This Week I Love …


… the Yes to Tomatoes Acne Spot Stick.

I’ve written a bit about my struggles with adult acne, and in those writings I’ve outlined the complex routines and long lists of products I employ to keep my skin relatively clear. I’d all but given up on over-the-counter acne remedies when I was given this little guy in a gift bag from a Yes To event and figured I’d give it a whirl. The active ingredients are tomato-derived salicylic acid and tea tree oil, both of which I’ve tried in the past. And in the past they’d dried out my skin, made it sore and itchy, and failed to help my acne in either the short or the long term.

But for whatever reason, this particular cocktail of ingredients – which also includes ginger root, bisabolol, witch hazel, and grapefruit juice – works much better. As the company points out, the roller ball format allows you to target and treat breakouts without using your hands to apply the formula, which reduces added dirt and bacteria. But I’m still amazed to find that ingredients that failed me before and working for me now.

I will say that if I apply it to the more sensitive regions of my face, it just does the drying-peeling thing. Too strong for the areas along my nose, my upper lip, and the front of my chin. But on my forehead, along my jawline, and on my neck? It works better than anything I’ve ever tried. Including the breathtakingly expensive dermatologist-prescribed zit cream that I can no longer afford to refill. And those neck zits are the WORST. They generally hang around for two or more months before finally fading completely. Treated with the Spot Stick, they are gone within three to five days. I’m still a little thunderstruck.

It’s definitely strong stuff, so proceed with caution. But if you’re looking for a powerful remedy to supplement your current acne-fighting practices, this Spot Stick might be worth a try.

Anyone else given it a go? Do salicylic acid or tea tree oil work for you in isolation? Other over-the-counter acne remedies that you love?

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25 Responses to “This Week I Love …”

  1. Rachel Q

    You seem to have your ear to the ground on acne products and I really appreciate your honesty about the topic. I have had acne issues for the last decade or so (I am now 22) and been on a variety of drugs to treat it. I’m finally on one that works (or maybe I’m also just growing out of acne a bit), but whenever I read skincare articles, I’m always curious about the over the counter products they mention. If you have experience with this, how do you feel about using over the counter creams, lotions, etc. in combination with medically-prescribed pills?

    • Sally

      Thanks, Rachel – acne is something so many of us deal with, and I think it’s important to discuss it openly! My experience tells me that every person’s acne is unique, so what works for me may or may not work for you. This product is one of the very few OTC products that has ever worked for me, but I do use it in conjunction with hormonal birth control, which I take both for birth control and to keep my cystic acne in check. In your case, I’d definitely say to talk with your doc or dermatologist – if you’re taking a prescription specific to acne, adding OTC products to the mix without a professional opinion could yield mixed results. Sorry I can’t be more definite! When it comes to all things medical, I always think it’s best to talk with your own docs since they know your specific history.

  2. Carol

    I’ve been using Boots Expert Anti-Blemish Serum for 2 weeks now and find it has helped quite a bit, even lessening the big cysts I’ve had on my cheek and nose for several years. It doesn’t have salicylic acid or tea tree oil, though – it’s made with willow bark extract. I think this will be my go-to treatment for a while.

      • Carol

        Ruth – thanks. I realized as I was typing my comment that of course willow bark has salicylic acid…that’s where we get aspirin from! Just didn’t have time to come back and edit.

  3. Caroline

    Straight tea tree oil, applied with a cotton swab directly to a zit, does seem to help some for me. Salicylic acid never did anything but make my skin very angry, sore, and stinging.

    These days I mostly stick to very gentle, fragrance-free, cetyl-alcohol based washes, apply benzoyl peroxide cream generously, then use fragrance-free, sensitive skin moisturizer. It doesn’t prevent everything, especially if I’m stressed. But it helps some. Benzoyl peroxide cream directly on big cystic zits seems to shorten their stay a little bit, too.

    And my body has decided in the past few years that stress will reliably create, not only large cystic zits on my face, jaw, and neck, but also a crop of cold sores on my cheek. Not just one on my lip — several on my cheek. I know it’s a very different thing from acne, but still, argh. (L-lysine supplements seem to help with the cold sores.)

  4. Tragic Sandwich

    I’m going to have to give this a try. I’ve been pretty happy with Origins Spot Remover, but it’s good to have more than one option!

  5. Mary

    Oh, I hear you so much on the adult acne. I have found that the only thing that has worked for me is a routine that includes regular exfoliation, not allowing my face to get too oily, reducing stress, keeping my hands away from my face and frequently changing linens.

    I change pillowcases every day, and I am not quite as diligent about towels/washcloths, but I am careful to make sure the towels for my face only come near my face.

    The basics of my routine are frequent face washing with a cleanser that won’t strip my skin–despite conventional wisdom, my skin doesn’t ever reduce its oil production with less frequent washing and I just end up with clogged pores–moisturizers with anti-inflammatory properties, good quality acne treatments (I use Kate Sommerville and dermalogica–drugstore brands have stopped working for me), oil absorbing masks twice a week, and exfoliators twice a week.

  6. Rachel

    I also struggle with adult acne – not full blown, just consistent break-outs – and I found something that worked for me about one year ago. A few mornings a week, I wash my face with honey. I just massage it on and then rinse it off 5-20 minutes later, depending on how much time I have. I also apply Thayers Rose Water Alcohol Free Witch Hazel at night and during the mornings if I’m not doing the honey wash. I only wash my face with a cleanser if I need to remove makeup, in which case I use Cetaphil or the oil cleansing method. (I don’t wear makeup everyday anymore because my skin has improved so much – very clear and fewer blackheads than previously). Everyone’s skin is different, but this has worked so well for me and I recommend pure honey and rosewater witch hazel for anyone who wants to try something new. (When I use the oil cleansing method, I use 50% castor oil, 50% jojoba, and a couple drops of tea tree oil.)

  7. e

    The only thing that has worked for me with acne is to TRY basically EVERY thing I ever heard or read someone else mention. From there I had some disasters, some ineffective things, and a handful of mix-and-match miracle products/routines that basically are so custom to me that I’ve never found any other person to mention them in my same particular combination. I would just so much really encourage anyone to keep trying until they find what works for their skin, try even things that “sound” unlikely (for me, for example, it sounded impossibly unlikely at one time that I should ever stop gently exfoliating my face). There are SO many different things interacting to cause acne, from hormones, dietary sensitivities, type of bacteria that live on our individual skin, personal skin allergies or intolerances (aloe vera and honey are two of mine I had to discover), and so on.

  8. Veronica

    My acne was minimal but a little over a year ago my body went haywire on me. I got deep ones that I usually only got when I was pregnant, which freaked me out because I should not have been, and luckily I wasn’t. I was on MK skincare and it worked fine until then, now I’m on RodenFields unblemish which works well, it helps them go away faster, but I still get some of the deep ones. I was on antibiotics for a while but it was irritating the hooha so I stopped those but I will probably have to resume them. Salicylic acid has been in everything I’ve tried and it has worked, what helps me too is to have a good moisturizer to help keep my face well moisturized. I really like the MK moisturizing gel for extra moisturization on my face.

  9. jamie

    I struggled with acne over the years, and now that I’m almost 30, it seems to have finally calmed down. But hormones and diet definitely trigger outbreaks. I went vegetarian for December, and my skin was completely clear and I had no issues. Fast forward through the holidays and back to normal eating with all the food, sweets, alcohol, etc, my skin is a mess, I’ve not seen it so bad in many many years. So I think I figured out what works for me, no matter what I put on topically, it seems to be an internal thing. Just have to get my diet balanced again.

  10. Natalie

    I can’t use salicylic acid or tea tree oil as my incredibly sensitive skin reacts badly to both.

    Neck spots are the worst! It could be the result of a Vitamin B5 imbalance – try eating sunflower seeds to gain some balance back, and make sure your diet is rich in B5.

    Also, if you haven’t already, try giving up dairy. It is the only way I’ve managed to get on top of my acne.

  11. Sara

    I also deal with adult acne. I’ve been doing a new routine for a couple of months and am seeing some improvement.

    Morning: splash with water, Stridex red box wipe on my chin (trouble spot), Olay moisturizer/sunscreen

    Night: Cleanse with straight almond oil. Pour about small amount into my hands and massage it into my face for a minute or two. Rinse off using cotton pads or washcloth. Wash with CeraVe cleanser. Stridex again, then Olay Night moisturizer 20 minutes later.

    If my acne isn’t too bad, I use the Yes to Tomatoes acne spot treatment. Once a week I do the Yes to Tomatoes mask. It leaves my face super soft.

  12. jen

    Adult acne, the worst! I feel for you – i think I have skin made of steel as it can withstand some harsh stuff. I haven’t tried tea tree oil (the smell!), but I’ve read a study that showed it was just as effective as benzoyl peroxide at the higher percentages, which is awesome! 2% salicylic acid, followed with 5% benzoyl peroxide has worked wonders and has worked so much better than my adult visits to the dermatologist. (wah-wahhhh – all that money and no results) The mix you’re describing sounds similar. My regular routine is too harsh when I go on vacation – it sounds like this might be the perfect replacement??

  13. dana


    Desitin (yes the diaper rash product) and toothpaste both work quickly.

    Desitin is a bit milder. Put it on at night, the blemish is noticeably improved by daybreak, pretty much gone in 36 hours.


    • LinB

      Don’t know if this product is available in other regions, but one of the best skin ointments I’ve ever used is marketed for diaper rash: Flander’s Buttocks Ointment. It is a light-textured cream — almost seems whipped — with a pleasant, slightly herbal scent. The color is light brown in the jar, but the ointment is absorbed quickly into the skin, with no discoloration. I used it for my daughter when she was still in diapers; and was so pleased with it that I applied it to my own hands and face to good effect. It comes in a little plastic jar, like cold cream. A little lasts a long time. Which is good, because sometimes it can be hard to locate on the store shelves. I believe they maintain a Facebook page, where you’ll find the most up-to-date info on this excellent product.

  14. Shaye

    Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide never worked for me either – like you, they just dried out my skin but made the acne worse. The only thing I’ve found that does seem to work are sulfur-based products, which tend to be found in the pricier OTC treatments. I use the one from Murad, which is like $18, but I need so little that it does last me a long time. I’ve also seen it online for less, and I guess a few drugstore brands are starting to catch on to sulfur. This stuff even helped with prednisone acne, which was THE WORST.

  15. Sarah

    I feel your pain. I have skin that is both oily and sensitive. In the winter it tends to get more dry and angry. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid have both been only moderately effective. Salicylic acid, especially, makes my skin peel like a lizard. Lately, I have been putting just plain old antibiotic ointment on pimples, and that has been surprisingly effective. I think it may have some kind of sulphur product in it as the active ingredient. I also use a Clarisonic, which has helped a lot, but I’ve found that I had to cut way back on that in the winter. My skin was just too dry. It would also help if I could resist the urge to pick….ugh. Isn’t that a sickness or something?

  16. Maria

    I may have missed the boat on this, but just in case it may help someone… The combination of washing with black ghana soap and then swabbing with Dickinson’s witch hazel have worked wonders for me. It is true that I have a mild case of stress related acne/redness, but this is a cheap and easy alternative with mild products that are unlikely to worsen any condition. Bon chance!

  17. Sue

    I had the best luck with natural products – tea tree oil, first encountered in burts bees blemish stick, and then with fresh farmacy soap by lush – also use that as a spot treatment.

    Worked much better than anything else and I tried them all.

  18. Sue

    Oh, someone mentioned sulfur above – that also works. I currently have rosacea (boo) and I find natural things such as sulfur and tea tree oil (mixed with a carrier oil) work for that as well. Better than prescribed stuff.

  19. Sue

    For the woman above – go into the “ethnic” section of your drugstore – there is a spanish brand sulfur face mask, and prosacea at about $8 is great too.

  20. ReaderRita

    I swear by Mario Badescu Drying Lotion- the pepto bismol-pink stuff. You don’t shake it, you dip through the top clear layer with a Q-Tip and precisely apply the pink layer to the zit ONLY. I have combination, aging, super-sensitive skin (can’t even use Neutrogena soap- waaaay too harsh), and even though there is camphor in this, it doesn’t seem to bother me. And it clears up the zit in two nights, max. (Since it’s bright pink, I use it only when I’m going to be asleep. I cover my pillow with a towel, so it doesn’t end up with pink dots…)

    And I agree with others about the sulfur- smells awful, works great. (I use Murad-for daytime)