How To Get Rid of Big, Ugly Pimple

If you are prone to acne, a well-tailored daily skin care regimen is crucial to preventing breakouts - and that's a topic for another entry. But everyone, of every skin type, needs to contend with an isolated blemish sometimes. So what can you do when you get an unwelcome surprise in the form of an uncomfortable, red pimple?
  1. For those once-in-a-blue-moon zit emergencies - we're talking a major photo shoot or your wedding here! - apply a hydrocortisone cream. This topical anti-inflammatory will quickly and effectively take the redness out of a pimple; use it too often, though, and you can actually stimulate acne. If you really want a quick and effective solution, you can also talk to your dermatologist about a steroid injection (such as Kenalog), which is essentially a stronger and more direct version of hydrocortisone cream.
  2. Of course, trips to the dermatologist aren't always practical, and we all know how tempting it is to just pop those pimples! I won't lecture you about why that's never the best idea - I'm sure you've heard it before, and even the skin-savviest among us just need to make zits go away quickly sometimes. I will, however, give you some guidelines on how and when it's safest to do the deed: Only pimples with clearly defined yellow-white centers are safe to pop. Before you get started, be sure to wash your hands carefully. Next, hold a warm washcloth over the pimple for 3-5 minutes, and then gently press two cotton swabs on either side of the pimple (you don't want to risk introducing any dirt or bacteria to the pore). Most importantly, know when to stop: If the pimple doesn't pop with gentle pressure, stop trying - force a pimple that's not ready, and you run the risk of scarring. Finally, apply a salicylic acid spot treatment to the affected area.
  3. In fact, salicylic acid is the best weapon in your anti-blemish arsenal whether you've just popped a pimple or not. It's my favorite treatment ingredient for two reasons: Salicylic acid is safe for even sensitive skin (unlike, for example, benzoyl peroxide) and it can actually penetrate the sebum in your skin, clearing clogged pores as it reduces redness and inflammation. My favorite products with salicylic acid include Kinerase Clear Skin Blemish Dissolver,  Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Defense Face Lotion, Bliss Change Your Spots, and Clinique Acne Solutions Spot Healing Gel.

Oh, and one more thing: Have you heard the urban beauty legend that toothpaste is a good pimple spot treatment? No such luck. It may once have been true - toothpaste used to contain zinc, which is an anti-inflammatory. These days, though, toothpastes do not contain zinc... so all you'll end up with is a minty mess on your face.

Wishing you great skin!

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Dr. Baumann is author of the best-selling book, "The Skin Type Solution." To learn more about her revolutionary skin typing system, visit her Web site, SkinTypeSolutions.com

All of Dr. Baumann's recommended skin care products are available online, and a portion of proceeds goes to The Dermatology Foundation.

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