Do OTC Blemish Busters Work?


For those who suffer from acne a trip down the beauty aisle amongst the many creams and ointments available can be a common occurrence. Right alongside tubes of acne treatments are electronic blue LED light devices with claims to simply zap away pimples fast. But do they work?

The technology behind devices such as the Tanda Zap ($49) and the Zeno Hot Spot ($39.99) is blue LED light known to kill the bacteria that causes acne. These devices work by applying gentle heat to blemishes one at a time typically over a two minute time period for each and can take several days of treatment to see results. For those with mild to moderate inflammatory acne, results can be pretty attractive, but for those with blackheads, whiteheads, and/or cystic acne…not so much.

“The heat is enough to destroy the bacteria that live in a pimple, and to evaporate the water that causes much of the inflammation, so the blemish will look smaller,” says Ellen Marmur, MD, associate professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center in an article on “But because the heat has to be applied to an individual blemish for several minutes a day, it’s not a very practical device if you get more than the occasional breakout.”

Also the LED lights used in the device are only a very small fraction of the ones used in a doctor’s office and there are no studies showing the effectiveness of at-home LED devices.

If an electronic blemish busting device doesn’t seem so attractive, there are still many effective topical treatments such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, and Alpha Hydroxy Acids. AHAs slough off dead skin cells that cause pimple-producing clogged pores and leave you with smoother, softer skin. They can be applied all over the face. Types of AHAs include glycolic and lactic acid. “All of my acne patients are on alpha-hydroxy acids,” says Dr. Neal Schultz, MD, cosmetic/medical dermatologist in private practice in NYC with more than 30 years experience in the field.

Still considering at-home electronic acne treatment? Check the retailer’s return policy and hold onto your receipt.

About Danielle

A former finance girl, Danielle is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She's a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog. Think of her as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package. Danielle's work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas,, and more! She's also appeared as an on-air style expert on CBS New York's "The Couch" and WPIX11's Savvy Shopper segment.
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