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10 Ways to Stop a Zit From Forming When You Feel One Coming On

Photo by Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

It happens every time: you wake up the morning of a big day—whether it be the morning of your big work presentation, graduation, wedding day, birthday, date night, you get the picture—and you feel a sore spot right in the center of your face that's sure to turn into a fully-formed, inflamed zit within mere of hours. What is it with the universe? And while your first instinct is always to pinch and pry, trying to squeeze it from within an inch of its life, we all know that never ends well. All that does is inflict a whole lot of redness and an even longer recovery time. But we don't expect you to sit around and wait for it to make its big debut before your moment in the spotlight, either. Instead, we tapped dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, for 10 ways to stop a zit dead in its tracks before it rears its ugly head. Scroll through for all the ways to get back to clear skin, stat.

About the Expert:

Debra Jaliman, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist with a private practice in Manhattan, New York. Her dermatology practice focuses on cosmetic dermatology and general dermatology.

How to Stop a Zit From Forming

1. Spot-Treat It

A hydrocolloid patch, and a cute star-shaped one at that, will keep your new tenant safe from your fingers if you're tempted. Plus, it creates a moist, clean environment—aka the ideal conditions for healing. However, for best results, Dr. Jaliman says, "Just make certain to change them regularly."

Not sure how to use hydrocolloid patches? We have a tutorial sure to clear a few things up for you. See what we did there?

2. Ditch The Makeup

While you're tempted now more than ever to pack on the concealer, makeup will only exacerbate the problem. Instead, step away from the makeup bag and give your face a nice, luxurious clean to remove all traces of dirt and makeup that often make matters worse. Dr. Jaliman tells us, "it's important to keep the area clean, and I often recommend that patients use rubbing alcohol on the area to minimize the bacteria." Keep in mind, this will dry out the skin, so use sparingly.

3. Warm Things Up

If pus has collected at the head of your pimple, we know you'll be tempted to pinch. However, applying a warm compress is your best bet as pinching always makes matters worse. Steam or a warm towel can encourage pores to open up, which will relieve some of the pressure. Dr. Jaliman adds, "Steam or a warm compress to help draw out the pus in the pimple." A steam machine or a hot water-soaked towel both work just as well.

4. Rev Up Your Retinol Routine

One of the best ways to stop a zit from forming is treating the skin regularly and preventing them before you start feeling that sore spot. "Retinol is always excellent because it unclogs pores," explains Dr. Jaliman. The vitamin A derivative helps increase the cell turnover rate, which rids your skin of the dead cells that often clog the pores and cause pimples.

5. Clear the Clog With Clay

We love an at-home spa moment, but clay masks are particularly great for when you have a pimple that needs to be treated. Dr. Jaliman says, "Clay masks help dry out the spot and draw out impurities." Essentially, clay soaks up excess oil that may be clogging the pore and speeds up the healing process. If your skin tends to be drier, use a clay mask as a spot treatment or specifically in oily areas like your T-zone.

6. Ice Ice, Baby

In general, cold temperatures help reduce signs of inflammation, and the same goes for swelling associated with acne by constricting the blood vessels around it. While Dr. Jaliman admits cold compresses won't stop a breakout, she says, "If the area is particularly swollen, you can use an ice pack." The ice pack will relieve the inflammation, making the affected area look smaller and not as red. What else could we ask for?

7. Break Out the Big Guns

When it comes to brewing breakouts, your regular non-active ingredients just won't cut it. Dr. Jaliman says, "I love an AHA exfoliating peel because it has lactic acid and glycolic acid. You can put just a drop of it on the area, and it helps to dry up the breakout." We also love benzoyl peroxide (an antibacterial ingredient) and salicylic acid, which is perfect for unclogging pores.

8. Hit It With Hydrocortisone

"Hydrocortisone is anti-inflammatory, so it helps get rid of redness," explains Dr. Jaliman. For more severe cystic acne, a derm could administer a cortisone shot in an office appointment. But a more accessible (and way more affordable) option is an at-home treatment of over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream that you can dab on your incoming breakout.

9. Fight Oil With Oil

Oily skin tends to break out the most, so the idea of applying more oil to this skin type may seem counterintuitive. However, board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, tells Byrdie to "Balance oil production and clear pores with LORD JONES Pore Detox CBD Face Oil," adding, "this is an incredible hydrating CBD facial oil that helps clarify skin by balancing sebum (oil) production and soothing redness with blue tansy, tea tree oil, and niaouli oil." She recommends incorporating it into your regular skincare routine to improve skin tone over time or use it for spot treating.

10. Sip, Sip, Hooray

If your skin is breaking out lately, chances are you could be slacking on your water intake. Pandia Health reports that staying hydrated "helps balance the oil content on the skin, which in turn results in clear pores and fewer pimples." Keep a water bottle nearby to ensure you're drinking water and sipping away breakouts.

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About the author
Stephanie Montes
Stephanie Montes
Stephanie is a freelance contributor covering all things beauty. She writes about her adventures testing the latest trends in skincare, hair, and makeup. Stephanie's bylines have also appeared on Who What Wear, Elle, Byrdie, Bustle, and more.
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Article Last Updated May 11, 2022 12:00 AM