How To Get Rid of a Pimple — Stat!

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We’ve all been confronted by an unwelcome pore
pirate on a big, important day. It’s incredibly frustrating. The
impulse to launch a counterattack may be strong, but — as
dermatologists and children’s books alike have told us for decades
— violence is never the answer.

So, you can’t pop your pimple. What can
you do?

While there are no instantaneous fixes out
there, there are many ways to shorten a pimple’s visit. We’ve
compiled a list of things you can do to clear your skin up — and an
equally important list of things not to do.

If you find yourself in a pimple predicament
often, you’ll want to make an appointment to see a dermatologist.
They can develop a maintenance plan to help keep your skin clear.
But for an occasional breakout, there are effective ways to tame
them at home.

Apply benzoyl peroxide

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The best way to make a zit go away fast is to
apply a dab of benzoyl peroxide, which you can buy at a drug store
in cream, gel or patch form, says dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal,
MD. It works by killing bacteria that clog pores and cause
inflammation. It’s available in concentrations ranging from 2.5% to

“It’s inexpensive, it’s been around for many
years and it’s very effective,” Dr. Khetarpal says.

But there’s one caveat: If you keep using it
over and over again on the same spot, it may dry out or irritate
your skin. So, if your skin is sensitive, choose a product with a
lower concentration of benzoyl peroxide.

Use facial products that contain
salicylic acid

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Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that helps
both unclog pores and gently exfoliate your skin. It’s used in all
sorts of acne-busting products, from cleansers, lotions and toners
to serums and pimple patches. Whether you’re locked in a battle of
wits against a single whitehead or a horde of them, it’s always a
good idea to have salicylic acids somewhere in your daily skin care

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Consider adding tea tree oil to your
skin care routine

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Studies have shown that a small amount of
diluted tea tree oil can combat acne. But Dr. Khetarpal warns that
a small percentage of people are allergic to it.

“If it works for you, great, but if you put it
on your skin and find out you’re allergic to it, you’re going
create a whole other problem,” she says. That’s why it’s important
to patch-test any tea tree oil products on your inner arm before
putting them on already-irritated skin.

Go easy on the makeup — or use
products made for acne-prone skin

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Many people who wear makeup go to great lengths
to hide unsightly bumps. While it’s perfectly fine to wear makeup
over acne, it might not be the best idea if you have highly
sensitive skin.

The good news: A lot of cosmetic companies make
primers, concealers, foundations and other products that contain
salicylic acid. Most explicitly state on the packaging that they’re
for acne and oil control.

If you’re not feeling the idea of buying
specialized skin care products to use on your breakouts, be sure to
check that any makeup you’re using isn’t oil-based or comedogenic.
They’ll clog your pores and exacerbate the skin problems you’re
already dealing with.

Whatever makeup you use and however heavily you
apply it, it’s important to make sure you get all the products
washed off your face before bed and that you regularly clean and
refresh both your makeup and makeup applicators. If you don’t,
you’ll be covering up your acne … with acne-causing bacteria.

Try blue light therapy

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It’s one of the least affordable options on this
list, but it’s still worth mentioning: There are many at-home red
and blue light therapy devices available for purchase these days.
Red light helps reduce inflammation, while blue light combats the
acne-causing bacteria that take up residence on our faces.

Apply ice or heat to temporarily
soothe skin

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Sometimes, the problem isn’t so much the pimple
as it is the pain. In those cases, ice can help temporarily quell
the inflammation. But be warned: Dr. Khetarpal says the effect will
wear off quickly. Similarly, holding a warm washcloth to the area
may temporarily soothe irritated skin, but it won’t do anything for
the pimple itself.

“Ice and heat are just going to temporarily
alleviate the discomfort, but medication is going to be more
effective for actually getting rid of the pimple,” she adds.

Request a cortisone or antibiotic

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These ideas are all great, but there are some
occasions in life where you really don’t want to be
sporting a monster zit — times like your wedding day, prom night or
even your high school reunion. While it’s never guaranteed you’ll
be able to get an appointment, it can’t hurt to ask if your
dermatologist would be willing to inject the pimple with cortisone
or an antibiotic. This procedure will usually make a visible
difference in the blemish in 24 hours.

When it comes to skin care, the bad ideas
frequently outweigh the good. We’ve compiled some of the most
common bad advice for dealing with problem pustules.

Don’t put toothpaste on your

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While modern toothpaste contains ingredients
like alcohol or baking soda that may help dry out a pimple, they
also contain other ingredients that aren’t intended to be put
directly on your face. Dr. Khetarpal cautions that using toothpaste
to treat a pimple could possibly irritate your skin.

Don’t put crushed-up aspirin on your

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Some people swear by crushing up an aspirin,
putting a few drops of water on it and dabbing that mixture onto
their pimple.

Aspirin’s active ingredient, acetylsalicylic
acid, is similar to salicylic acid. But according to acne treatment
guidelines published in the Journal of the American Academy of
, there’s limited clinical evidence that
acetylsalicylic acid is effective for treating acne.

“Many dermatologists find that it just dries out
the skin without giving much of a benefit,” Dr. Khetarpal says.

Don’t use harsh astringents

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Appealing as a “scorched earth” strategy might
sound for dealing with acne, drying out the skin with astringents
like alcohol or witch hazel is a no-go. These products can further
irritate your skin, which will only make your acne worse. Opt
instead for a soothing toner.

Avoid these ‘home remedies’

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We’ve already told you not to put toothpaste on
your pimples, but that’s not the only bad advice you’re going to
run across on the internet. Here are a few other things you should
keep away from your face:

  • Apple cider vinegar.
  • Hydrogen peroxide.
  • Lemon juice.
  • Glass cleaner.
  • Rubbing alcohol.
  • Honey.

You can watch pimple-popping videos on the
internet to your heart’s content, but Dr. Khetarpal recommends
against trying these trends in real life.

“Any manipulation of a pimple can lead to more
inflammation, which can increase the risk of scarring,” she
explains. “And your hands are dirty, so you’re going to introduce
more bacteria and potentially make it worse.”

Your best bet is to spot-treat the pimple with
benzoyl peroxide and then leave it alone.

“Wearing makeup and covering it up is not a
problem, but don’t poke, pick or squeeze it,” Dr. Khetarpal
reiterates. “It will resolve on its own.”

We’ve all had our confidence laid low by a face
volcano from time to time. It’s no fun. If you’re looking for quick
ways to zap a zit, the best place to start is a benzoyl peroxide
spot treatment.

And there are lots of other things you can do to
move your blemish along, from icing and heating your skin and using
salicylic acne cleansers to blue light therapy and cortisone
injections. Just be sure not to pop your pimple, and to steer clear
of the many home remedies touted on the internet — they’re like to
do more harm than good.

Frequently asked questions

how to make a pimple go away

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