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Are these acne products spot-on, or do they miss the mark?

From occasional blackheads to cystic acne, some kind of breakout curses 85 percent of women. And while having acne is perfectly normal at any age, it's a nuisance we could all do without.

Not to worry, dolls, help is on the way. I've tested and tried 20 of the top blemish-blasting products on the market and I'm ready to dish about which ones work and which actually made my skin worse. That means you can skip the six- to eight-week detour traditionally needed to see if a product is effective, and get on the road to perfect skin today.

Leave it: Clearasil Ultra Vanishing Acne Treatment Cream

The only thing that vanished after using Clearasil's Ultra Vanishing Acne Treatment Cream was the $10 I dished out for this drugstore product. The product did not deliver on its promise of "clearer skin in just three days." But the active ingredient, 10 percent benzoyl peroxide, is sure to suck the moisture out of your skin in 72 hours or less!

Love it: Holy Zit!

That's the name of an on-the-spot acne treatment I love from Spa Cadet. There's also Booty 911, a bump buster for your bum; Busta Grime, a camphor cleanser that keeps skin smooth; Grand-Masta Splash, a toner and exfoliant packed with alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids; and Nuttin But a "B" Thang face cream, rich with Vitamin B, a vitamin essential in fighting blemishes. I was initially put off by the collection's kitschy packaging — it struck me as cheap — but I found the goods inside to be solid gold. Looks may be deceiving, but great-looking skin is impossible to mistake. Shop the collection, priced from $26 to $37, at spacadet.com.

Love it: Deglazing Mask from emerginC

In cooking, deglazing means dissolving the small particles of meat that stick to the bottom of the pan. I can't help but conjure this apropos image every time I apply emerginC's Deglazing Mask, a clay-based facial mask that promises to rapidly improve problem skin. Designed for adult breakouts — like the ones we all get at that time of the month — the mask calls upon ingredients such as calamine and chamomile to remove dead skin cells, absorb excess oil, and reduce redness. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes and apply up to three times a week; available online for $40 at emerginc.com.

Leave it: pHisoderm Anti-Blemish Facial Wash

I was immediately drawn to the generous 6-ounce container of pHisoderm Anti-Blemish Facial Wash for less than $6 while browsing the blemish-bustin' offerings at my fave drugstore. Sure, the price is right, but the deal turned sour when I didn't see any compelling results after using the product for weeks. Cheap? Yes. Results-driven? Definitely not. My advice: save up for something that actually works.

Love, love, love it!: Thermaclear

Having tested other zit-zapping devices in the past, I was skeptical about Thermaclear, an acne clearing device that uses a two-second Thermal Pulse Technology, similar to the laser technology used by dermatologists. News flash ladies, this product actually works, meaning I no longer worry about that occasional hormonal flare-up. According to the company, the device neutralizes acne-causing bacteria under the surface of the skin, so breakouts disappear up to four times faster than usual. That old adage "you get what you pay for" holds true here; Thermaclear sells for about $150 at thermaclear.com.

Carolyn Brundage is the founder of tampabay.prettycity.com, a guide to all that is hip and happening in local beauty. Need beauty advice? E-mail her at carolyn@prettycity.com.

Are these acne products spot-on, or do they miss the mark? 12/18/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 19, 2008 10:35am]
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