I Just Had the Worst Breakout of My Life—and These Products Saved Me

Because toothpaste just wasn't doing the trick anymore.

For a while there, I was feeling totally #blessed in the blemish department. Following the rite-of-passage breakouts of high school, during college and into the first few years of adulthood, I was only subjected to a pimple every now and again. They weren't ideal, but considering how sensitive my skin is, I was just thankful it wasn't worse. I was so unaffected by these few-and-far-between zits, in fact, I never bothered investing in spot treatments. Aside from the occasional dab of toothpaste, I just let them do their thing. 

Yes, all was just peachy until about two months ago when I went for a much-needed facial with medical extractions. These pore clean-outs were all business and left me with a face full of tiny red marks where they performed. A little irritation = totally normal. My esthetician warned me that the extractions would speed up the process for forthcoming breakouts, and in the coming weeks, it was, indeed, a slow storm of them. It began with a string of blemishes along my left cheekbone and across/underneath my jawline. Round, red, and super sensitive—there they were. Though I could easily conceal the area with big, fluffy hair, they still begged for coverage. And as someone who prefers to go foundation-less day-to-day, I wanted them gone, like yesterday. 

Trying not to freak out, I immediately looked to the beauty closet for something with notorious acne-fighter tea tree oil, as even though I know better than to be afraid of Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid, they seemed harsh in my fragile state. Having recently become obsessed with K-beauty brand belif's Aqua Bomb moisturizer, I decided to go with their Tea Tree Oil solution. I applied it that night and in the morning, my blemishes were already looking better and less sensitive to the touch. I reapplied it, then went to work.

"Round, red, and super sensitive—there they were. Though I could easily conceal the area with big, fluffy hair, they still begged for coverage."

Midday, under florescent lights, I found myself panicking that the formula had worn off, so I ran to cafeteria, grabbed some lemon wedges, and squeezed some juice onto my finger and lightly dabbed. The L-asorbic acid is said to be a natural astringent, and so I hoped it would help dry these suckers out. But realizing that I couldn't just run to the cafeteria every time I needed a quick spot treatment in a pinch, I looked to my sister—who is much more proactive when it comes to zapping zits—for a solution. She recommended Burt's Bees Herbal Blemish roller-ball Stick, which is 100% natural and contains 10 essential oils, including tea tree, that work to treat and shrink blemishes. Knowing that I could keep it my handbag at all times gave me comfort, and so for the next few weeks I treated my poor skin, switching between these two decidedly soothing products.

Slowly but surely, my zits started to decrease in size, color, and all-around appearance. But just as I was beginning to feel relieved, three sizable bumps formed a tiny triangle on my right cheekbone. Hoping to expedite their stay, I decided to bring out the big guns—i.e. pimple stickers—which are little patches packed with active ingredients, like hydrocolloid, an ingredient that you'll often find in products meant to take care of wounds. I applied them ever-so-carefully at night and removing them in morning. These, teamed with the tea tree oil treatments, yielded even faster results. 

At present, there's still evidence of both sets of breakouts, but I'm no longer panicked or super self-conscious. They're running their course—albeit at a muuuch faster rate thanks to these gentle, yet effective blemish busters.

Pimple products

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

1. Nexcare Acne Absorbing Covers 36 Pack, $7.99; amazon.com.

2. belif Tea Tree Oil, $26; sephora.com.

3. Burt's Bees Herbal Blemish Stick, $7.99; ulta.com

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Lauren Valenti
Beauty Editor

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.