I typically endure an adolescent-grade acne breakout every few months, at a particular time of the month. The onslaught is sudden and inescapable. I have no choice but to wait out the storm with a tube of concealer on hand until it passes. The solitary zit, on the other hand, is much more frequent - and, fortunately - treatable.

When I detect the rumblings of a volcano under the skin's surface, I need to be physically restrained from picking at my face. The urge to squeeze, extract, and pop is simply too great. But the consequences - redness and irritation at best, scarring and enlarged pores at worst- are definitely not worth it. I've found another way to nip a blemish in the bud, no picking involved.

Bremenn Research Labs Emergency Zit Stick is designed for the blemish that crops up at the worst time. It is not for chronic and pervasive acne, which would be better treated by a comprehensive anti-acne program like a cleanser, mask, and toner system - or even medication. Rather, the Emergency Zit Stick is a spot treatment intended to instantly heal and clear the affected area surrounding a blemish. Housed in a travel-friendly orange tube with a spongey applicator, the concentrated solution is a white emollient that becomes transparent once dabbed onto skin.

Most zit zappers work by driving out acne bacteria and drying out their home base, making an inhospitable environment for more growth. Though the Emergency Zit Stick also kicks bacteria to the curb, the formula puts more focus on healing and protecting than drying out the surrounding skin. Its texture is not cakey like many acne treatments, and its effects do not entail a wake of peeling skin. After only one overnight application, I awoke to find that a burgeoning blemish on my chin had been banished. For a more stubborn case on my forehead, I brought the Emergency Zit Stick with me and reapplied a small dot of solution a few times throughout the day. Completely clear skin was right around the corner.

Like most traditional acne treatments, the Emergency Zit Stick makes use of benzoyl peroxide, which blasts away acne-causing bacteria by sloughing off skin cells. Because it naturally dries and peels skin, benzoyl peroxide can be irritating, especially at concentrations higher than 5%. While many anti-acne products contain between 5% and 10% benzoyl peroxide (ProActiv Advanced Blemish Treatment, for example, has 6%), the Emergency Zit Stick sticks to a less drying but still effective 2.5%. The formula offsets its slight drying effect with a nourishing emollient base.

Shea butterglycerinsqualane, and sodium hyaluronate are the formula's moisturizing stand-outs. Lesser emollients include the coconut oil-derived caprylic/capric triglyceride, the fatty alcohol mixture cetearyl alcohol, the silicone caprylyl methicone, the thickening lubricant octyldodecanol, and the synthetic oil polyisobutene. Though it seems counter-intuitive to coat so many creamy or oily components over a blemish, keep in mind that the Emergency Zit Stick is meant to be dabbed on targeted spots. It is not for spreading over the entire face, which might pose a problem for acne-prone skin. I would have expected additional breakouts around my initial blemish if the emollients in the formula clogged my pores. Instead, my highly sensitive skin looked more moisturized and less irritated than it usually does following an anti-acne treatment.

In addition to an antibacterial agent and soothing moisturizers, the formula incorporates other anti-acne benefits. Boerhavia Diffusa, a plant native to India, delivers both antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. A new plant to me, Bakuchiol, is endowed with excellent anti-microbial powers. Often found in mouthwash formulas, this extract can be equally effective on blemishes. Likewise, caprylyl glycol is a humectant that doubles as an anti-microbial. An extract from the prickly pear cactus is a potent antioxidant, which may help lessen irritation inflicted by benzoyl peroxide. Allantoin and bisabolol are known natural anti-irritants. Lastly, there's a small amount of vitamin E, believed to naturally protect against the sun's UV rays. Overall, these ingredients help to reduce the redness and swelling that usually accompany a blemish, while copolymers form a thin layer that smooths the surface and creates an effortless canvas for concealer.

Some caveats: I don't think the Emergency Zit Stick would be the best choice for oily skin, since its aforementioned moisturizing base would not be necessary, nor necessarily welcome. Although Bremenn Research Labs eschews parabens, the main preservatives - phenoxyethanoldisodium EDTAsodium benzoate - are not exactly benign. Additionally, the emulsifier oleth-10 and the pH adjuster sodium hydroxide are potential irritants. Despite these suspect synthetics, the whole is greater than its parts, proving to make emergency blemishes disappear - without a trace - within a couple of days. I have not personally found a zit zapper so compatible with my (dry/sensitive) skin, though around $20 seems rather high for a .12 oz. mixed bag of ingredients.

Active Ingredient: Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5%
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Steareth-2, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Oleth-10, Octyldodecanol, Hydroxyethyl Behenamidopropyl Dimonium Chloride, Caprylyl Methicone, Bakuchiol, Hydrolyzed Opuntia Ficus-Indica Flower Extract, Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract, Allantoin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Dicetyl Phosphate, C18-21 Alkane, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Caprylyl Glycol, Behenyl Alcohol, Xanthan Gum, Glyceryl Acrylate/ Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Squalane, Ethylhexylglycerin, Polysorbate 60, Polyisobutene, Ceteth-10 Phosphate, Disodium EDTA, Bisabolol, PVM/MA Copolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hydroxide, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Benzoate, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891).