We’ve all been there: You wake up one morning and all of a sudden, out of the blue, a big zit has taken up residence on your forehead. Or maybe a pesky pimple pops up right before an important first date, a party—maybe even prom. Because pimples, annoying as they are, wait for nobody.
Whatever the situation, it’s time to act fast. But before you go searching for DIY pimple-shrinking hacks online, back up—because we’ve got you covered. While natural alternatives like good-ol’ toothpaste have a time and a place, sometimes you need something stronger. Here, we’re walking you through exactly what to do to get rid of a pimple ASAP, whether you’ve got days or merely hours to spare. Whether a zit pops up on your nose, cheeks, chin or forehead, follow this step-by-step guide and never let a pimple get in the way of your schedule ever again.
If you’ve only got a few hours…
In a pinch to downplay a zit right before school or an event? Start here:
1: put it on ice
Yes, you read that right. Since time is of the essence here, the very first thing you should to is head straight to your freezer. Grab an ice pack, or a single ice cube if your fingers can bare it, and apply it directly onto your pimple. Hold it this way for as long as you can stand it, then take a break for a few seconds, and repeat at least twice more. The freezing cold temperature will immediately help to calm the inflamed skin surrounding the pimple, thereby soothing any splotchy redness. Just like ice helps reduce swelling when you sprain your ankle, it will also work similarly to shrink the swelling and size of a pimple.
2: color correct
Here’s a tip: When a pimple pops up right before you’ve got to head out the door, don’t apply any spot treatment underneath your makeup. Spot treatments, while they do work to shrink and heal pimples, also cause drying of the skin—AKA, your pimple will be a flaky, concealed mess in no time. Instead, forgo spot treatment until you have ample time (as below). Instead, reach for a colour correcting concealer or primer; Green typically works best to camouflage red, inflamed blemishes.
After you’ve colour-corrected, it’s time to apply your regular concealer, as usual. Bonus step: Spritz on a setting spray to ensure that your blemish-camouflaging makeup stays put.
If you’ve got 24 hours or more…
If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands to tackle a zit before a big event, or maybe school the following day, follow these steps.
1: cleanse the area
Before you apply a leave-on pimple-fighting potion, you’ll want to make sure the area is completely clean. Reach for your face wash (may we suggest the Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash), and suds up using lukewarm water. After toweling off, move to the next, and perhaps most important, step.
2: apply a targeted leave-on treatment
If you’re following these steps overnight, lucky you! If you’re trying to tame your pimple last-minute, even on your way out the door, don’t panic. The key is to look for a targeted spot-treatment that is both powerful and can be worn underneath your moisturiser. In other words, you don’t want to be walking around with a noticeable glob of pimple cream on your face all day, do you? Didn’t think so. You also don’t want to use a spot treatment that will have your skin flaking off by lunchtime.
We’ve all heard the rumour that applying toothpaste can get rid of a pimple fast, but for those who need something more acute, there’s Clear Start. In other words, if you’re in a bind and toothpaste is the only thing you have on hand, apply a small dollop onto the blemish and let it dry overnight. But with toothpaste, there’s no real guarantee—which is why, before school or a first date, you’ll want to use something stronger that’s specifically formulated to tackle pimples fast.
Your best bet is to reach for a salicylic acid-based treatment that’s also moisturising, so as to stop your pimple in its tracks without leaving any residue, or flaking skin, behind. Try Clear Start’s Breakout Clearing Booster, which is formulated with salicylic acid plus soothing niacinamide. Apply the booster directly onto your blemish, then let it dry before layering your moisturiser on top.