Acne is a common¹ skin condition that affects both teenagers and adults. But knowing it’s common isn’t much comfort when a pimple appears overnight.
There are many different factors that contribute to breakouts, including hormones, stress, diet, and certain medications. And, while makeup can be an easy solution to the how to hide acne problem, it’s useful to know that you have other options.
In this guide, we’ll look at four common factors that contribute to pimples and outline six simple strategies to help hide them without reaching for the concealer.
Pimples occur when pores become clogged with dead skin cells and excess sebum. C. acnes (bacteria that normally live on the skin) thrive in the excess sebum and trigger an inflammatory response.² Sebum, an oily substance that lubricates the skin, is produced by sebaceous glands that typically sit next to hair follicles. Several factors may increase the likelihood of this happening, including:
Hormonal changes, especially during adolescence, can lead to overactive sebaceous glands. These changes up the level of oil production, increasing the chance of breakouts. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, can also lead to an increase in oil production.³ When we’re stressed out, our skin can suffer.
Some research proposes a link between certain foods and acne. Dairy products may increase skin breakouts in some people,⁴ as may high-glycemic foods. Glycemic load is a way of measuring both a carbohydrate’s quality and its quantity.⁵ Foods typically high in simple carbohydrates may negatively affect the skin.⁶ Consuming more ‘good fats,’ such as those found in fish, may benefit those dealing with pimples.⁷
Certain skincare and makeup products can contain ingredients that may make skin conditions worse. For example, certain oils, such as coconut oil, may contribute to blocked pores and pimples. Look for products labeled “non-comedogenic,” as these are less likely to clog pores.
Unfortunately, some medications and supplements can affect your skin. And, because we’re all unique, it can be hard to know how your skin will respond to certain drugs. For example, certain medications such as steroids and lithium can trigger breakouts for some people.⁸ Drug-induced acne can depend on the dosage, duration of use, and patient history. That said, it’s important to talk to the prescribing doctor before making any changes to the medication regimen. Also, drug-induced breakouts can often be controlled with standard acne treatments without discontinuing the medications.
If you’re concerned about the potential effect of medications or supplements on your skin, it’s always worth talking this through with your medical provider.
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.
Makeup is a common way to cover up pimples as they pop up. But if that’s not your thing, it can be helpful to know how to cover red spots on your face without makeup. Here are six other ways to help banish the blemish.
To reduce inflammation and discomfort, try applying ice to the skin. Holding an ice cube on the pimple can help decrease redness and minimize swelling.
Interestingly, some limited research suggests cooling the skin may reduce sebum production from the sebaceous glands.⁹ In theory, this may reduce the likelihood of future breakouts.
Ice should be your go-to when you need to hide your pimple pronto or if the pain is getting uncomfortable. But if you’re looking to bring the pimple to a head more quickly, heat can be your friend. Applying a warm compress to the pimple helps to relax blood vessels and increases blood flow, helping it to heal faster.
If you’re looking for a fast-acting way to reduce the appearance of your pimple, try an over-the-counter spot treatment. They are typically formulated with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredients that work to quickly decrease swelling and redness, helping you hide your pimple.
Good ingredients to look out for include salicylic acid, which helps unclog pores via exfoliation and reduces inflammation,¹⁰ and benzoyl peroxide, which fights the bacteria that contributes to acne¹¹ and helps decrease swelling. As a natural anti-inflammatory, green tea can also help.¹² For natural aids that soothe and more, check the ingredient list for aloe vera and cucumber; aloe vera has been shown in studies to have anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, and healing effects,¹³ while studies show that cucumber can reduce swelling and help with skin irritation.¹⁴
Like an OTC spot treatment, pimple patches are great at targeting that annoying blemish that pops up without warning. Simply apply the fast-acting, see-through patch to your skin and allow it to work its magic.
Hydrocolloid patches, such as Curology’s Emergency Spot Patch, absorb excess oil and pus from your pimple, helping to shrink its size and accelerate healing. They maintain moisture in the skin, which also helps to support healing. Not to mention, they’re ultra-thin—so you can feel totally fine going about your day while wearing them.
If you’re a fan of the natural approach, there are a few remedies worth trying. We’re not keen on common hacks like baking soda, lemon juice, or toothpaste because these can irritate and dry the skin.
That said, green tea can be an effective anti-inflammatory. Making a cool compress with a teabag may help reduce redness and offer some relief.¹⁵ Tea tree oil also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can reduce the appearance of pimples.¹⁶ ¹⁷ Just make sure to dilute the tea tree oil before applying it to your skin.
Using certain clay masks may help by drawing out excess oil, pus, and dead skin from the pores, as shown by a Swiss study on these masks with jojoba oil.¹⁸ This may help hide the pimple by reducing its size and redness.
A simple way to hide pimples without makeup is to use accessories wisely. Hair can be styled to help conceal blemishes, and accessories such as hats, head scarves, and sunglasses can provide useful coverage. And, of course, face masks are also an option.
If you’re headed to a party, face jewels are a creative way to disguise pimples. In fact, any jewelry, accessories, or clothing that draws attention away from your pimple and makes you feel more confident is an excellent choice. Just make sure you read the label. The glue used to stick them on your skin could make the situation worse.
You can also try out a pimple patch. Some people choose to go with obvious patches that come in fun shapes like stars, while others prefer a more incognito look, like the one you can get using Curology’s own Emergency Spot Patch.
Pimples are very common, especially in teenagers and young adults, but that doesn’t stop you from potentially feeling self-conscious when one pops up overnight. In this guide, we’ve shown you six helpful ways to cover blemishes if you’re not keen on using makeup.
Of course, effective, targeted skincare can mean a future where pimples are, well, a thing of the past. Not sure where to begin? Curology can help.
Founded by a board-certified dermatologist, Curology’s mission is to make effective skin care accessible to all. All you need to do is complete our short skin quiz and add a few selfies to get started. We’ll match you with an expert, licensed dermatology provider who’ll prescribe a personalized formula based on what your skin concerns are.
While it’s best to consult a medical professional for differences in treatments, most tips above should apply equally to men and women.
It’s possible to hide pores in pictures with certain filters or photo editing techniques in software like Photoshop, but in real life, it’s impossible. You can help minimize their appearance by using a few of the methods listed above, including certain spot treatments.
Dark spots, also known as hyperpigmentation, can be improved in many ways without makeup. Various treatments are available, like retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, azelaic acid, niacinamide, vitamin c, and more. It’s best to consult a medical professional if you’re unsure what may be right for you.
The safest general advice is to never pop pimples in the first place to avoid things like spreading your breakout or causing permanent scarring, but what do you do if you couldn’t resist the urge and have already popped one?
Makeup might seem like a good idea, but as mentioned before, some cosmetic products can make your skin worse. Instead, try using a hydrocolloid bandage.
Bhate, K., and Williams, H.C. Epidemiology of acne vulgaris. British Journal of Dermatology. (March 2013).
Sutaria, A.H., et al. Acne Vulgaris. StatPearls. (2022, August 1).
Zeichner, J.A., et al. Emerging Issues in Adult Female Acne. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. (January 2017).
Adebamowo, C.A., et al. Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (May 2008).
Higdon, J., et al. Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. (March 2016).
Baldwin, H., and Tan, J. Effects of Diet on Acne and Its Response to Treatment. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. (2021).
Baldwin, H., and Tan, J. Effects of Diet on Acne and Its Response to Treatment. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. Ibid.
Kazandjieva, J. and Tsankov, N. Drug-induced acne. Clinical Dermatology. (March-April 2017).
Jalian, H.R., et al. Selective Cryolysis of Sebaceous Glands. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. (September 2015).
Arif, T. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review. Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology. (2015).
Del Rosso, J.Q. What is the Role of Benzoyl Peroxide Cleansers in Acne Management?. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. (November 2008).
Ohishi, T., et al. Anti-inflammatory Action of Green Tea. Anti-Inflammatory & Anti-Allergy Agents in Medicinal Chemistry. (2016).
Surjushe, A., et al. Aloe Vera: A Short Review. Indian Journal of Dermatology. (2008).
Mukherjee, P.K., et al. Phytochemical and therapeutic potential of cucumber. Fitoterapia. (January 2013).
Saric, S., et al. Green Tea and Other Tea Polyphenols: Effects on Sebum Production and Acne Vulgaris. Antioxidants. (March 2017).
Ahmad, S., and Afsana, H.P. A review on efficacy and tolerability of tea tree oil for acne. Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics. (2019).
Lee, C.J., et al. Correlations of the components of tea tree oil with its antibacterial effects and skin irritation. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis. (June 2013).
Meier, L., et al. Clay jojoba oil facial mask for lesioned skin and mild acne - results of a prospective, observational pilot study. University of Zurich. (2012).
Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.
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Elise Griffin, PA-C