Pimple Treatments

Sunday, 16 March 2008 | Tags:

Adults and teens alike suffer from pimples. For those who typically get minor blemishes or hormonal breakouts, there are a variety of treatments available on the market. We take a look at some options and their effectiveness.

The Basics

  • Over-the-counter remedies come in variety of forms: creams, gels, lotions and pads.

  • Study after study has found benzoyl peroxide to be the most effective over- the-counter, pimple-treating agent. It kills bacteria and helps stop them from replicating.

  • Look for benzoyl peroxide concentrations of around 5% percent. Higher levels can be too drying.

  • Most creams are the same as long as they have 5%, so you don’t necessarily have to pay more, unless you want the fancy packaging or nice scent.

  • Salicylic acid can also be effective for treating blemishes, but over-the-counter products don’t always have the right concentration or pH level information on the label. Look for a product with one to two percent salicylic acid and a pH level between three and four.

  • Sulfur is another ingredient to look for because it reduces bacteria to help control whiteheads and inflamed pimples.

Other Considerations

  • Terms like “oil-free”, “non-comedogenic”, and “non-acnegenic” are not legally defined or regulated terms, so take these promises with a grain of salt.

  • For a natural alternative, try tea tree oil in concentrations of five percent (check the label carefully since many products are diluted).

Be Aware

  • Some people are sensitive or allergic to benzoyl peroxide, so if your skin reacts badly, stop using the product immediately and see a dermatologist.

  • Steer clear of ingredients like peppermint, eucalyptus, camphor and alcohol. They can be drying and irritating. And who needs dry AND pimply skin?

  • If you think you have a greater problem than just a few pimples, see your doctor or dermatologist before trying any drug store treatments.


We found some occasional breakout sufferers to test our products over four months.

Our test products: .  
  • Neutrogena Rapid Clear Pads(spot patches with salicylic acid): $10
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Clean & Clear Persagel (5-10% benzoyl peroxide): $8
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Clearasil Vanishing Acne Treatment BP Plus (5% benzoyl peroxide plus sulphur): $10
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil: $8
. . — 
  • Doctor’s Dermatologic Formula (DDF) (5% benzoyl peroxide and Tea Tree Oil): $27
. .

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Usage Test

There was a general consensus that most of the treatments were effective. Here are some specific comments about each:

  • The Neutrogena patches were inconvenient. Who wants to walk around in public with little patches on your face? Their use was limited to only night time, but most of us prefer to fight pimples 24-hours a day.

  • There was an unpleasant smell in the case of the Clearasil and The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil.

  • The testers felt the Doctor’s Dermatologic Formula was too pricey.

  • The Clean & Clear Persagel had a non-smelly formula, good success rate and a reasonable price.


We gave our top vote to the Clean & Clear Persa-gel for its non-smelly formula, success rate and reasonable price.



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