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I am an anxious person, and despite my best efforts to mitigate stress, I routinely end up with acne across my forehead—almost certainly from that anxiety and the subsequent hormonal fluctuations. (That, and dairy. One slice of pizza and it’s Zit City across my T-zone.) So, whenever I find a brand whose acne products are capital-g Great, I stock up. And the brand I’m appreciating most of all these days is Murad.
I’ve centered four Murad products in my regimen lately, for all of the acne I am prone to experience: blackheads, deep-seated inflammatory acne (from the stress), beard acne, post-workout sweat-induced acne, and the dairy flareups.
Like the best brands out there, Murad has a bunch of products for each skin need and skin type (from dry to oily to acne-prone to sensitive). But among their acne control offerings, I’ve been most smitten with the following ones lately—used whenever I have a flare-up, or anticipate one, or just when I’m doing my routine defense against the dark marks.
FOR EVERYDAY BALANCE
Murad Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser
Since I’m oily, I rely on this cleanser as a daily gel-based staple with a generous dose of 1.5 percent salicylic acid for everyday sebum control. You can’t pin your entire acne regimen on a cleanser, but this one manages to keep my skin looking and feeling supple even as it flushes out excess grime. Anyone with dry skin should instead use the similarly functioning cream cleanser with 0.5 percent salicylic acid—this one might be too drying for already parched skin. (Normal and combination types can choose one or the other.)
FOR WEEKLY DETOXES
Murad Rapid Relief Acne Sulfur Mask
This mask launched last year and has already become a staple in my regimen: It’s chock full of sulfur (at a relatively steep 5 percent concentration), and works as a once-a-week mask spread over the entire face, or as a spot treatment on blackheads and singular pimples. While the cleanser above is great for oil balance, this one feels like the true acne preventer. It leaves my skin more refreshed than other face masks (maybe that’s the soothing and tingling eucalyptus oil in the recipe), though it’s probably best reserved for acne-prone individuals. If you’re just looking to suck up excess oil, you can stick with a clay or charcoal mask.
FOR DAYTIME DECOMPRESSION
Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment
On days when I need to deal with a patch of blackheads on my nose, I reach for this spot treatment. It’s got 2 percent salicylic acid to unclog pores and bust through whiteheads and blackheads. I find it slightly less aggressive than the next treatment on this list—which can be good or bad, depending on how public-facing you are that day. (This is also why I’m grateful to have both products in my arsenal—one gentle treatment for public days, one aggressive option for home.) This clear gel soaks quickly into the skin, and spread easily across blemish patches. It spits out a sliver of product with each squeeze, and is perfect to tote in your bag or pocket.
Murad Deep Relief Acne Treatment
This is the true “SOS” product of the roster. If a stress pimple erupts, or I feel one building up inside the skin—or if for some reason I’ve got a clogged beard hair follicle—then I douse it with Rapid Relief, which not only pumps a generous 2 percent dose of salicylic acid into the pore, but also traps in in there with a little polymer film, to maximize its potency and penetration. This treatment has spared me a dozen or more long-term blemishes (you know the type—the ones that leave behind a dark spot for months after the fact). I have more success with this during daytime wear—or if I apply it a couple hours before bed; I find the whole polymer layer doesn’t stay as well if it’s pressed into a pillow. I’ll swap in a pimple patch if I need an overnight miracle. I find that this one reddens my skin a little more than the spot treatment, so I think it’s best reserved for at-home use, when you won’t be out in public for a few hours or until the next day. (The redness never lingers more than an hour or so, and never hurts, either. It’s just visibly impacted by the effective formula.)
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