When you wake up to an unsightly, angry pimple, it can be insanely tempting to pop it. But don’t give in! According to the American Academy of Dermatology, picking and squeezing pimples can cause infection and permanent scarring.1 On the other hand, exercising patience (and expertly employing your concealer skills) can prevent your skin from looking worse later.
If you get blemishes frequently, you should know you’re not alone—zits are the most common skin problem in the United States.2 More than 85% of people ages 12 to 24 have a problem with breakouts. Though pimples are more common in adolescence, many people, especially women, get pimples far into adulthood thanks to hormones and pregnancy, among other factors.3
What Are Pimples?
Pimples are inflamed glands in your skin. The hair follicles connected to these sebaceous, or oil, glands become clogged with dead skin cells and oil. This causes the follicles to become infected, and a pesky pimple to appear on your skin.
There are many factors that influence breakouts, including hormones, stress, and an unhealthy diet. Some prescription medicines can cause zits. Heredity may also influence if and when your skin breaks out.
When you get a pimple, you want it gone ASAP. Try these five techniques for beautiful, blemish-free skin.
1. Keep Your Face Clean
If you’re prone to breakouts, the most important thing you can do is to thoroughly wash your face. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends washing your face twice a day, especially after sweating or exercise.5
Use a cleanser that’s specifically designed for people with pimples, but make sure the ingredients aren’t too harsh or drying for your specific skin type. (If you have very reactive skin, for example, don’t slather your face with something potent without first patch-testing it on your neck or jawline.)
And be careful of water temperature—using water that’s too hot can dry out your face and actually cause more breakouts.
2. Over-the-Counter Medicine
Over-the-counter medicines usually include the ingredients benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.6 These both can be effective at curing minor breakouts in a few days. Sulfur, which works by drying out the zit, is another popular anti-blemish ingredient. Try products with benzoyl peroxide since most people do not have adverse reactions to the medicine. With that said, everyone’s skin is unique so you might have to try more than one to find the solution that works best for you.
3. How About a Herbal Remedy?
Several herbs have been noted for their ability to clear skin. The Microbiology Society has found that thyme is more effective at treating blemishes than benzoyl peroxide.8 Thyme is also gentler on the skin than over-the-counter medicines.
Basil has also proven to be effective at fighting breakouts. In a study by the University of Cartagena in Columbia, researchers determined that orange and sweet basil essential oils cleared blemishes for study volunteers.9
To use herbs as a treatment, simply add fresh herb leaves to a couple of cups of water and boil. When the solution has cooled, you can use it as an all-over face wash or apply it to blemish-prone areas of your face with a cotton ball. Alternatively, you can find these ingredients in products you can buy.
4.Treat Bad Skin From the Inside Out
Eating a diet high in dairy and carbohydrates can cause breakouts in people who are prone to the condition. A recent study from Thailand also shows that eating dark chocolate can make pimples worse.11
Whether or not you believe these claims, we do know that a healthy diet helps skin to look more radiant.
Eat lots of foods that fight inflammation, such as whole grains, olive oil, garlic, alfalfa sprouts, avocados, red grapes, and fatty fishes. Ever notice how super healthy people have perfect skin? That’s not a coincidence.
The amount of water we take into our bodies can also have many effects on the health of your skin.
A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia shows that hydration has a definite effect on skin circulation and general skin health.12 Make sure to drink enough water throughout the day. You’ve probably heard you need to drink eight glasses—according to the Institute of Medicine, adult women need nine cups, while adult men need 13 cups. However, this number includes the amount of water coming from fruits, veggies, and other beverages as well.
5. Try Some Tea Tree Oil
A 2016 study out of Australia has shown that tea tree oil is effective at curing mild to moderate breakouts.13
If you want to use tea tree oil at home, you can apply the essential oil directly to a cotton ball and onto the infected area.14 If you want to use tea tree oil for your whole face or a larger area, it should be diluted in water or another oil that’s safe for skin application.
Pimples are annoying, but you must resist the urge to pop them to avoid future headaches. Apply the tips above to banish your blemish as quickly as possible then, after you do so, keep your hands busy so they don’t go near your face!