3 Best Beauty Buys: Blemish Busters

I still have a few posts to catch up on from the end of last year – drafted but not quite finished – but this one on blemish busters is, I feel, very relevant. Mask-induced spots, or “maskne” as the marketing world coined it, seems to be an ongoing issue for some people, especially those who have to wear proper protective face gear for long periods of time.

I can’t imagine it’s the sort of widespread problem that some brands would like us to think it is – “OH MY GOD MASKNE IS TAKING OVER THE WORLD, BEWARE MASKNE!” – but I suppose that facial skin that is kept covered, possibly slightly hot and sweaty, for any lengthy part of the day is likely to rise up and revolt in the end. Even for those who just occasionally need to don a cloth mask, there’s a feeling of clammy clogginess to the mouth, nose and chin area once the fabric comes off. This might not result in breakouts – there might equally be some dryness or flakiness or, indeed, no apparent change at all – but if you do feel clammy and cloggy then the below may help.

So, three best beauty buys for helping with breakouts, all at different price-points. I actually have a few more bits and pieces to add to this post since I first drafted it (and filmed the accompanying video) last Autumn; you can see those at the bottom of the post. In general, salicylic acid is a good ingredient to look out for if you feel as though you need a good cleaning-out of the pores, just go steady if you find that your skin is on the dry side and follow up with a decent moisturiser. If you’re scared of adding oil to the problem then I really rate the oil-free Toleriane Fluid (here*), it has been a staple in my beauty line-up for many years.

Right, here are the first three of my best buys:

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, from £10 online here*: I’ve done a more in-depth review of this here but in a nutshell, this is a wipe-on-and-leave exfoliant that is brilliant at keeping pores clear without feeling harsh or aggressive. I use it once a day (in the morning, usually) during my PMT week to help curb any breakouts and I never feel that it dries my skin, but there are different versions and formats here* if you’re worried and want to check out alternatives from the same range.

Read: The PMT Skin-Saver and Four Ways To Use It

The Ordinary Salicylic 2% Masque, £9 here* (stock coming shortly, it’s always selling out!): this is a brilliant deep-treatment mask that works quickly and effectively to cleanse and purify but isn’t eye-wateringly tingly. You know the masks that make you feel as though your face is on fire? It’s not one of those. You may feel a bit of a warm tickle but it’s nothing like some of those power-player “active” clay masks I’ve tested over the last few years. You need a fan pointed at your face to get through the whole ten minutes!

Not with this one, no fan/cold compress required. I use it as an occasional PMT-week treat when things seem to be getting a bit angsty (salicylic can be quite soothing, despite its spot-busting status) but you could use it once or twice a week if you are oily or spot-prone.

Here’s one for more a more targeted, on-the-spot solution: Kate Somerville EradiKate, £52 online here*. I’ve tried a lot of spot treatments but this works for me quickly and without any major side effects – no flaking or peeling where I’ve been applying and reapplying. Probably because this has actually been formulated as an all-over lotion and not a targeted treatment, so it’s far more forgiving, but it’s so pokey that I can’t bring myself to use it all over!

At any rate, I tend to get very localised breakouts and not very often so it would be utter madness to cover my whole face in this. Anyway, it’s salicylic plus retinol in a lightweight cream – if you’ve previously tried the proper Kate Somerville EradiKate, with the pink lotion you dip into, this is nothing like that.

If you do want something for all over the face but not so spendy then I still think that the Effaclar Duo+ from La Roche-Posay is excellent (it’s here* online, £17) and they’ve recently introduced a new serum (here*) that promises a more concentrated formula combining salicylic with LHA and glycolic acid. I haven’t had the opportunity to test this out properly yet so please let me know in the comments if you have tried it and what you thought!

I’m going to also add the Active Clay Cleanser from Dermalogica (£35 here*) onto my blemish-busting list because it’s a low-key version of the Salicylic Masque mentioned above. I used this every day for about a month and my skin didn’t ever feel tight or dried out, just really very clean. I’d leave it on for a minute or two, because it just felt as though I should, and it’s now most definitely a cleanser I like to have lined up along the side of my bath for my nightly ablutions.

There’s a video to go alongside this post, it’s in the IGTV section of my Instagram page and you can reach it via this link. Enjoy!

DISCLOSURE POLICY. Posts published after 24th January 2019: if the post contains gifted items or affiliate links then it is indicated clearly beneath the title. Posts published prior to this will have a disclosure within the body of the post and then an asterisk * marking all affiliate links. If the content is a paid-for AD then it is marked as an AD in the title. For more information on disclosure please read here. 



  1. February 20, 2021 / 3:54 pm

    I have a tendency to more clogging on my cheekbones when I wear a mask for prolonged periods, but some salicylic acid will help with that. That and obviously washing the cloth mask frequently.

  2. Nathalie z
    February 18, 2021 / 3:19 am

    Well masks can create havoc on skin, eyes..and what else really…here in Alberta Canada, more and more people go mask free…I am one of them, my husband is a chiropractor, and he rarely uses one..but one more thing to worry about is the effect of masks on skin..like putting a dirty diaper on your face I will add….I have tried many Paula choice products and some worked, some didn’t…I am overall not impressed by the brand..I think we should all throw the masks away…and keep our skin clear..my opinion !

  3. Miss Kitty
    February 17, 2021 / 2:10 am

    I love Paula’s Choice products. I’ve just been looking through your website trying to see if you have ever reviewed one of their retinol formulas? They seem to be much more reasonably priced than some retinol creams out there, and I wondered whether you think they do as good a job. I don’t mind paying more for a good quality product, but I like to make sure it does do a better job than a cheaper alternative first!

    • February 17, 2021 / 9:46 pm

      I have them, the one I tried ages ago was SO strong, I need to go back in and test again. So many products, so few (one) face(s)! Hahaha.

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