Spot treatments are key for treating a pimple ASAP. Benzoyl peroxide is often vilified for being harsh, but when it comes to really zapping a zit, it should be your best friend. Just dab it on the trouble spot to dry it out and kill bacteria. For heavy-duty action, try Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Gel; for something gentler, we like Arithmetic Acne Control Complex, which has soothing ingredients to counter the drying effects and is made with adult skin in mind.
You can find it in many drugstore products—just take a peek at the label. Dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. likes the Benzac line. "It's active ingredients are salicylic acid and East Indian Sandalwood oil—salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that serves as a keratolytic agent (meaning it dissolves keratin). It unclogs pores by penetrating into the pore to dissolve dead skin cell accumulation and aids in shedding of the top layer of skin. East Indian sandalwood oil is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent, which is new to the skin care scene. It soothes the skin and fights off inflammation that often accompanies breakouts."
Sure, we’ve all heard that toothpaste or rubbing alcohol can help dry out a zit, but many DIY treatments aren't solutions for how to treat acne. In fact, applying toothpaste or rubbing alcohol are more likely to cause irritation and dryness than treat the actual pimple. Instead, stick with topical over-the-counter and prescription spot treatments with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide that are specially made to target pimples, says Dr. Hammerman. For an all-natural spot treatment, she suggests dabbing tea tree oil on the area a few times a day with a cotton ball.
Some teens who have acne can get help from a doctor or dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin problems). A doctor may treat the acne with prescription medicines. Depending on the person's acne, this might mean using prescription creams that prevent pimples from forming, taking antibiotics to kill the bacteria that help create pimples, or if the acne is severe, taking stronger medicines such as isotretinoin, or even having minor surgery. Some girls find that birth control pills help to clear up their acne.
Sometimes it seems like pimples sprout up overnight, but the process of pimple formation is a bit more complex. So what are the most common causes of pimples? A variety of factors can result in an acne blemish. Pimples can develop on anyone at any age, but tend to be most common amongst teens. Why do teenagers get the brunt of breakouts? Hormone fluctuations. When hormone levels increase, the sebaceous glands found within the skin’s hair follicles produce an excess of sebum. Sebum is a waxy substance that the body produce to keep the skin soft and moisturized. However, when hormonal changes cause an increase in sebum production, the pores can become clogged. This sticky substance can collect dead skin cells, debris, and bacteria, forming a plug in the follicle. Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and pustules all begin the same way. Preventing pimples means discovering the reasons you’re breaking out and doing all you can to combat these factors. There is no single answer to the age old question of how to get rid of pimples.
Acne treatment that you apply to the skin: Most acne treatments are applied to the skin. Your dermatologist may call this topical treatment. There are many topical acne treatments. Some topicals help kill the bacteria. Others work on reducing the oil. The topical medicine may contain a retinoid, prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic, or even salicylic acid. Your dermatologist will determine what you need.
If a pore gets clogged up and closes but bulges out from the skin, you're left with a whitehead. If a pore gets clogged up but stays open, the top surface can darken and you're left with a blackhead. Sometimes the wall of the pore opens, allowing sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells to make their way under the skin — and you're left with a small, red bump called a pimple (sometimes pimples have a pus-filled top from the body's reaction to the bacterial infection).
Like microneedling, fractionated skin resurfacing sends skin a signal to respond to damage. Specifically, microscopic columns of injury are created causing minute perforations in the treatment area, while leaving healthy surrounding tissue intact and untouched. "The specific zones of injury trigger the patient's natural neocollagenesis (collagen rebuilding process)," explains Engelman, who characterizes the treatment as both revolutionary and non-invasive. This new collagen rejuvenates the skin and improves its appearance. "Improvements continue over time (up to six months post-procedure) as new collagen continues to rebuild," she says.
"Acne scars are very challenging to treat and are even more challenging to treat once they've been given time to age," says Joel Schlessinger, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Omaha, Nebraska. Although he says the best option is prevention (but if you just can't resist popping your pimples, do it the doctor-approved way!), there are ways to treat acne scars to drastically reduce their appearance.
It starts when greasy secretions from the skin's sebaceous glands (oil glands) plug the tiny openings for hair follicles (plugged pores). If the openings are large, the clogs take the form of blackheads: small, flat spots with dark centers. If the openings stay small, the clogs take the form of whiteheads: small, flesh-colored bumps. Both types of plugged pores can develop into swollen, tender inflammations or pimples or deeper lumps or nodules. Nodules associated with severe cases of acne (cystic acne) are firm swellings below the skin's surface that become inflamed, tender, and sometimes infected.
Temporary skin fillers have been used for years for acne scar treatment, but a permanent dermal filler was approved for use by the FDA just last summer. Designed to remove moderate to severe acne scarring, Bellafill is made up of 80% collagen to replace lost volume and 20% polymethylmethacrylate, which helps your body heal by boosting protein production.
Apple cider vinegar has many properties. It is an astringent and a natural disinfectant that makes it a good natural antiseptic. It also balances the pH level of your body and of your skin when applied topically. And because it is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, it is effective in the treatment of acne too. All of these properties of apple cider vinegar are granted by its beneficial components that include vitamins, minerals, carbolic acid, ketones, aldehydes, amino acids, anti-oxidant, acetic acid and many more. It is therefore a known remedy for acne. You can also heal acne scars considerably with apple cider vinegar. As this vinegar scrapes off the dead skin cells, it may fade away the acne scars to a great extent. You can either use apple cider vinegar with water or with honey.
This potent serum uses a blend of restorative, antioxidant ingredients to promote skin healing, which is what acne scars need. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a time-released acid that simultaneously stimulates collagen synthesis and promotes wound healing. Retinol works similarly in this formulation, while zinc sulfate is as an anti-inflammatory, and aurbtin helps manage hyperpigmentation.
Breakouts can come and go, but the scars they leave behind can linger for years (or more). You've probably been told, "Don't pop your pimples, or you'll end up with a mark." But recently, I learned that the most common acne scars have nothing to do with your tendency to squeeze zits. "Popping pimples doesn't cause scarring," Mark Karolak, D.O., a board-certified facial plastic surgeon at Reflections Center for Skin and Body, tells SELF. "If it's just a whitehead and blackhead on the surface, it can be popped without creating any scarring."
You can help keep rosacea under control by keeping a record of things that cause it to flare up. Try to avoid or limit these triggers as much as you can. Antibiotic lotions or gels can also help. Sometimes, you may need to take antibiotic pills. Your dermatologist may treat you with laser surgery. If you think you have rosacea, talk with your doctor about these treatments.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.