It’s everyone’s nightmare scenario, and we’ve all been there. You wake up after a good long sleep, feeling rested and ready to face the day, a spring in your step as you head to the bathroom to wash your face. And there it is, staring back at you in the mirror. The pimple to end all pimples. A spot that’s so big it’s basically become an extra feature on your face.
So, what do you do? You freak out. You point at it. Shout at it. And then, if you haven’t committed the number one spot sin (a.k.a. squeezing the hell out of it), you cover it in toothpaste or whatever military-grade spot solution you have on hand, spend the foreseeable future fretting over it, only to check up on your blemish-busting progress to find it’s now a red, raw, dried-out mess that no amount of concealer can cover-up.
But before you cancel all your meetings for the day – big, bad breakout in tow – there are some things you can do to stop your spot in its tracks without making matters worse. Here, Savoir Flair taps nine top global skin experts to find exactly what we should and should not do when a pimple makes an appearance. You’re welcome.
What to Do
From the best ingredients to put on that pimple to DIY remedies and the power of whizzy technology, this is what you should do when you get a breakout, according to the experts.
Do Practice Expert Extraction
Joanna Czech – Celebrity Facialist & Esthetician
“If you know what you’re doing, you can properly extract it yourself. Clean the skin with rubbing alcohol and then apply rubber gloves or a rubber finger sleeve and gently extract. Follow with hydrogen peroxide and then Neosporin to prevent infection. If you don’t feel comfortable extracting yourself, then I recommend cleansing the skin properly and using a spot treatment that is not dehydrating. Ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, sulphur, and camphor tend to be very dehydrating, so if you do use products with these main ingredients, do not overuse them.”
Do Try A DIY Treatment
Nataliya Robinson – Holistic Facialist & Founder of Quantum Botanika
“When you get a spot, the best way to calm it down is to smash one non-fizzy aspirin tablet and into that powder mix one tablespoon of Greek-style yogurt. Apply this directly on the spot (a few layers) as a mask and rinse off after 10 to 15 minutes. The aspirin contains salicylic acid, and this can help to reduce inflammation and soothe the spot.”
Do Switch To Salicylic Acid
Dr. Marwa Ali – Advanced Aesthetic Doctor
“Use a salicylic acid on a spot. This kills the bacteria that causes the breakouts and breaks down any dirt, oils, makeup, and dead skin cells clogging your pores and also prevents the formation of spots.”
Do Change Your Pillowcases
Edwige Gandin – Beautician & Skincare Expert at Pastels
“If you have a breakout, aside from having a good skincare regime, something that many people forget is to change their pillowcases! Pillowcases can harbor bacteria that either comes from the affected facial area or the environment, which can make the situation worse. I would recommend changing them at least twice a week!”
Do Reduce Inflammation
Dr. Barbara Sturm – Celebrity Facialist & Founder of Dr. Barbara Sturm Skincare
“Acne is an inflammation-mediated disease. It triggers inflammation, and it is triggered by inflammation. This is why the first thing I suggest to a patient with acne-prone skin is to get their blood checked for lactose intolerance, hormone levels, and allergies; they should also check all ingredients in their skincare routine and eliminate any product containing aggressive and inflammatory ingredients.”
Do Pop on a Spot Dot
Lisa Franklin – Leading Facialist & Founder of Lisa Franklin Skincare
“If a single spot makes an unwelcome appearance, try a spot dot as a quick-fix solution. These invisible ‘dots’ contain anti-microbial ingredients and act as a protective cover. They will also stop you from being able to pick it!”
Do Leave It to Lasers
Rebecca Treston – Skincare Expert at Dubai London Clinic
“If it looks like a cystic spot, pop into a clinic and request a five-minute appointment to treat it, rather than trying to treat it at home. I use a combination of IPL and laser to kill the bacteria and reduce the spot. It is much more effective than anything you could do at home and will ensure you do not adversely impact your skin.”
Don't Wear Makeup Under Your Protective Mask
Dr. Maryam Zamani – Leading Aesthetician & Creator of MZ Skin
“The humid micro-environment beneath your protective mask, coupled with bacteria on your skin, is the perfect storm for acne. Keep skin clean, makeup-free, and keep your hands away. When you remove the mask, do not touch the area. Wash your hands and your face. I also recommend that if you don’t use a retinol, to use one at night to help minimize oil production.”
Do Be Patient
Dr. Yannis Alexandrides – Founder of 111Skin & 111 Harley St. Medical Director
“Be patient. Topical ingredients take time to work. If you want clearer skin, then you have to be patient and persistent with your skincare regime. Retinol, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide are widely used to treat acne, but give them six or more weeks to work. A brightening agent such as NAC Y2 or niacinamide is ideal for post-inflammatory pigment following a spot.”
What Not to Do
Before you turn to bizarre remedies or get tempted to tackle your spot with various lotions and potions, read these expert tips on what not to do when you get a breakout. You, and your skin, will be glad you did.
Don't Use Toothpaste
Dr. Marwa Ali
“Do not apply toothpaste to a spot – a remedy that has long been advised to calm down and lighten the appearance of a breakout. Toothpaste can irritate the skin and upset the pH balance, leading to a rash and skin burns!”
Don't Pop It!
Dr. Barbara Sturm
“Simple. Don’t pop your pimples! It’s something that can exacerbate and cascade the problem. If you’re able, go and see a professional who will extract it via a little incision. If you’re not careful and you do it yourself, it can cause scarring, hyperpigmentation, and so much more trouble later on.”
“While exfoliation can be an important step in any skincare regime, for those who have acne, it can actually make the situation so much worse. So, before you choose your exfoliating product, ask your skin care expert for guidance as they will be able to recommend one that will ensure you don’t adversely impact the skin.”
Dr. Yannis Alexandrides
“Don’t stress, and when you do, take three deep breaths. Stress and environmental aggressors are the two main causes of skin complaints – everything from acne to aging. Of course, stress is part of life, although it is worth trying to find a way to manage stress to counteract the effects it can have on your health.”
Don’t Mask with Makeup
“We all know it is the cardinal sin to ‘pick’ and ‘probe’ a spot, but one of the most common mistakes is using heavy camouflage makeup to mask the problem. This can actually do more damage to the spots!”
Don't Believe Everything You Read
“I have seen people put garlic onto their spot, and they have then left it too long and it has burnt their skin and/or left a mark. I am not sure where they have received the advice to do this, but I would recommend against it.”
Don't Use Undiluted Tee Tree Oil
“You should never apply pure tee tree essential oil on a spot without diluting it with water. That’s a very common mistake. Pure tea tree can burn the skin and you will end up not only with the acne but with a crust on the skin!”
Don’t Use Sharp Objects
“Don’t ever attack your skin with your fingernails or a sewing needle. You can cause inflammation and permanent damage, including hyperpigmentation.”
Don’t Touch It
Dr. Maryam Zamani
“If you have a little pimple, do not touch it! Instead, if you have topical over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1%, use that twice daily for two to three days to help decrease inflammation.”
Shop the Best Expert-Approved Products
From Joanna Czech’s must-have “enzymatic and hydrating mask” to Dr. Barbara Sturm’s amazing ‘Clarifying Spot Treatment’, which “supports the skin’s renewal and healing properties”, shop the best pimple-busting products below, as recommended by the experts.