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The Neutrogena On the Spot Acne Treatment Review You NEED To Read

The Neutrogena On the Spot Acne Treatment Review You NEED To Read

By Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, Double board-certified dermatologist

Fast-acting treatments with lots of reviews giving them 5 stars might seem like a great way to manage acne when it pops up at inconvenient times (AKA, all the time) but really, they have falsely inflated ratings and they just make acne worse in the long run. You’re basically trying to get rid of a breakout you should have been working to prevent months ago with a gentler, safer treatment option. Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment is no exception.

As we conducted research for this review, we found that using this product was basically a guarantee that you would need to use it forever, because it actively causes more acne. Before subjecting your skin to this popular but ineffective pimple cream, we highly encourage you to read this review to better understand its problems and find the treatments that will actually give you the results you want.

Article Table of Contents

How Does Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment Measure Up?

On-the-Spot Acne Treatment


On-the-Spot Acne Treatment

Number of Bottles


Price (60-Day Supply)



30-day return policy

Basic Kit


Basic Kit

Number of Bottles


Price (60-Day Supply)



30-days on unopened bottles + 1-year performance guarantee. Read our Exposed Skin Care review for details.

As we wrote this review, we found that the Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment falls into the same trap that all instant cure treatments fall into: oversimplification. These treatments try to “cure” acne with one main ingredient and say they’re worth 5 stars because they used one good thing, but that just isn’t how acne works. Acne is a multifactorial condition, meaning it has many causes.

In order to get clear skin long-term, you need an acne treatment that addresses the four main causes of acne: inflammation, excess oil production, clogged pores, and acne-causing bacteria.

A lot of skin care items address the bacteria problem with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, but then they don’t address the excess oil, clogged pores, or the inflammation, and as a result, their product ends up making acne worse rather than better. This is exactly the problem with this Neutrogena spot treatment. It really only focuses on killing acne-causing bacteria and it can actually make inflammation and excess oil production worse.

Formula Breakdown

The main active acne-fighting ingredient in this treatment is benzoyl peroxide, which is a very common ingredient used to kill acne-causing bacteria. It works by drawing oxygen into the pores, which kills acne-causing bacteria because they are anaerobic, meaning they cannot survive in the presence of oxygen for long.

One good thing about this acne treatment product is that it contains a sensible concentration of benzoyl peroxide: 2.5%. Some spot treatment products make the mistake of using 5% benzoyl peroxide, or even 10%, because they believe the higher concentration will be more effective in getting rid of acne quickly, but the truth is, 5% benzoyl peroxide products are no more effective than 2.5% benzoyl peroxide products. The only difference is that the 2.5% benzoyl peroxide products are far gentler, which means they don’t cause redness, irritation, and inflammation.

However, just because it contains one effective acne-fighting ingredient, that does not mean it’s worth 5 stars. Acne has many causes, and if you want to get rid of it for good, you need products that address all of those causes, not just one. This is where the Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment fails.

The other ingredients in this formula are largely fillers, meaning this product does not reduce inflammation or excess oil production and it does not unclog the pores. Plus, it also contains laureth-4, an emulsifier and surfactant that is known to clog pores and irritate the skin. Clogged pores quickly become blackheads and whiteheads as oil begins to build up in the clogged pore, and irritated skin leads to inflammation, which can cause even more acne.

In the end, this acne treatment does very little to treat breakouts, and it may actually cause new ones.

All About Neutrogena: Returns, BBB Accreditation, and More

When you buy an acne treatment product, you aren’t just investing in the product itself, you’re also investing in the company itself. Is the company accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB)? Does they offer a quality return policy or product guarantee? How easy is it to get into contact with their customer service, and do they actually help you with any problems, should they arise?

All of these questions are essential, in case the product doesn’t work the way it says it does.

With Neutrogena, there are some pros and some cons to its company structure. Because Neutrogena is such a large company, their items are available in a variety of retail stores. Although this is convenient, it also means that those items are subject to the retailer’s return policy, not Neutrogena’s. This may mean you get stuck with a product that you paid for but doesn’t work, because Neutrogena doesn’t take responsibility for their products once they’re on another company’s shelves.

If you do buy a product from Neutrogena directly, they offer a 30-day return policy, but this definitely isn’t a great return policy when it comes to acne treatment. Whenever you try a new acne treatment, it may take up to 6 weeks (42 days) to see results, which means Neutrogena should make their return policy at least that long. The best treatments offer a product guarantee lasting up to a year, so you can really see if the product works for your skin.

Finally, another potential issue is Neutrogena’s BBB accreditation. Namely, they aren’t accredited. This is a huge red flag 🚩 when it comes to customer service and reliable product formulas. Neutrogena has been around for 32 years, their parent company is Johnson & Johnson, and they make millions of products every year. If their business practices were in good standing, they would be sure to get accredited by the BBB. The fact that they haven’t means they may have something to hide.

1-Star Reviews: The Most Common Problems With Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment

Before you buy any skin care product, you should take the time to peruse its 1-star reviews. It’s tempting to just double-check the reviews that gave it 5 stars to make sure they’re good, but the unfortunate reality is that reviews with 5 stars are very easy to manipulate, especially for large companies like Neutrogena. You are more likely to find the truth about a product by investigating the 1-star reviews.

That’s why we’ve put together this review with an analysis of 50 1-star reviews of the Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment from Acne.org, Infuenster, and Amazon.

The top three issues people had with this product were burning and dryness, increased breakouts, and a change in formula that has resulted in an unpleasant texture.

Based on the combination of benzoyl peroxide and laureth-4 in this product, we aren’t surprised that many people had an issue with burning and dryness. And trust us, a lot of people had this problem. Out of 50 reviews, 23 mentioned that this product made their skin irritated, dry, or scaly. Although Neutrogena has used a responsible concentration of benzoyl peroxide at just 2.5%, when combined with laureth-4, which is known for irritating the skin, it makes sense that many people would experience irritation in the form of dryness and burning.

Another common problem was actually seeing increased breakouts after using this product, which is definitely not what you want from your acne treatment product. 12 out of the 50 1-star reviews we looked at cited increased breakouts as the reason for their negative opinion of the product.

Irritated, dry, or scaly skin

Increased breakouts

Product was sticky or viscous

The other main issue people seem to have with this product is that it recently went through a formula change that has changed the consistency of the product. 7 out of 50 said the product was sticky or viscous and that they would not buy the product again because it was so unpleasant to use. If you’ve used this product a few years or months ago and it has worked for you, the change in the formula means it may not work well for you now.

Real 1-Star Reviews:

Waste of Money

one star rating 1 out of 5 stars

This is a waste of money. It has the same percent of active ingredient as their much cheaper face washes and it is truly useless. Does not make my blemishes go away faster at all. Better to splurge on an acne cream that actually works.

Dry and Scaly

one star rating 1 out of 5 stars

Made my face extremely dry and scaly for almost a week now, only used it twice, exactly as instructed. Terrible product.

Didn’t Work For Me

one star rating 1 out of 5 stars

Ive tried it as a spot treatment and it do anything but made it hurt and inflamed it more. It also burned my face and it was red and raw for weeks. It dried my face out and gave me a more painful acne when I mostly have tiny clogged pores.

Horrible Product!

one star rating 1 out of 5 stars

This product is horrible ! Do not use it . If there was a way to put NO star I would . This product ledt my skin extremely dry. The spot where I put the cream on my face is now a discolored, read, flakey area. I normally do not have sensitive skin. It’s been about 5 days and the area is only slightly better . I’m thinking of seeing a dermatologist about what to do . Do not recommend this product at all.

Reformulated – without notification on packaging – and NOT AS EFFECTIVE!

one star rating 1 out of 5 stars

I have used this for years with great results. But it was recently reformulated (with no indication on packaging) and it is not nearly as effective and has an odd feel in application. After years of nearly blemish free skin, I am now having breakouts – clearly (no pun intended) need to find another solution.

So disappointing…

How to Take Care of Acne Long-Term

So if the Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment doesn’t work, and it’s one of the mildest, gentlest spot treatments out there, does that mean they’re all bad for your skin? 🤔 The honest answer is yes, they really are.

So what are you supposed to do when a pimple appears out of nowhere the day before a big interview or a big date, or heaven-forbid, before your wedding?

The truth is, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of pimples overnight. You really should have been working to prevent that inconvenient breakout months ago with a consistent acne treatment regimen.

Daily skin care helps treat the breakouts you already have while also preventing new ones from forming so that you have no need for last-minute spot treatment products. One of the best options for long-term acne treatment and prevention is the basic kit available from Exposed Skin Care.

Unlike the Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne treatment, which uses irritating ingredients like laureth-4, all Exposed Skin Care products are incredibly gentle, with no parabens, no synthetic fragrances or colors, and no laureth-4 or other ingredients like it.

What really stands out about Exposed Skin Care is how they include a wide variety of scientific and natural acne-fighting ingredients in their treatments at low, safe concentrations, and how they pair these ingredients with soothing, protective ingredients to keep the skin from becoming irritated. Exposed uses benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and tea tree oil to help fight acne, and pairs them with ingredients like green tea extract, aloe vera, and passionflower extract to help soothe the skin and prevent redness and irritation.

Basically, Exposed realizes that acne is caused by more than just bacteria, and they do everything they can to make sure their products are good for your skin long-term. Using this product will help reduce breakouts and prevent new ones from forming 🛡️.


  1. Does Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment work? No, based on its formula and our review analysis, this product does not work. If you have incredibly non-sensitive skin, it might temporarily reduce your acne and make it seem worth 5 stars, but as many people who left a 1-star review said, if you don’t have the perfect skin type for this product, it could likely make your acne worse. And even if it does work for the short-term, it is not a long-term solution. It tries to fix the acne problem you could have started preventing months ago with a regular skin care routine.
  2. How long does Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment take to work? According to Neutrogena’s website, this product starts working in just one day, but that may not be a good thing. Many users found that instead of getting clear skin in one day, they got red, irritated, even rash-like skin in just one day. The truth is, treating acne takes time. To get clear skin, you need to take a slow, gentle approach that treats your skin as the delicate system it truly is, instead of trying to instantly cure something that just can’t be instantly cured. Rather than trying to get rid of your breakout at the last second, you could have prevented it months ago with slow, gentle treatment.
  3. Which Neutrogena product is best for acne? The problem with Neutrogena is that they include too many ingredients that can irritate the skin, so we don’t really recommend using any of their items if you can help it. However, if you trust the brand and want to stick with it, the best one to try is the Neutrogena Naturals Acne Foaming Scrub. Its formula is the most similar to that of Exposed Skin Care, with lots of natural ingredients and no harmful laureth-4, but it does contain exfoliating beads, which may be irritating for some skin types, so watch out for redness or burning.
  4. How long do you leave acne spot treatment on? According to Neutrogena’s website, you are supposed to apply a thin layer of their spot treatment one to three times per day, leaving it on all day and only washing it off at night when you cleanse your face. Based on what we learned about this product while writing this review, we definitely do not recommend following this regimen if you want a result worthy of 5 stars. Instead, if you are going to use it, we recommend applying the cream for 1-3 hours and then gently rinsing it off with warm water. The longer it stays on your skin, the more likely it is that it will cause irritation.

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