It’s pretty hard to feel good about yourself and your skin when there’s a glaring, mountainous zit on your face — believe me, I know. I’ve struggled with cystic acne (I feel you, Lili Reinhart) pretty much all of my adult life. Overall, I actually can’t complain about my skin, but when I get a zit (which was nearly every day for a while), it’s the kind that takes up serious real estate on my face, lasts for weeks, and then leaves unsightly scarring. I tested every product I could get my hands on, and I’m happy to report that I now have a repertoire of skin care products in my arsenal that help me flatten those painful blemishes in no time.

1. Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water ($11): A long, hard-earned lesson I’ve learned is that clear skin is clean skin, and how you remove makeup is crucial. While I love the feel of the K-beauty double cleanse, no matter how many types of cleansing oils I tried, they all left little milia, AKA teeny white bumps under the skin of my cheeks. Instead, I switched to using Bioderma micellar water (Sensibio is my favorite!) on extra-soft cotton pads to take off my makeup. This oil-free facial wash and makeup remover gave me all the benefits of a deep clean without being too aggressive.

2. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Soap Free Cleanser ($15): This purifying option cleans your face without feeling stripped. I never have that tight, over-washed sensation since it’s so gentle on hyper-sensitive skin like my own. If you prefer something that offers salicylic acid, a runner-up is the Biore Baking Soda Acne Scrub for Combination Skin ($6).

3. Differin Acne Treatment ($29): Differin is an over-the-counter retinoid (adapalene to be exact) that works best when you spread a small amount of it all over your face every evening. This is important: Since it is a retinoid, use ONLY at night! (Overuse will lead to unwelcome pigmentation if you use it during the daytime.) Retinoids stimulate your skin cells to turn over more quickly, and adapalene is particularly good at soothing inflammation and swelling caused by acne. I usually rub this solution on after washing. Unlike prescription retinoids which can irritate the skin if applied on damp skin, you don’t have to wait the full 30 minutes after washing to use.

4. Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment ($22): This beauty buy is kind of a godsend at unclogging your pores. Warning: You’ll want to be careful if you’re using Differin as well, since combining these two products could irritate your skin. My face responds well to both; it does burn a tiny bit sometimes, but that’s because it contains 0.5 percent salicylic acid. You can use it twice a day; in the morning, I put this treatment on under makeup.

5. Kate Somerville Anti Bac Clearing Lotion ($42): This is about as close as you can get to prescription formulas as it offers five percent benzoyl peroxide, which acts as an antiseptic on your inflamed pores. I also have a prescription for Benzac 10, which has 10 percent benzoyl peroxide, but Kate Somerville’s Anti Bac is pretty comparable. Again, I have to say that you should be careful when using this in conjunction with salicylic acid and adapalene. You might want to alternate days (or nights) if you have really sensitive skin. I put it on straight after the Murad Spot Treatment and have zero issues — in fact, for me, the two seem to work even better together. In the daytime, I usually rub it on, then apply my makeup afterwards. In the evening, after my face has been thoroughly cleansed, I put it on before bed.

6. COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch ($5): Holy moly, this product works! After all my treatments have sunk into the skin, I slap one of these suckers on over my bump, and in the morning, it flattens out completely. If my blemish isn’t gone, it’s at least greatly reduced. Each pack comes with 24 hydrocolloid patches of varying sizes, and it does a great job at sucking the gunk out of your pores. Believe it or not, it works even on those oozing, painful ones that make you feel like all hope is lost. You’re welcome.

What’s your secret weapon? Tweet us @BritandCo!

Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.

(Feature Image via Getty)