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Is there any worse feeling than waking up only to find a massive zit has popped up on your skin? When this happens, it can take everything in you to force yourself to show your face to the world. Your first thought is probably to search for advice on how to get rid of the pimple—but before you take any drastic measures, take a second to calm down and come up with a smart plan when it comes to caring for your skin and addressing your specific skin concerns. Not sure where to start? Here are some tips to follow when you have a pimple.
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the best active ingredients to look for in product formulas when you have a pimple, says Dr. Rocio Rivera, head of scientific communications for L’Oréal Paris. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), benzoyl peroxide works by helping to kill bacteria that can cause a blemish. You can find benzoyl peroxide in the formulas of different kinds of products designed for acne-prone skin, including washes, creams, gels, and pre-moistened cloths.
Rivera says that salicylic acid is another active ingredient to consider using if you have a pimple. According to the AAD, salicylic acid works by helping to exfoliate dead skin cells on the surface of your skin. (This buildup of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin can clog pores, and clogged pores can lead to breakouts.) Like benzoyl peroxide, you can find salicylic acid in a variety of different types of skin care products formulated to address acne, such as washes, creams, facial scrubs, cleansing cloths, and cleansing pads.
We totally get it: When you have a pimple, you probably have the urge to touch it. But it’s important to keep your hands away from your face, says Rivera. Why is that? Well, your hands come into contact with dirty surfaces—think door knobs and even your cell phone—all day long, so you don’t want to possibly transfer any bacteria that’s on your fingers to the skin on your face. Of course, not touching your face is easier said than done—but it’s definitely worth not doing it, so put that willpower of yours to good use!
Have you ever heard that you could put toothpaste on a pimple to get rid of it? It turns out this is an old wives’ tale. Rivera says this is something you should absolutely not try, as it can result in irritation of the skin. Yikes.
Regardless of your skin type, you should always wear a product formulated with broad-spectrum SPF of 15 or higher each day, since exposing your skin to the sun sans protection can lead to visible skin damage. When taking care of a pimple, it’s very important to apply SPF and avoid direct exposure to the sun, says Rivera. She explains that when you have a zit, your skin’s melanin (a.k.a. pigment) is at a higher level in that area, and being out in the sun (without SPF) can cause your skin to produce even more melanin, meaning you could be left with a dark spot once the pimple has cleared. Just remember: Apply a product formulated with broad spectrum SPF of 15 or higher every day, throughout the day, and throw a big, floppy hat in your bag and wear protective clothing to help prevent sunburn and visible skin damage.
While you’re taking care of your skin, you can help camouflage your pimple with a green concealer. Green and red are opposite each other on the color wheel, which is why green can help to neutralize the appearance of redness. Don’t apply the concealer with your fingers—remember, they can harbor bacteria. Instead, use a clean makeup sponge to lightly dab it over the blemish.