1. Keep your hands off your face!
All dermatologists agree that you should never, ever pick at your pimple. We repeat: Do not pick at your pimple. “It may seem tempting, but remember that once you’ve picked at an acne lesion, it will take longer to heal and is more likely to scar,” warns dermatologist Dr. Doris Day, author of 100 Questions and Answers About Acne. Trust us on this one.
2. Skip home “remedies.”
While toothpaste and lemon juice have been cited as excellent at-home remedies for blemishes, dermatologists advise against them. “Toothpaste is more complicated than it used to be and can irritate or over-dry your skin,” warns Dr. Day. “Lemon juice is also irritating and wouldn’t have any effect on the pimple itself.”
3. Apply a warm compress.
Heat is a super simple way to soothe your skin if you feel a blemish coming on, says Dr. Margarita Lolis, dermatologist at Skin and Laser Surgery Specialists of New York and New Jersey. “Use a warm compress or steam to bring everything to the surface,” she explains. And once your pimple appears, apply a spot treatment. Alternately, you can use a cold compress to bring down the swelling of a particularly large, painful blemish.
4. Use an acne spot treatment.
On top of always washing off your makeup at night, using the right moisturizer for your skin type, and keeping your fingers away from your face, you can use a spot treatment to get rid of stubborn pimples. Ingredients to look out for: Benzoyl peroxide to kill acne-causing bacteria, salicylic acid to help exfoliate and unclog pores, and retinoids to help control cell turnover, which allows clogged cells to shed and prevents them from clogging.
5. Wash your face regularly.
“Your oil glands are active all day,” explains Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital; when that oil combines with dirt, makeup, and pollution, it’s not doing your skin any favors. That goes double for workouts: “Sweat mixed with dirt and oil can become trapped under wet workout clothing,” potentially worsening a breakout. “If you can’t take a full shower,” Dr. Zeichner says, “at least use a cleansing towelette,”.
6. In a pinch, get a cortisone shot.
Have a really big event coming up? Then, you probably don’t have time to wait and see if your blemish will disappear on its own. Consider seeing a dermatologist for an overnight cure. “A cortisone shot is an anti-inflammatory, so it treats the pimple itself,” explains Dr. Peredo.
“If it’s a big, painful pimple, the cortisone diffuses the inflammation and flattens it out, hopefully without leaving a scar.” Of course, this isn’t an easy, do-it-yourself fix. It should only be administered by a physician, usually a dermatologist.
7. Try a salicylic acid cleanser.
If your breakouts are frequent and you’re sick of it, you may want to consider switching up your skincare routine. “Pick a cleanser that has glycolic or salicylic acid in it, which you can get over the counter,” Dr. Peredo instructs. “Those with acne-prone skin may need an astringent to degrease the skin, too — I like salicylic or glycolic because they can help with the scarring that could occur, as well.”
8. Go light on your makeup.
Beauty products are one of the most common causes of adult acne, and unfortunately, using heavy-duty makeup to hide your blemishes won’t make them physically disappear.
“Use mineral makeup on your skin rather than oil-based products that can contribute to breakouts,” recommends Dr. Peredo, adding that oil-based foundation and concealer can block pores. Better yet, go totally makeup-free for a few days — it could be just the break your skin needs to clear up quick.
9. Medicate if necessary.
For those who suffer from cystic acne, a combination of topical products, in-office treatments (like lasers), and medication are oftentimes the way to go. A dermatologist can work with you to find medications that will help treatment in the long-run.
“Nodular acne often requires treatment with systemic medications such as oral antibiotics, and hormonal medications (oral contraceptives, spironolactone),” says Valerie Harvey, MD, a dermatologist. “Isotretinoin, a derivative of vitamin A, is also very effective.”
10. Use light therapy to zap acne.
Instead of going to your dermatologist for red and blue light therapy, which is expensive, use an at-home device over a blemish, or over your whole face, for just two minutes. The red light reduces acne inflammation, while the blue light targets acne-causing bacteria. Additionally, the light stimulates the dermal layers of the skin and produce additional collagen. In turn, acne scars fill out and the skin looks more even-toned.