No matter how diligently you abide by your daily skin care regimen or lead a healthy lifestyle, we still get that unwelcome surprise courtesy of a pimple that seems to come out of nowhere. Perhaps you’ve been clocking in less sleep than usual, facing more stress or experiencing a reaction from that new serum—but whatever the cause, waking up to find a sizable zit is enough to send anyone into panic mode. So how do you deal with it?
Important Dos and Don’ts
Most teens struggle with acne during puberty, but the truth of the matter is, breakouts spare no one and can persist well into adulthood. And with causes ranging from hormones and pollution to the general stress of adulting, it’s no surprise that you still get the occasional zit long after you’ve emerged from that awkward teenage phase. Luckily, there’s a quick fix for almost anything in this day and age—that is, if you know how to weed out unproven hacks from what actually works.
Below are some expert tips and important dos and don’ts on how to get rid of pimples and breakout-related blemishes, fast:
DO Keep Your Cool. “First of all, calm down. Stress makes pimples worse!” says board-certified dermatologist Anna Guanche, founder and director of Bella Skin Institute. Instead, she suggests cooling the area off with a cold compress or ice cube and spot-treating with a vasoconstrictor to take away some of the redness and throbbing.
DON’T Give In to Temptation. “When you ‘pop’ a zit, you are rupturing the lining of the oil gland, where the bacteria is contained and allowing it to spread into the surrounding tissues,” says Dr. Guanche. “You are also abrading or rubbing off the surface of the skin, which will then require a longer healing process,” she explains. And if that’s not enough to make you resist the urge to pick at your pimple, Dr. Guanche adds that popping a zit can also increase the risk of marks and scarring.
DO Go for a Warm Soak. Here’s more proof that there’s nothing a warm shower or bath can’t fix: “In the case of a pustule, it’s very difficult to go around with a pus-bump on your face. I recommend taking a long, steamy shower and then gently unroofing the white portion without squeezing the base,” suggests Dr. Guanche.
DO Check In With Your Dermatologist. When a pimple is too big or causing you physical discomfort, a quick visit to your dermatologist is in order, says Rhonda Klein, board-certified dermatologist in Connecticut. If possible, “pop over to your dermatologist for a steroid injection if a pimple is deep and cystic. This helps to shrink it down within one to two days,” she adds.
DO Spot-Treat. One of the most effective ways to get rid of pimples and other blemishes fast is to use a spot treatment that will dry out the affected area and keep inflammation down. You can also reach for acne-clearing masks, peels and even skin care devices to help banish redness and restore your clear skin.
DON’T Fixate. This may be easier said than done since we all know how pimples can make us incredibly self-conscious, but Dr. Klein says over-scrubbing and obsessing can only make things worse. While exfoliation is key in preventing clogged pores that can lead to acne, Dr. Klein also suggests opting for a “low-carb, low-sugar diet and probiotics to help decrease the chances of breakouts.”
What Acne-Fighting Ingredients to Look For
When choosing the best spot treatment for acne, both Dr. Klein and Dr. Guanche suggest looking out for tried-and-tested anti-acne ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Fast-acting and accessible, benzoyl peroxide is one of the most popular go-to solutions against acne and works by killing off the acne-causing bacteria, reducing redness and inflammation. That being said, salicylic acid is an exfoliant that dissolves surface impurities, clears pores and has anti-inflammatory properties to help minimize swelling and irritation. Other proven acne-fighting ingredients include niacinamide or vitamin B3 and natural ingredients like tea tree, witch hazel and willow bark.
Looking for the best products that will help restore your clear skin? Here are our top picks.