If you have acne, chances are someone — or many people — has recommended Mario Badescu Drying Lotion to you at some point. Even before I got my hands on the small pink vial to test out, I could picture it perfectly, because it’s been popping up in my periphery for years: in the skin-care section of Urban Outfitters, on lists of “acne treatments to try,” in an aunt’s medicine cabinet. Drying Lotion was one of the original formulas launched by aesthetician Mario Badescu all the way back in 1967. Over 50 years later, this spot treatment is still a fan-favorite, loved by teens breaking out for the first time to, I’ll be honest, an almost-30-year-old beauty editor who isn’t exactly known for being patient with her skin.
The $17 bottle is formulated with calamine, calamine (an astringent that also reduces redness); zinc (astringent); salicylic acid (exfoliant that fights acne); and sulfur (disinfectant). It starts as a liquid with pink sediment at the bottom of the bottle, then forms a watery paste when you apply it. There’s something pleasantly old school about the process and the product. It feels and looks like applying toothpaste on your chin, and smells slightly acidic. This may not be one you’ll want to apply in front of overnight guests you’re trying to impress, but in the morning, you’ll wake up to noticeably smaller breakouts.
Each evening, after I cleansed and patted in serum but before layering on my night cream, I applied a hearty pink dot to any existing breakouts. The spot treatment worked best for me on existing whiteheads, which it dried out and shrunk. Users may have less luck with those painful, under-the-skin cysts, which often require more dermatologic intervention.
I’m not proud of this, but when I have a breakout, often the first thing I do in the morning is feel for it on my face. Is it still there? Did it pop? Did it shrink? are pretty much the first questions I ask before getting out of bed. Each time I used it this spot treatment, I experienced Ripley’s Believe It Or Not level surprise when I realized just how shrunken my breakouts had become. I finally understand why this little pink bottle seems to be everywhere — because everyone should have a bottle on hand, just in case.