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Does ice help heal acne?

Spoiler: It’s not a miracle cure, but it may have some benefits.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 5 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
Ice Cubes
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 5 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

We’ve all been there. A new painful pimple erupts overnight on the tip of your nose or chin. In a desperate moment, you may have tried applying an ice pack on your blemishes to ease those painful bumps, if not freeze them into submission. And you wouldn’t be the first.  Cold therapy for acne has been around in various documented forms for at least the last century. Unfortunately, it’s not the best way to vanish pimples—but it may still be helpful for some. Here, we’ll explain everything you need to know about cold treatments for acne.

What can ice do (or not do) for your acne?

Generally, cooling your skin causes vasoconstriction—aka, your blood vessels constrict.This can help reduce inflammation and swelling.¹

So, if you’re looking to reduce the pain, redness, and swelling of your acne, ice may be a viable option. That said, it’s not a miracle cure, nor is it the most effective treatment for your acne. 

In order to treat your acne more thoroughly, you’ll likely need to use topical antimicrobial facial washes, OTC treatments, and/or prescription medications approved by your medical provider. However, ice may help reduce some of your symptoms when applied properly.

Applying ice on pimples

You should be careful when applying ice to your pimples—and please, don’t apply it directly to your skin. You don’t want to further irritate or even damage your skin by applying it improperly.

While there isn't an abundance of medical literature on how to apply ice on pimples, here are a few techniques generally regarded as safe and effective:

  1. Gently wash the affected area with a mild cleanser, rinsing with warm water.

  2. Dry the skin thoroughly but gently.

  3. Wrap an ice cube or an ice pack in a thin handkerchief, paper towel or washcloth before applying the ice to avoid frostbite, which will not only hurt but can permanently damage your skin.

  4. Apply the wrapped ice cube to the blemishes for 30-60 seconds. Remove and wait 5 minutes. Re-apply once more if desired. It’s important to note that this is a general recommendation, and you can reach out to your dermatology provider for more specific advice. 

  5. The icing process should last no more than 15 minutes total.

Does ice help with cystic & nodular acne?

Research suggests that topically applying ice may reduce pain and inflammation.² So, when you use ice on your acne, it may temporarily help to reduce pain and swelling, especially if the acne is inflamed. 

Does ice help with non-inflammatory acne?

Unfortunately, icing cannot help heal non-inflammatory comedones like blackheads and whiteheads. It is more effective to treat them using an exfoliant such as salicylic acid. Because salicylic acid is oil-soluble, it has the ability to penetrate deep into the pores of the skin, where it can dissolve sebum and dead skin cells that contribute to the formation of blackheads and whiteheads. Salicylic acid treatment has also proven effective when used in combination with mechanical extraction.³

When ice isn’t enough for your skincare concerns

Ice can be a useful and reliable natural remedy for painful blemishes. When carefully applied, ice may temporarily reduce the pain, redness, and swelling of inflammatory acne outbreaks.

If you find that home remedies, like icing your skin, aren’t helping to heal your acne, you may need treatments better suited to your individual skincare needs. Curology offers personalized skincare tailored to your specific needs. Our products are made with clinically proven active ingredients that can help you better manage skin concerns such as acne, rosacea, melasma, hyperpigmentation, and unwanted signs of aging.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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To start your Curology trial*, all you have to do is answer a few questions about your skin and snap some selfies. If Curology is right for you, a licensed dermatology provider will get in touch to help create your personalized treatment plan.

FAQs

Can I use ice on my face everyday?

Using ice on your acne up to once a day can help reduce the redness and swelling, when done safely. However, you should avoid excessive use of ice on your face to prevent further irritating and damaging your skin.

Does ice help heal acne scars?

No, ice itself doesn’t heal acne scars. It can temporarily relieve the redness and swelling of active acne inflammation, but it will not heal the skin once an acne scar has formed. 

When a pimple forms in the deeper layers of the skin, this may damage the soft tissue. Once the pimple heals, your body forms collagen to heal the damaged areas, and a scar may develop.⁴ This damage is too deep for ice to treat. However, research shows that Cold Therapy (also known as Local Cryotherapy) has been used effectively in the treatment of keloid scars.⁵

What is more effective for pimples, ice or heat?

The answer to this question depends on the kind of acne you have. For example, if you have inflammatory acne, such as cystic and nodular acne, ice can help reduce pain and swelling. On the other hand, if you have blind acne, a warm compress may be the better option, as it can help the pimple come to the surface of your skin sooner.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework, so you don’t have to:

  1.  Khoshnevis S, et al. Cold-induced vasoconstriction may persist long after cooling ends: an evaluation of multiple cryotherapy units. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy. (September, 2005)

  2. Singh, D.P. et al. Effects of Topical Icing on Inflammation, Angiogenesis, Revascularization, and Myofiber Regeneration in Skeletal Muscle Following Contusion Injury. Frontiers in Physiology. (2017, March 7).

  3. Platsidaki, E., et al. Combination of 30% Salicylic Acid Peels and Mechanical Comedo Extraction for the Treatment of Favre-Racouchot Syndrome. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat. (March 2019).

  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Acne scars: who gets and causes. (n.d.).

  5. Rho, N.K. Revisiting the Role of Local Cryotherapy for Acne Treatment: A Review and Update. Journal of Clinical Medicine. (January 2023).

Erin Pate is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Erin Pate Nurse Practitioner, NP-C

Erin Pate, NP-C

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