Big zit, now what? How to shrink that breakout—fast

July 25, 2023

Whether it’s the night before a date or you’re preparing for a potentially career-changing meeting in the morning, it never fails. A pimple decides to rise and shine on your skin. There’s no time to patiently purge this pimple with better rest and pounding H2O. What you need is a pimple-banishing regimen that guides you on how to get rid of acne fast. Enter these 5 fast ways to conquering your big event sans zit. 

#1 Cleanse your skin

Immediately start with a good cleanse that will wash away some of the culprits that are known to cause acne in the first place, like:

  • Sebum (a natural oil created by your skin) 
  • Dirt 
  • Dead skin cells 
  • Sweat 

Use a non-abrasive cleanser that’s free of alcohol and astringents, as both of those ingredients can be drying and irritating to some skin types. Wash with cool water to bring down swelling and redness, then pat your face dry (don’t rub!). 

#2 Use a cold compress to reduce inflammation

With the help of a cold compress, you may be able to reduce the redness, swelling and pain associated with inflamed breakouts:

  • Step 1: Cleanse and dry your face using the steps above 
  • Step 2: Wrap ice cubes or an ice pack in a clean cloth 
  • Step 3: Apply the cold compress to the affected area for intervals of up to one minute

You can reapply the cold compress every few minutes a few times a day, ideally in the morning and evening after you’ve just washed your face. While a compress won’t purge the bacteria trapped inside your skin, it should help with redness, inflammation and discomfort. 

#3 Invest in an acne mask  

Acne masks are an excellent addition to have handy in your skincare emergency toolkit. Acne masks work by using powerful acne-fighting ingredients to target existing and future breakouts, while helping to reduce inflammation.

However, not every mask is created equally. While they all aim to reduce the appearance of your pimples, their superpowers depend on which active ingredients they contain. Some of the common ingredients in acne masks include: 

  • Sulfur: Due to its antifungal and antibacterial properties, it can help reduce the appearance of acne. It also has the potential to help exfoliate the outer layer of skin and dry out excess sebum
  • Glycolic acid: This alpha hydroxy acid works as an exfoliant to help remove dead skin cells that are known to trigger acne), while fighting current breakouts, including inhibiting the growth of some acne-causing bacteria 
  • Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid is an acne-fighting powerhouse known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and exfoliating properties. Unlike its cousin glycolic acid, salicylic acid penetrates deeper into the skin and breaks the bonds between dead skin cells. This helps purge debris from your pores, while also breaking down sebum  

#4 Try an acne spot treatment

Pressed for time? An acne spot treatment might be your best bet for quickly diminishing a pimple. They’re an ideal option for many, especially if you’re interested in using a skincare product that concentrates on a localized area of your skin—and acts fast. 

Spot treatments can work to exfoliate your blemish while also soothing your skin and reducing any unwanted redness associated with the zit. If you’re really in a pinch, apply your spot treatment followed by a cold compress for a one-two punch. 

#5 Avoid picking the breakout

When it comes to getting rid of zits quickly, you might assume that popping your unwanted rival is the ultimate go-to move. But before you begin popping that pimple, consider some of the ramifications your skin could face, such as:

  • Pushing the bacteria, oil and skin cell debris of the pimple deeper into your skin 
  • Irritating your skin and causing further redness and inflammation 
  • Mixing the bacteria from your hands into the zit, causing more breakouts 
  • Causing potential hyperpigmentation and acne scars 

References for this information:

Indian Journal of Dermatology, 2011, volume 56, issue 1, pages 2-6
American Academy of Dermatology Association Website, Skincare
Medical News Today Website, Health Conditions
Penn Medicine Website, Health and Wellness
Medical News Today Website

About the Author

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Jacki Marzano is SoCal-based storyteller and head copywriter at Murad Skincare. She's shaped the voice of some of the most recognized beauty brands in the business, has a penchant for sharing homemade cookies, and believes SPF is the secret to getting carded well into your 40s.