Getting a big, red pimple on your face happens to literally everyone, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept defeat and wait patiently until the blemish goes away.
First, it’s important to understand how blemishes work (knowing your enemy is half the battle, after all). “We have sebaceous glands in the skin that normally provide moisture and lubrication, but the combination of stress and hormones can form clogs,” explains celebrity dermatologist Dr. Marina Peredo. “The bacteria causes inflammation in the skin, which is why blemishes and acne form.” And voila! Just like that, your skin flares up.
So, how do you free yourself of this pesky inflammation? Here’s how dermatologists recommend getting rid of that big ol’ zit as soon as possible — and how to avoid making it worse.
1. Hands off.
All dermatologists agree that you should never, ever pick at your pimple. We repeat: Do not pick at your pimple. “It may seem tempting, but remember that once you’ve picked at an acne lesion, it will take longer to heal and is more likely to scar,” warns dermatologist Dr. Doris Day, author of 100 Questions and Answers About Acne. Trust us on this one.
2. Skip homemade “remedies.”
While toothpaste, lemon juice and even Windex have been cited as excellent at-home remedies for blemishes, derms advise against them. “Toothpaste is more complicated than it used to be and can irritate or over-dry your skin,” warns Dr. Day. “Lemon juice is also irritating and wouldn’t have any effect on the pimple itself.” And Windex — well, it’s glass cleaner. Don’t put glass cleaner on your face.
3. Apply a warm compress.
Heat is a super simple way to soothe your skin if you feel a blemish coming on, says Dr. Margarita Lolis, dermatologist at Skin and Laser Surgery Specialists of New York and New Jersey. “Use a warm compress or steam to bring everything to the surface,” she explains. And once your pimple appears, apply a spot treatment. Alternately, you can use a cold compress to bring down the swelling of a particularly large, painful blemish.
4. Continue washing your face regularly.
“Your oil glands are active all day,” explains Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital; when that oil combines with dirt, makeup, and pollution, it’s not doing your skin any favors. That goes double for workouts.