You popped that zit, didn’t you? The zit that we’ve told you over and over and over again not to touch, but the damn thing was staring you down in the mirror, and the temptation was just too strong, and now you’re stuck in a pit of self-loathing with an oozy bump on your face and a meeting in 30 minutes and oh my god.
Yeah, I’ve been there (literally last week, actually). It was the morning before a giant, very important event called life, and I was convinced this sucker wouldn’t die down before I had to leave for work. So I called one of my favorite dermatologists who, thankfully, checks her phone frequently—yeah, as a beauty editor, your best buds end up being derms—asking her what to do. I fully expected her to say something boring and basic about salicylic acid and an ice cube, but her response actually surprised me.
“Vaseline; you need some Vaseline,” said Mona Gohara, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. Uhh, what? Blemishes and petroleum jelly? Yup, that’s what she said. “You damaged the skin’s barrier and created an open, leaking wound on your face that you need to repair ASAP,” she said Gohara. “The goal here is to take the tiniest pinhead amount of Vaseline and fill in the little oozing crater of the zit, almost like you’re caulking a hole.” Not only does this drop of Vaseline lubricate the skin to help speed up the healing process (which means a smaller chance of scarring), but it also creates a smoother base for you when you layer on concealer later.
If you popped your zit at night and have all the time in the world to tend to it, then lucky you: You can jump-start the calming process. Keep the Vaseline on until you’re ready for bed, then gently wash your face and apply a dab of cortisone cream—which Gohara says “is truly the best product you could use to decrease inflammation”—to the bump to shrink the redness. After 15 minutes, layer a dab of benzoyl peroxide cream (we like Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment) over the cortisone, which will help “clear any bacteria from the pimple that could cause more acne,” she says. By morning, the zit should be, well, not miraculously gone, but a hell of a lot smaller, calmer, and manageable. Hmm, maybe not squeezing your zits is easier, after all? (It is. Stop doing it.)