Beauty + The Empties

The Empties: A Series About Products I Re-Purchase

The mark of a good product is whether you buy it and like it.  But a great product is one that you buy again, and again, and again.  Maybe you even put it on auto-ship because you cannot live without it.  The Empties is a column about those products.

Today’s topic?  Acne quick fixes.

It’s no secret that even at 40-1/2, I still have acne.  (The best part of pregnancy was that my skin mostly cleared up.)  And as I confront the rigors of working the Legislative session — less sleep, full-face makeup, lots of salt and sugar — my acne has flared.  My right cheek looks like a slow moving brush fire of clogged pores and dark marks.  But last week, I finally caved and bought two of my favorite products to get me out of this jam.

Dr. Jart Clearing Solution Sheet Mask // When I’m at war with my skin, this $9 sheet mask is the first weapon in my arsenal.  For maximum results, I exfoliate with a Buf-Puf.  Removing the dry skin and opening up the pores helps the serum in the mask penetrate more deeply.  Then, I lay the mask on my skin for 20-30 minutes, as I watch TV and sip a water, all while praying that Sloane stays asleep for just a little while longer.  Once the mask is removed, I massage the remaining serum into my skin and head to bed.

Without fail, I wake up the next morning looking less red, less inflamed, and with less acne than before.  Sadly, the mask doesn’t work as well as a preventative.  But if the breakout has already begun, 1-2 applications will kick it to the curb in days.

Dr. Jart makes other sheet masks for different skin concerns.  I keep a stash of Wrinkless sheet masks for special occasions when I want my forehead to look smooth and youthful.  (I also cut up the leftovers and lay them on my hands and wrists.)  And when my skin is red and sensitive, I turn to their Cicapair Repairing Mask.

ZitSticka Hydro-Colloid and Micro-Dart Patches // Sometimes, the blemish that’s annoying me is just beneath the surface.  When that happens, I use The Killa Micro-Dart Patches.  They have spiny little teeth that help them reach below the surface to draw out the gunk that’s clogging the pore.  These patches are pricey, so I buy the largest size, which reduces the cost from $4 per patch in the four-pack to $3 per patch.

For regular blemishes, I don’t buy the small hydrocolloid dots.  Instead, I buy Zitsticka’s Face Map Patches and cut to fit.  This a great solution for when one large blemish begets smaller ones nearby.  Usually 1-3 nights is all it takes to draw the clog out of the pore and open things back up.  They also work on ingrown hairs.

You can apply makeup over the dot patches.  It adheres fairly well, but I usually just wear them at night, so this isn’t something I do regularly.

How many times have I bought the Dr. Jart sheet mask or the ZitSticka patches?  I have them both on auto-ship.  If there is a more ringing endorsement, I don’t know what it would be.

{this post contains affiliate links that may generate commission for the author}



  1. N. says:

    Have you ever considered seeing a dermatologist? I’m in my 30s, went through a round of Accutane, and STILL need a prescription to manage my skin. Once I found a derm I love, it was a gamechanger!

    April 5, 2023/Reply
    • Jenn S. says:

      On the derm front, I just gave Nurx a shot to get a retinoid to manage my acne (I’m also in my 30s). I got tired of spending a boatload of money on navigating OTC topicals that aren’t regulated the way Rx products are.

      It is way too early in the process for me to give a comprehensive evaluation, but I can say the sign-up/eval/Rx/ship process was pretty easy – so now I’m doing a topical 0.025% tretinoin thing with the option to increase to 0.05% if my skin is happy with the situation.

      April 5, 2023/Reply
      • e says:

        Thank you for posting this – Nurx ads have been targeting me and I’m really curious (specifically in the skincare / fine line treatments). Abra, I’d love if you’d consider trying it and doing a review!

        April 5, 2023/Reply
    • Stella says:

      In my teens/20s/30s, I went on Accutane for 4 rounds. My cystic acne (which got worse with each round) would clear up and stay clear for about two years, but eventually the cycle would start again.

      I eventually was prescribed Azelex (azelaic acid) and it did a much better job of clearing my acne and keeping my skin clear and is far less expensive and toxic than Accutane.

      If you haven’t tried prescription-strength azelaic acid, it may be worth a shot.

      April 5, 2023/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I’ve seen a dozen. Nothing helps. We’ve tried all kinds of hormone treatments, medications, all of it. I won’t do accutane due to the side effects. I’ll have acne til I go through menopause, it’s life.

      April 6, 2023/Reply
  2. S.M. says:


    I hope you’re doing well! Thank you for this post!

    Did you happen to post what your skincare routine was when you were pregnant? I’m sorry, I tried looking but I must have missed it. If you didn’t, would you be willing to share? I’m very early in my pregnancy and trying to research what is safe or not, and feel like there is so much conflicting information out there!

    Thank you for everything you do!

    April 5, 2023/Reply
  3. Alex says:

    I haven’t thought about the existence of the Buf-Puf in years! Thanks for surfacing some memories!

    April 5, 2023/Reply
  4. Ana says:

    Really like the series. Thank you!

    April 7, 2023/Reply