It’s the Murphy’s law of skincare: As soon as you have somewhere to go, there will be a pimple ready to strike. But beating the blemish isn’t unattainable, and there are ways to do it quickly. (Squeezing not included.)
We asked dermatologists to recommend the best way to make those blemishes disappear in the nick of time.
Shrink a flare-up with a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment to kill bacteria quickly at the source, says dermatologist Dr. Michael Lin.
Grab a Shot
Dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe says if you are in a rush, visit your derm for an emergency appointment. “In a pinch we can inject a cortisone shot directly into the pimple and it flattens over hours. I do it all the time before weddings and proms.”
Or Go DIY
If you can’t make it into see anyone, Bowe also says you can also apply a drop of over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. “It will calm the redness and flatten the pimple,” she says. “Just don’t do it too often or it can thin the skin.”
Go Really DIY
You've probably been tempted once or twice to crush up an aspirin over your blemish or apply toothpaste to it. These can work in a pinch but are ultra-drying to your skin and can leave burn marks, Dr. Bowe says.
Alternatively, Dr. Lin suggests you apply honey to a breakout to calm the redness. “It’s a naturally soothing ingredient with anti-inflammatory properties that help to heal the skin,” he says. “Leave for 5 to 10 minutes, and then wipe away with a damp cloth.”
Like a spot treatment, anything containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or a retinoid can help to fade the blemish faster — either in prescription strength or over the counter. Bowe suggests that if your blemish hasn’t faded after a day, use one of these ingredients to help it along. “If you are using benzoyl peroxide or a retinoid, though, follow it up with an extra moisturizer so you don’t end up with a dry, scaly spot.”
The experts agree on one thing: Squeezing just creates more problems. “It pushes inflammation deep into the skin, which triggers scar formation and stretches out pores,” Dr. Bowe says.
Leave it Alone
Sometimes the more you try and attack a pimple, the more agitated it becomes. “I tell my patients to try to prevent acne, rather than chasing a pimple once they feel it forming,” Dr. Bowe says. “If you wait until you break out and then just spot treat by applying tons of acne medicines just on the pimple, you end up with dry spots and never get ahead. It’s so much more effective to use a gentle acne regimen every day to prevent the spots in the first place.”
She says you have to find the magic balance between using just enough to prevent breakouts, but not too much that you end up dry and flaky.