The dreaded blemish that appears right at the worst time: we’ve all been there. You wake up the morning before a special event, photo shoot, or job interview, or just a day when you have plans that involve looking cute, and you discover that evil incarnate has taken up residence on your face. What do you do?
The web is full of supposed hacks and DIY miracle pimple removers, but some of them only make the problem worse. So let’s settle this once and for all: what do you do in a bona fide blemish emergency? Check out these science-backed dos and don’ts.
Do Ice It Out
Pimples are snowbirds: they fly away when the cold sets in…at least to some degree. Icing an acne spot will reduce the swelling and inflammation, making the blemish far less noticeable. Put an ice cube in a cloth and ice the area for 3-4 minutes at a time. Repeat throughout the day as necessary.
Don’t Pop the Pimple
I know, you’ve heard it a million times, but it’s true: popping a pimple isn’t the way to go in an emergency. Sure, it may reduce the size of the pimple by releasing the pus. But the process of popping it will spark more inflammation and swelling, usually making the pimple even more visible. It also opens the door for an infection or a long-term scar.
Do Apply Salicylic Acid
A salicylic acid spot treatment is one of the best quick solutions for a pimple. It naturally removes excess oil and dead skin while reducing the redness and swelling from your blemish.
If you’re in a pinch and don’t have time to pick up a spot treatment product, here’s a hack: crush up one or two aspirin tablets and add a few drops of water to make it into a paste. Aspirin contains salicylic acid, so you can still get similar benefits to a specially formulated product. Apply this paste for up to 15 minutes and then rinse it off.
Do Use Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide, like salicylic acid, is a fantastic go-to for acne spot treatments. It works much the same way salicylic acid does, removing excess oil and reducing inflammation to minimize your pimple. A benzoyl peroxide spot treatment could be the solution that saves the day.
Don’t Combine Acne Spot Treatments
There are several types of acne spot treatments that can be effective: salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, and so on. But too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing in this situation. Each of these products is drying on its own (though sulfur is less drying than salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide). If you use more than one of them, you could just be adding to the problem by causing a very dry spot on your skin that becomes red, flaky, and irritated.
Do Try Natural Anti-Pimple Remedies
If you prefer to try home remedies for your blemish, there are actually some that may work. Green tea can reduce inflammation and fight the bacteria that often cause acne. The same is true for certain essential oils like tea tree oil and clove oil.
The tricky aspect of these treatments is that you’re making your own solution – you don’t have specific instructions and the products haven’t been formulated for skin care purposes. To make sure you’re doing more good than harm, it’s best to ask your dermatologist first. Remember, just because a product is natural doesn’t necessarily mean it’s complication-free or safe for your skin.
Do Consider a Cortisone Injection for a Real Emergency
All of the “dos” above can help you minimize your pimple swiftly, but what if you’re in a real pinch and the stakes are particularly high? For example, perhaps you develop a very large, painful cystic pimple at a time when you can’t wait it out. In this case, consider asking your dermatologist about a cortisone injection.
When injected directly into the cyst, cortisone can quickly and significantly reduce inflammation and pain. Of course, this isn’t a solution you should use every time a pimple arises, but for emergencies, it could be the way to go. Your dermatologist will be able to advise you whether this option could help in your case.
The Ultimate Do: Take a Preventative Approach
Pimples have a way of cropping up at inconvenient times as if they’re watching and waiting below the surface. While the dos and don’ts above can help you react when that happens, the best solution, of course, is to do what you can to prevent breakouts in the first place. Now is the time to start a strategic acne prevention plan. Whether you use an acne care system or create a skin care routine of your own, proactive and consistent skin care can make sure that a pimple emergency is a rare occasion.