What to Do Once You Spot a Pimple

Aly Walansky
pimple treatment

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Timing can be uncanny. Whether it’s a big date or an important party, we’ll be feverishly getting ready and then..ack! A pimple. Our immediate reaction is to get rid of that little devil as soon as possible, but do so smartly. Do not pick or squeeze your pimple! That only makes it aggravated and red, and always make sure your hands are clean before touching your skin. Then, follow these expert tips. You may have clear skin in time for your big plans after all!

Don’t Panic
While they can be a nuisance, getting a pimple is perfectly normal. We all get them at some point! Panicking may lead you to attack your skin, like abrasively over-washing your face, or popping the zit – both of which you should not do. This can cause damage and scarring to your skin in the long run, says Dr. Debra Jaliman, a leading dermatologist in New York City.

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Assess the Damage
If the pimple is severe and similar to others you’ve had which have caused scarring, long-term redness, or persistent dark marks, contact your dermatologist for a tiny injection of low-dose steroid directly into the lesion, says dermatologist Diane De Fiori, MD, who practices at the Rosacea Treatment Clinic in Melbourne, Australia.  This is a way to resolve a pimple fast (as little as a day) and may be your only option if you need to be presentable for something critical ASAP. Of course, this is for extreme cases in which you actually have a day to prepare for an event.

Wash Your Face
It’s a simple task that goes a long way. Keep your skin clean by washing it with a gentle cleanser in the morning and at night to remove dirt, oil, and makeup. Doing so will help keep your pores clear and ultimately, will help keep your skin blemish free, says Dr. Jailman.

Ice Time
Apply ice or a refrigerated compress made from a green tea bag for five minutes frequently throughout the day – the cold (and anti-inflammatories in green tea) reduce redness and the inflammation necessary for acne bacteria to continue worsening the pimple that’s freaking you out. Ice or compresses also reduce pimple size, pain, and duration, says De Fiori. Ice should be applied through several Kleenex tissues or a thin washcloth rather than directly to the skin.

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Apply Pressure
If it has come to a head you can speed resolution of the pimple (or blackhead or whitehead) by applying pressure with a sterilized pimple extractor or cotton swabs, ideally after a warm shower, which helps open pores and soften debris, says De Fiori. Don’t use implements which can damage your skin, leave extra marks or rupture the pimple below the skin, such as your nails or another sharp tool. If gentle pressure doesn’t extract the contents of the pimple don’t try this step.

Spot Treatments
Use an on-the-spot treatment to combat an unwanted zit. “I recommend one that’s clear, like the ZAPZYT Pore Treatment Gel, so that you can use it during the day and/or at night. This one in particular features acne medications (including salicylic acid) and aloe and botanicals, so it targets your pimple while soothing and moisturizing your skin simultaneously,” says Jaliman.

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Salicylic acid (2%) and benzoyl peroxide (5%+) spot treatments can work wonders, providing you don’t over-apply them and cause dryness and irritation, says De Fiori. Drying out the surface of your skin can make pimples look worse by giving them a more rough texture which is harder to conceal with makeup. Dryness also slows their healing process by hardening the surface of the skin, preventing the escape of debris from the pimple.

Continue the Ritual That Works For You
Continue your anti-acne skin care routine, but keep in mind we sometimes make changes to a prescribed skin care regimen if someone spots pimples, says De Fiori. Keep in mind that it takes 6-8 weeks to get a noticeable result from even the most ideal products. By stopping or inadvertently changing to less appropriate skin care you’ll ensure that in time, you’ll see more pimples.

Be Mindful
Think about all of the things that touch your face on a daily basis – from your hands, to your hair, to your cell phone, to your hat, to your pillow case, says Jaliman. Make sure that these everyday items are clean. You’ll want to avoid dirt and bacteria coming into contact with your skin as much as possible.