Oct 28, 2019 · 5 min read
It was not long ago, dear Reader, that I was Googling “how to shrink a cystic pimple fast” and “is toothpaste a zit treatment.” (Seriously — check my browser history for the last week of August.) I had to learn the hard way that there’s no at-home hack you can use to get rid of pimples overnight, and the harder you try, the more red and swollen your zit might get. Thankfully, though, we don’t have to rely on mysterious search results when we have the knowledge of dermatology to explain the causes (and cures) of our blemishes.
Getting our skin properly prepped can make treatment more effective, so there are a few general things to do before you begin treatment:
Cleanse the face and neck with a gentle cleanser, then pat the area dry.
A simple, hydrating, non-comedogenic cleanser, such as the Curology cleanser, will help remove any dirt and oil that have built up throughout the day. If you’re wearing makeup, try removing it with micellar water, followed by a gentle cleanser. Use a clean towel to gently pat the area dry — don’t rub or scrub your face, because this might aggravate the pimple. I’d also recommend waiting 10–20 minutes for your face to completely dry — this makes it easier to apply spot treatments. Be careful not to rub too hard while cleansing or drying skin, because the friction can cause redness and irritation. .
Not only does sleeping in fresh, clean sheets feel amazing, but it may help prevent further aggravation of a breakout. The friction of your skin against anything loaded with perspiration, oil, or product residue has the potential to cause or even worsen a breakout. It’s a good idea to change your sheets at least once a week, and even more often if your husband is prone to excessive night sweats.
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A hydrocolloid bandage, or pimple patch, works by absorbing the white gunk inside the pimple, which really helps with reducing the appearance of big zits. It attracts pus and oil from the inflamed spot and promotes faster healing by maintaining moisture. Spot patches can be worn overnight, or up to 24 hours. One last thing before you use an acne patch: avoid applying any topical acne treatments underneath the bandages. Not only does it make it harder for them to stick, but it can cause irritation.
I’m currently using Curology’s emergency spot patch — they’re thinner than your average patch, so I can layer a little foundation on top. There are no added active ingredients to the emergency spot patch, so it’s gentle on sensitive skin.
Curology Emergency Spot Patch — $4.95 / 20 patches
To reduce pimple redness overnight, a cool bag of green tea is a simple DIY treatment. When applied to the skin, the caffeine in green tea causes the blood vessels to constrict, which helps reduce swelling and even skin tone. First, place your tea bag in a cup of water, then put the cup in your freezer for 5–10 minutes. Gently press the chilled tea bag against your pimple for 20 seconds or until the skin starts to feel numb. Rest, then repeat application for up to 5 minutes total, alternating on and off.
Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are two over-the-counter ingredients that can often be effective at helping to reduce pimples fast. These work by drying out the pimple (as opposed to hydrocolloid bandages, which pull gunk out of the pimple while retaining moisture). While I think acne patches work better for me, Neutrogena’s On the Spot Acne Treatment is often the first thing I try when attempting to shrink a pimple fast. For best results, apply your spot treatment with a clean cotton swab.
Don’t apply 100% pure tea tree oil to your skin — it’s very irritating! Instead, dilute 1 part tea tree oil with 3 parts oil of your choice — sunflower, castor, or jojoba oil are good, non-pore clogging options. When it comes to diluting with cooking oils, tread carefully, as some of them (like coconut oil) clog pores and can make breakouts worse. You can check the acne rating of ingredients on CosDNA; at Curology, we avoid anything with an acne rating of 3 or higher.
This is a last resort for when a truly horrendous pimple is threatening to ruin a momentous event, like the day you married the man who sweats a lot. Anyway, for a zit that needs to go away ASAP, you can see a dermatologist for an injection of a dilute cortisone medication called Kenalog (a.k.a. an intralesional injection). You don’t want to do this for every zit, but the procedure can be repeated in 4–6 weeks if needed.
If drugstore or high-end acne solutions aren’t working for you, a custom formula with prescription-strength ingredients from Curology may help. As a Curology member, you’ll gain access to a medical provider trained in dermatology and licensed to practice in your state. They’ll prescribe you a customized cream with prescription-strength ingredients to help protect your skin against acne, hyperpigmentation, and signs of aging. Just apply it before you go to bed and let it get to work while you sleep.
When you sign up for Curology, you’ll get your first custom formula for free — and you can try some more dermatologist-designed skincare! For no extra cost, you can complete your routine with a cleanser and your choice of moisturizer. Need to call in backup on your breakouts? We’ll throw in our emergency spot patches for free, too. Your first month just costs $4.95 (plus tax) to cover the cost of shipping and handling, so start your Curology free trial now!