Waking up to a brand new breakout is probably one of the most frustrating things ever. You start to feel anxious and think to yourself “I need to get rid of these pimples fast!”.
Acne always manages to show up at the least convenient time, like right before an important meeting or your best friend’s wedding. You don’t have the time or patience to wait around for it to clear up on its own, so you start thinking about all the ways you can make it go away immediately.
Whether you’re tempted to pick at it (big no-no – we’ll talk more about that later) or search high and low for a powerful spot treatment, it’s only human to want to banish acne as quickly as possible. If you need a strategy to make an acne flare-up calm down right away, we have what you’re looking for. We talked to top dermatologists to find out the best way to get rid of acne when you’re in a hurry. Read on for the Dos & Don’ts of calming inflammation and healing irritated skin fast.
Do ice the pimple.
If you have a red and inflamed pimple, Marino says the best thing to do is put some ice on it. “Applying ice directly to the blemish will help to decrease inflammation, reducing the size and visibility of the spot,” says Marino. Wrap an ice cube in a thin cloth and set it on the offending spot for three to four minutes, or use an ice roller or cooling globes for easy chilling. Repeat throughout the day to relieve pain and temporarily reduce swelling.
Don’t pick your face.
If you’re an adult with acne, chances are you’ve already been told this once or twice (or more). But according to Josh Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, picking at your pimples tends to cause more harm than good. It can cause what Dr. Zeichner terms “trauma” to your skin, which in turn leads to inflammation, infection, and potentially a scar. In other words: Not only will it not get rid of spots fast, it will take them twice as long to disappear.
Applying an acne patch is an effective way to stop yourself from picking at your skin. The patch will form a physical barrier to prevent you from absent-mindedly fiddling with your skin, and it will also help to psychologically remind you that you are taking care of the problem. Some styles of acne patches are nearly invisible when they are on, so you can even wear them during the day. Or you can apply a patch before going to bed, and wake up with a dramatically diminished zit.
Do use an acne-fighting cleanser.
Formulated with salicylic acid, this acne-fighting face wash is a go-to product for keeping pores clear, removing excess oil and dead cells from the surface of the skin. Dr. Zeichner explains that beta hydroxy acids are beneficial for combatting breakouts, making this face wash an ideal choice for those with acne-prone skin.
Do use spot treatment.
For the reasons stated above, spot treatments that contain salicylic acid are ideal for treating acne breakouts while simultaneously not irritating the surrounding skin. Two examples of successful spot treatments that contain 2% salicylic acid are Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment and Bliss Clear Genius Acne Spot Treatment.
Don’t overdry the affected area, though.
Use caution when applying any chemical exfoliant to your skin – more isn’t always better. “People tend to think that if a little bit of salicylic or glycolic acid is good, then using more of it will be even better,” says NYC dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD. “But this can lead to irritation of the skin, making it scaly, flaky, and red.” To prevent irritation, try using a lower concentration of the active ingredient once you’ve already broken out. Dr. Zeichner recommends checking your label for a concentration of benzoyl peroxide around 2.5%. One product that really works: Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment.
Do tone down on toner.
If you have a disturbance in your skin, any astringent can be disruptive and cause inflammation. Unless you have very oily skin, it’s best to skip the zit itself when you’re doing this step in your skin care routine. A gentle toner like Avene’s Eau Thermale is your safest bet.
Do use makeup products with salicylic acid.
If you have a breakout, you may be tempted to just cover it up with makeup. But that can actually make things worse. Dr. Zeichner recommends using an acne-fighting primer instead. “Some makeups can actually block pores and make breakouts worse,” he explains. “An acne-preventing primer is an important step if you have breakouts.”
Do change your pillowcase.
No one likes to add more laundry to their already full list of to-dos, but keeping your pillows clean is a top beauty secret that is often overlooked. Pillowcases can hang onto dirt, oil, and bacteria from our faces, hair, and environment, which can then become a breeding ground for acne. Try swapping out your pillowcover at least once a week to reduce the risk of breakouts. If you really want to go the extra mile, use a silk pillowcase – some people find that it helps reduce irritation on the skin.
Do opt for a gel-based or lightweight moisturizer.
If you have oily and acne-prone skin, you might think you don’t need to use moisturizer. However, Dr. Zeichner says that skin oiliness and skin hydration are two different issues. “That said, if you are oily or acne prone, I recommend light moisturizers that won’t weigh the skin down,” he says. “Simple Water Boost Hydrating Gel Cream is an ultralight gel-based moisturizer that doesn’t leave the face feeling heavy or greasy, and is a great option for someone who has acne but still needs hydration.”
Don’t wear makeup with pore-clogging ingredients.
If you suffer from acne, it’s important to avoid makeup that contains mineral oil or lanolin, as these ingredients are known to clog pores and trigger breakouts, according to Dr. Nazarian. Instead, opt for products that are labeled as non-comedogenic or oil-free to help keep your skin healthy and blemish-free.
Do layer your skin care products properly.
Your first inclination when you see a pimple is probably to cover it with as much concealer as possible. But what you may not realize is that in order to properly treat a zit, there are a few steps you should take first. “Start by cleansing your face, and then apply a thin layer of oil-free moisturizer followed by a small amount of acne medication over your entire face,” says Dr. Nazarian. She suggests using gels with adapalene since they help regulate skin cells and prevent clogged pores. ProactivMD Adapalene Gel 0.1%, is one of her favorites because “it can be applied very nicely under makeup.”