It’s a sucky fact of life that zits don’t stop happening once you exit your teen years. The only difference with experiencing them as an adult is that you’ve probably developed a proven way to deal with them. After grappling with pimples for a couple decades, I can confidently say that I’ve discovered the ultimate coping mechanism. It just happens to be way more unorthodox than, say, slathering on some tea tree oil, jojoba oil, or using Glam Glow’s Supermud as a spot treatment (all preferred methods of other StyleCaster staffers).
I’ve found the most effective way to make blemishes disappear overnight is by covering them with Scotch Magic Tape. (Yes, the office supply.) It basically hermetically seals the offending area, keeping gunk and inflammation at bay.
But before you run to your nearest tape dispenser, we need to set some ground rules: 1) Always wash your hands and face prior to application, 2) use a topical acne treatment before sticking on a small strip of tape, and 3) attempt this only before going to bed. Not only is it inadvisable to walk around in public with transparent tape stuck to your face, but it’s also important to take advantage of the long window of sleep to allow the zit to heal in an airtight environment.
The bigger surprise is that you’re also going to need to pop the pimple first. We know: This is normally not sound advice, but I’ve found it’s the way this gonzo approach works best. Just make sure to prod at only those pimples that are genuinely ready to be expressed (gently—no forcing!) and then hands off until the next morning. When you peel away the tape, you’ll exfoliate dead skin in the process; prepare to be amazed at how well this all works.
As much as I wholeheartedly recommend this, know that dermatologists do not. “This method can be irritating to the skin given the chemicals Scotch tape contains,” warns Dr. Dennis Gross. “There is also the potential for skin damage, such as a tear, when the tape is peeled off the surface.”
While I’ve experienced neither side effect personally, Dr. Francesca Fusco of Wexler Dermatology raises another concern: “Occluding a bacteria-laden pimple could put that pimple at risk for more infection,” she cautions. “[Scotch tape] would exfoliate a layer or two of epidermis, but you can do that with friendly and clean tapes and products specifically for skin.”
Ironically, it was Clearasil acne stickers that inspired my husband—now a doctor (admittedly, not a derm, but an anesthesiologist who doles out medical advice for a living)—to come up with this hack as a teenager. If you’d rather play it safe, there are a handful of adhesive blemish covers cropping up on store shelves, including the one below from 3M—you know, the company that makes Scotch tape.
Nexcare Acne Absorbing Covers, $7.99; at Drugstore.com
Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Invisible Dots Blemish Treatment, $30; at Sephora