Our guide to the blemish-busting heroes of the skincare world

This article is sponsored by Kiehl’s

We’d all love to have a great skin day, every day – but the truth is, many of us experience blemishes at least some of the time. And with so many products out there promising to fight the breakouts, it can be hard to know which ones to add to your skincare routine and which ones to leave on the shelf.

So, we’ve put together a guide to the best blemish-busting ingredients to look out for (and the ingredients to avoid!) along with our pick of blemish-solution products to try from Kiehl’s.

What is blemish-prone skin?

Blemishes can happen to anyone of any age and any skin type (yes, even dry skin). Whilst some people might only get occasional breakouts, those with blemish-prone skin will experience breakouts more regularly, and often have an oilier skin type.

What causes blemishes?

Simply put, blemishes occur when excess sebum (oil) mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria, causing pores to become blocked, resulting in a breakout.Blemishes most often happen on the face, back, chest and scalp which is where we have the most pores. They can sometimes leave behind marks or dark spots of discolouration known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Blemishes can be triggered by a range of things such as:

• Hormonal changes


• The environment, such as humidity or cold and dry weather

• Genetics

How to treat blemish-prone skin?

The good news is, blemishes can be managed by sticking to a good skincare routine with the right ingredients and the right products (more on that later).

It’s important to note that having blemish-prone skin is different to having acne, which is a medical condition and should be treated with the advice of a medical professional.

Just like with blemishes, acne can show up on your face and body, in places such as your back, but will usually be more persistent, painful, deep or take a longer time to heal than regular blemishes. If you’re experiencing an excessive amount of blemishes and think it might be acne, speak to your GP for further advice.

Alternatively, you could speak to your local Boots pharmacist for advice on over-the-counter acne treatments or seek help through our Boots Online Doctor Acne Treatment service for access to treatment, if suitable for you.*

What are the best ingredients for blemish-prone skin?

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid helps to exfoliate and shed dead cells from the skin’s surface. It’s a beloved ingredient in blemish-busting products, known for helping to keep breakouts under control and fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation marks. The results? Smoother, brighter-looking skin, clearer pores and fewer breakouts over time.

Shop our range of salicylic acid skincare.


Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, delivers a range of benefits to blemish-prone skin. This multi-tasking marvel helps to reduce imperfections, clear pores and minimise shine, oil and redness. Oh – and it also helps to improve the skin’s natural production of strengthening ceramides, too.

Shop our range of niacinamide skincare.


Also known as vitamin A, retinol is a total powerhouse at exfoliating dead skin cells and encouraging skin cell renewal, to reveal clearer and more radiant-looking skin. It’s a must-have for any blemish-fighting routine as when your skin cells are properly exfoliated, there’s less chance of them getting trapped in your pores and mixing with sebum.

Shop our range of retinol

Hyaluronic acid

Even if your skin is oily, it still needs a healthy dose of hydration to help protect your skin barrier and keep your complexion feeling plump and supple. Hyaluronic acid is a great option to help draw moisture in to the skin while remaining non-comedogenic, which means it doesn’t block pores. You can find it in dedicated serums or as a key ingredient in many moisturisers.

Shop our range of hyaluronic acid skincare.

What should I avoid for blemish-prone skin?

Not all ingredients work in harmony with blemish-prone skin, so it’s best to avoid the following in your skincare routine…

Heavy moisturisers

Thick and heavy moisturisers often sit on top of the skin which is a sure-fire way to trap bacteria and block pores. Instead, choose lightweight moisturisers that are labelled as non-comedogenic. If you have particularly oily skin, you might find it helpful to use a mattifying moisture to help reduce the look of shine on your face.

There are plenty of options in our range of moisturisers for blemish-prone skin.

Alcohol-based products

Alcohol dries out skin and strips it of its essential oils, which means your skin will only try to compensate by producing more sebum, which could lead to further breakouts. It’s best to avoid alcohol in skincare products, so make sure to check the ingredients in your toners, cleansers and moisturisers where it’s sometimes found.

Harsh scrubs

Although exfoliating your skin is a great way to remove dead skin cells, harsh physical scrubs can actually damage your skin barrier, meaning bacteria can get in more easily. Instead, opt for liquid-based exfoliants like salicylic acidor glycolic acid which both exfoliate in a gentler way.

How else can i manage blemish-prone skin?

Skin likes consistency. So, once you’ve found your ideal blemish-busting routine, make sure to stick to it every day. All skincare routines should start with a good cleanser , moisturiser and an SPF during the daytime to help protect from the harmful rays of the sun. You might also want to add a serum before your moisturiser to help with any specific skin concerns.

It can also be helpful to use a mask for blemish-prone skin every one-to-two weeks. Look for masks containing ingredients such as clay, charcoal or tea tree which help get rid of impurities within the skin and control excess oil.

It's also a great idea to have some targeted solutions on hand to help tackle breakouts, like those from Kiehl’s Truly Targeted Range. They’re packed with active skincare ingredients, including salicylic acid and niacinamide, to help clear blemish-prone skin, correct marks and discolouration and help prevent future outbreaks.

Want to know more? Let’s take a look at why they’re the perfect way to show stressed skin some love and why you should make these blemish-busting heroes part of your regular routine.

Try: Kiehl’s Truly Targeted Blemish Solution

• Size: 15ml

Got a blemish that’s calling out for some extra TLC, but don’t want to stick on a physical patch? We hear you. This product is the perfect solution for days when you want to spot treat while still rocking your favourite skincare and make-up combo.

This invisible liquid blemish patch is formulated with 2% salicylic acid to give visible results on blemishes and post-blemish marks. The innovative formula is easy to apply, dries down matte in just 60 seconds, and layers well under make-up and SPF.

Simply apply one drop to your fingertip, dab onto the required area and spread into a thin even layer.

Try: Kiehl’s Expertly Clear Blemish-Treating & Preventing Lotion

• Size: 60ml

Everyday hydration is crucial for all skin types, but if you’re prone to excess oil, it’s important to choose a product carefully. This all-over daily lotion is specially formulated to clear blemishes, fade post-inflammatory pigmentation marks, and prevent new blemishes, all without over-drying your skin.

The formula is full of powerful ingredients including 1.2% salicylic acid, 2% niacinamide, postbiotic lactobacillus ferment and glycerin. It helps to improve skin clarity, reinforce the skin’s barrier and hydrate the skin.

Who are Kiehl’s blemish products suitable for?

Kiehl’s Truly Targeted Blemish Solution and Expertly Clear Blemish-Treating & Preventing Lotion are ideal for anyone with oily, blemish-prone skin. They’re also a great choice for those that experience occasional breakouts as a result of hormonal shifts or stress.

How do Kiehl’s blemish products differ from other blemish treatments?

Traditional oily skin treatments include cleansers, masks and physical patches – and these all have their place in a good skincare routine. But when your skin needs an extra helping hand, a more targeted solution can be just the ticket.

So, there you have it! Two innovative ways to treat blemish-prone skin and take the first step towards a clearer complexion. Want to add to your skincare collection? Shop the full range of Kiehl’s skincare and complete your routine today.