honey to the affected area and cover with a tissue or paper towel (a bandaid is likely to leave a nasty red mark when you peel it off), and remove with cool water.

The “I Have a Big Thing in the Morning, Oh No!” DIY Spot Treatment

It can be hard to feel confident about your big presentation tomorrow when you notice a breakout forming just before you go to bed. Luckily, you have all night to improve the situation. In this case, we recommend an aloe vera spot treatment, and depending on what kind of acne you have, you can add either lemon juice or green tea extract.


man sleeping
The best acne spot treatment for overnight results is a combination of aloe vera with lemon juice or green tea extract.

Aloe vera can provide a gentle protective layer over the skin throughout the night, and when combined with other acne-fighting ingredients, it can be especially useful. If you are dealing with blackheads and whiteheads, we suggest adding just a sprinkling of lemon juice to help exfoliate the skin. If you have mostly papules, pimples or cysts, a few drops of green tea extract should help the inflammation go down overnight. Apply the mixture to the affected area and let it dry before going to bed. In the morning, simply remove with cool water.