Pimples. We all have to face them from time to time. Angry clogged pores always seems to pop up when we have a big date, meeting, or vacation planned, causing us to go into panic mode. Sometimes we feel helpless, no matter how many globs of toothpaste we slather onto the budding zit.
While there is no way to magically make your pimples disappear, there are a few tricks that can minimize your breakout and even stop it dead in it's track. Interested? Here are five tricks for deescalating your pesky pimples.
01. Warm and Cold Compresses
So you're washing your face in the morning, and you notice a tender spot deep under your skin. You realize with growing dread....it's a pimple. Your pore may be clogged with oil and dirt, but chances are this is a hormonal or cystic pimple that is just angry and inflamed for no good reason.
For these swollen pimples, use a hot compress to decrease the inflammation. The heat will help break down the build-up inside the pore and improve blood circulation in the area. Essentially, the warmth gets the fluids moving instead of hardening inside of your skin. Do this three times a day for ten minutes each with a damp warm cloth or green tea baggie. Be careful not to scald your skin, but make sure it's warm enough to be effective—the water should be a little cooler than your average cup of hot tea. The hot compress will also open up your pore to allow any topical treatment to be absorbed more thoroughly.
Alright, so you've been eyeing your growing pimple for a couple days now and despite the cardinal "no pick" rule, you've decided to attack. Unfortunately, you underestimated how ready your pimple was, and the premature extraction has left your skin even more swollen, red, and possibly even torn.
When this happens, before you do anything else, immediately ice the area. Grab an ice cube, a plastic baggie, and a tissue for a barrier and apply directly to where you were applying pressure when squeezing. Treat it as if you were just punched in the face and you need to immediately apply ice to prevent the swelling that will last all day. The ice will constrict the blood vessels underneath your skin so that blood doesn't rush to the afflicted spot and make your bump look like a mountain. Maintain a cycle of 10 minutes on-10 minutes off for an hour. Make sure you don't give yourself ice burn!
02. Crushed Aspirin
If you have a headache, you take aspirin to make it feel better. But did you know aspirin can also relieve your pimple pain? Made of acetylsalicylic acid, aspirin can be applied topically to your painful pimple to reduce the swelling and redness.
Here's what to do: Crush two to three dry aspirin tablets (the gel tabs are not going to help you here), and add a few drops of water. You'll want a thick and gritty paste, so if it's too watery, just try again. Once you get a good paste, apply a thorough amount to your pimple and leave it on for fifteen to twenty minutes.
03. Drying Lotion
You probably remember slathering on pink calamine lotion as a kid to dry out poison ivy and oak rashes. Surprisingly enough, the secret ingredient of this lotion from our childhoods can save us from breakouts as adults! Zinc oxide is the magic ingredient that dries out the infected area without excessively stripping your skin of oils or causing chemical burns.
Drying lotions made specifically for pimples usually contain salicylic acid to help unclog the pore, sulfur to help dry the area, and zinc oxide to help draw impurities from the skin. The combination of these non-harsh ingredients that produce effective results make drying lotion and bathroom cabinet must-have. After cleansing your skin, simply apply a cotton swab of the lotion to your pimple and leave it on overnight.
The best time to use drying lotions is when you feel the very first signs of a pimple, when it's just a growing bump underneath your skin. Drying lotion reduces inflammation and draws out impurities. Spot treatment is better used when you start seeing the head of the pimple because the salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide will address the infection.
04. Spot Treatment
When your pimple starts making it's way to the surface, you want to bring out the big guns. Namely, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid will help unclog your pore while the benzoyl peroxide will fight the bacteria growing inside.
Apply a dab of this spot treatment to your pimple before going to bed and leave it on overnight. If you want to go a more organic route, try using a spot treatment that uses essential oils like tea tree oil that is a natural antiseptic that targets bacteria.
- Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment
- Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment
- Amala Purifying Blemish Treatment
05. Regular Retinol Use
If you are constantly battling pimples, the best way to prevent future breakouts is to start regularly use retinoids. The high concentration of vitamin A increases the skin cell turnover rate of your skin, preventing clogged pores from getting settled deep in your skin. Talk to your dermatologist about starting on retinoids and whether the prescription or over the counter formula is best for you.
Getting used to prescription strength retinoids will especially take some time to adjust—many people report increased sensitivity, dryness and discomfort as the vitamin A draws your skin impurities to the surface by accelerating skin shedding. But after a couple months, breakouts should reduce and before you know it, it's been months since you dealt with a pimple.
Over-the-counter retinol is not as concentrated as a prescription, but your dermatologist can help determine what's right for you. If she suggests going with an over-the-counter solution, be sure to look into the difference between retinoids and retinol before purchasing.
- Retin-A Micro Gel (prescription)
- SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 (over the counter)
- RoC Deep Retinol Correction Deep Wrinkle Night Cream (over the counter)
Photo Credit: Erich McVey