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What Top Skin Docs Do When They Get a Pimple

Dermatologist pimple clearing tips
Photo: Getty Images

Despite what their seemingly consistently clear complexions may imply, even dermatologists deal with the occasional breakout. And yes, to be fair, they admittedly have access to a much larger arsenal of zit-zappers than the rest of us. (Full disclosure, nearly every doc we spoke with said a cortisone injection is one of their go-to tricks for quickly knocking out a pimple.)

Still, these skin pros have developed some other pretty unique ways of battling blemishes. Test out their insider tricks the next time a pimple pops up and see which one works best for you. (Related: The Best Skin-Care Routine for Acne-Prone Skin

Hit the honey jar.
Turns out one of the best acne-fighters may be found in your kitchen. "Honey has antimicrobial properties and can be used as a mask or spot treatment," says Chicago dermatologist Jordan Carqueville, M.D. "I dab it on any blemishes and wash off after 15 minutes." Bonus: Unlike lots of other skin-clearing ingredients, it's actually hydrating, rather than drying. Sweet.

Put a Band-Aid on it.
Dermatologist and founder of the Miami Skin Institute, S. Manjula Jegasothy, M.D., slathers on Epiduo at bedtime. It's a prescription-only treatment, though she notes that Differin is a good OTC substitute (it contains adapalene, a retinoid, to help keep pores clear). The trick, though, is to put a bandage over the pimple: "Covering it ensures the topical treatment penetrates into your skin, instead of rubbing off on your clothing or bedding," she explains. Less staining on your pillowcase and PJs, more effective results on your complexion.

Chill out.
For a super-quick fix, "Try applying an ice cube directly on the pimple for no more than 60 seconds," advises Anne Chapas, M.D., dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. "This constricts the blood vessels, reducing redness and swelling." It's an ideal trick if you're short on time and need to minimize the look of a pimple, like, now.

Sip on spearmint tea.
Feel a blemish cropping up? Swap your morning cup o' coffee for spearmint tea. "Many of my acne patients, myself included, find spearmint tea to be incredibly helpful for breakouts," says Emily Arch, M.D., a dermatologist at Dermatology + Aesthetics of Wicker Park in Chicago. "Drinking two cups of it a day has shown to help decrease levels of androgens—aka 'male' hormones—which in turn may help with hormonal acne."

Grab some Visine.
"A drop or two of Visine works wonders to tone down the redness of a pimple," explains Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. She uses it as an overnight treatment, but you can also do this pre-makeup to make it easier to cover up the blemish.

Make your own spot treatment.
Follow the lead of Joshua Zeichner, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and take the DIY route. "Combine spot treatments with three different ingredients: One with benzoyl peroxide to kill acne-causing bacteria, one with salicylic acid to remove excess oil and dry the pimple out, and an over-the-counter cortisone cream to decrease inflammation. Mix a drop of each in the palm of your hand, apply on the pimple overnight, then wash off in the morning," he suggests.

Pop a pill.
Deirdre Hooper, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Louisiana State University, combats large, inflamed blemishes internally and externally. "I take three Advil every eight hours to reduce swelling, then apply cortisone ointment directly on the blemish. Using an ointment, not a cream, will also help keep the pimple from looking crusty and make it easier to cover up."

Conceal and treat simultaneously.
Make the most of your makeup, like Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care in Chevy Chase, MD, does. "I mix a sulfur-based spot treatment with my foundation to create a 'medicated' concealer I can wear all day. The sulfur helps dry out the pimple, but it's less harsh on the skin than benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid."


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