You wouldn't know it by looking at me, but my early 20s were blemish-riddled. I thought getting through high school relatively unscathed by acne meant I had superior skin genes and that breakouts were something I was just lucky enough to have skirted in life. Boy, was I was wrong: Once breakouts became a regular occurrence, I was dead set on learning to banish them right away.
So even before I became a beauty editor, I fancied myself a pimple-treating expert. I had sourced tips from anyone who would listen, scoured every corner of the internet for testimonials, and tested what felt like endless amounts of products in search of a tried-and-true program to rid my face of the unsightly boulders that would appear. And I actually did it.
Of course, diet, genetics, hormones, and a bevy of other factors can be the root cause, so speaking with a physician is always a smart idea. But regardless of the source, there are solutions that can help to at least ease the pain (and look) of a breakout. Ahead, see tips for shrinking a pimple faster than you can say boo, and 10 products to help you do it.
For me, gently cleansing has always been the key to stopping a breakout in its tracks. It's so tempting to go the abrasive route (the burn means it's working, am I right?), but the last thing we want to do is cause more inflammation—that's what got us here to begin with. I love this foaming wash by EltaMD: My skin feels really clean (but not overly dry) after using it.
Whether you feel a single zit coming on or are experiencing an all-over breakout, this mask will help to sop up excess oil and calm irritation inflammation. You can use it as an overnight spot-treatment as well.
You can use this AHA serum all over the face to help keep dead skin and other pore-clogging debris at bay, but I like to use it as a spot treatment as soon as I see the whitehead in a pimple starting to emerge. I read one Dermstore review that said this product "melts whiteheads," which was both gross and intriguing.
I know this is a controversial step, but I take comfort knowing that I try really hard not to target pustules too directly until they've come to a head, per the instruction of, like, every skin expert ever. This means resisting the urge to go in with drying lotions the second a bump appears, to avoid drying out or scarring the skin on the outside of a blemish, effectively making it harder for the infection to emerge via a whitehead. But the second I do squeeze that ripe whitehead, this is the product I use to get any remaining gunk out.
Whether your pimple is still under the skin or has raised to a whitehead, protecting the delicate skin around it from free radicals is a must. This antioxidant-rich formula is like a shield, and over time, it can help improve acne-prone skin.
Retinoids can be intimidating, but they're a crucial scar management tool. This one by The Ordinary is budget-friendly and effective, making purchasing it again and again a no-brainer.
The Morning After
Fair warning: This one will cost you, but I've found that its discoloration-fighting powers are worth the price tag. The good news is that you can use it every day, not just when dealing with pimple-induced discoloration.
SPF. All the time. No matter what. (But especially right now, when your blemish wants more than anything to leave a dark acne related scar.)