Pimples seem to pop up out of nowhere, so it’s super unfair that they take forever to go away — if you don’t know how to treat them, that is. But don’t worry, the next time you wake up with an angry red zit right on the tip of your nose, you can just reference this article, because we’ve got all the answers for you. We talked to dermatologists Dr. Claire Chang, Dr. Robin Evans, and Dr. Whitney Bowe to get their top tips on how to get rid of pimples overnight. From cleansing your skin the right way to using an effective spot treatment, here’s how to make those pesky spots disappear.
Would a surprise zit ruin your first day of school?
This list is packed full of all their genius, zit-reducing recommendations, but before you jump right into the pimple treatment, take caution. When it comes to your skin, more is definitely not more. In other words, trying all of these remedies at once won’t boost your chances of making the pimple disappear — more than likely, it’ll just wreak havoc on your skin and turn a tiny blemish into a red, blotchy mess.
Don’t forget to do a spot test before you use a new product.
Look for these ingredients
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Salicylic acid
- Azelaic acid
Dr. Chang recommends these four key ingredients for a quality acne product. “Topical retinoids, like adapalene, reduce inflammation and normalize skin cell turnover to prevent and treat acne,” she explained. “Benzoyl peroxide has been shown to decrease inflammation and fight acne-causing bacteria.”
Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment
She says salicylic acid is best for de-clogging pores and exfoliating, while azelaic acid products should be used for “reducing inflammation, killing bacteria, and reducing clogged pores.”
Get a superstar cleanser
This might seem obvious, but seriously: It’s so much easier if you can prevent acne rather than trying to do damage control once you have a full-blown breakout. Granted, breakouts are mostly outside of your control, but getting a really good cleanser can keep your skin in shape so that you can live your best life.
And if you’re skin is particularly oily or acne-prone, consider double cleansing: use an oil-based cleanser first, then wash your face with a water or gel-based cleanser. An oil-based cleanser is great for removing dirt and excess oil, so double cleansing will ensure squeaky clean skin.
Use a hydrocortisone cream
Since you can’t run to your doc every time you get a zit on your chin, this can be the next best thing.
“If it’s red and juicy, dabbing a bit of over-the-counter hydrocortisone can take out about 80 percent of the red and make it flatter overnight — not gone the way an injection can, but pretty darn close,” says Dr. Whitney Bowe, a dermatologist in New York City.
Use a teensy bit right on the pimple at night and again the next morning. Just don’t use it on the reg, because using too much hydrocortisone can thin the skin and lead to more acne breakouts.
Prevent new pimples from forming
There are a LOT of causes of acne – some genetic, some environmental. According to Dr. Chang, here are the ones you should look out for: “The root causes of teenage-onset acne include excess oil production, clogged pores, bacteria, and inflammation. Teenagers also experience hormonal fluctuations that can trigger acne,” she said.
“Stress, diet, and lifestyle contribute to acne. Stress increases cortisol levels in the body, which increases inflammation in the skin and worsens acne. Clinical studies have shown that diet can exacerbate acne, especially high glycemic diets and dairy. If you notice a dietary trigger for your acne, I recommend avoiding these foods.”
Make sure to watch what you put on your face, as well as what you put into your body. Look for “oil-free” and “non-comedogenic” labels the next time you’re taking a romantic stroll through Sephora. And never ever sleep in your makeup.
If you need some help nailing down effective relaxation techniques, exercise, reading, and meditating are all good places to start.
Try a spot treatment or pimple patch
You’ve probably seen these emergency pimple treatments at the drugstore — usually an extra-strong solution of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or benzoyl peroxide. And yep, they can actually get rid of pimples overnight.
“Spot treatments can definitely be effective — they help to reduce inflammation and dry up the pimple,” says Dr. Robin Evans, a dermatologist at SoCo Dermatology in Connecticut.
Pimple patches are also great for whiteheads: they’re made out of hydrocolloid, which absorbs and sucks out the fluid in your pimple.
Just keep in mind these treatments aren’t meant to be used on your whole face, just the pimple itself. And if you’re on any prescription meds for acne, talk to your doctor before using a spot treatment.
Dab on a little tea tree oil
Tea tree oil clears up all sorts of skin stuff — like insect bites, athlete’s foot, and minor burns — and it can help zap acne, too.
Just dab some on a cotton swab and apply it directly to the pimple. “Dilute it at first, because some people are too sensitive to use it straight up,” Dr. Bowe cautions.
Crush up some aspirin
Sounds weird, I know, but this can actually help. I won’t get too deep into the chemistry, but aspirin is a derivative of salicylic acid, and it can soothe an angry zit just like it soothes a headache. “Crushed aspirin is anti-inflammatory,” Dr. Evans says.
When in need, go to a derm for a cortisone injection
If you wake up the day of prom with a big honking zit, your doc may be able to help. If you can swing it, your best bet is to head to the dermatologist. “There is an almost immediate fix, and that’s an injection with a dilute strength of cortisone done by your dermatologist,” says Dr. Evans.
“It’s quick and easy, with minimal discomfort, and it usually goes down within a day.” This isn’t an easy or cheap option, but when it’s an emergency — like, you have a huge whitehead on the tip of your nose the day before senior portraits — it might be worth it.
Keep your hands off
If you need the acne gone, like, right now, you may be tempted to pop it — but you could end up with an oozy red mess now and scarring later.
“Picking will make any pimple take longer to heal,” Dr. Evans says. It can also lead to infection, so even if it seems like it’s just begging to be squeezed, leave it alone and cover it up with makeup instead.
Spot treatments can help in a pinch, but you can prevent a breakout all together by avoiding bad habits that make you more likely to break out (read: sleeping in your makeup or using harsh scrubs). And if you just can’t get rid of your acne, talk to a dermatologist about finding a skin care regimen that works for you.