It may be tempting to squeeze a large pimple, but doing so could make the zit worse, skin doctors say.
Up to 50 million Americans struggle with various forms of acne, particularly red, swollen, painful bumps that develop deep in the skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
There are better, more effective ways to manage acne, said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Meghan Feely.
“Although there are no overnight or immediate cures for acne, you don’t have to stand by and suffer, either,” Feely said in an academy news release. She’s an attending physician at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.
“Make sure you use noncomedogenic and oil-free cosmetics, cleansers and sunscreens, and never try to scrub away a pimple, as this can further irritate it and make it worse,” she said. Noncomedogenic products are less likely to clog pores.
There are other strategies that can help keep acne under control. Feely recommended the following:
- Use a mild cleanser. It’s important to apply acne treatment to clean skin. Opt for a fragrance-free cleanser and wash the skin gently.
- Apply ice, then heat. A cold compress can help ease the pain and swelling of a pimple. Wrap an ice cube in a paper towel and apply it to the affected area for five to 10 minutes. Repeat this process twice, taking 10-minute breaks between applications. Once a whitehead begins to form, a warm compress can help release the pus that accumulates under the skin. Soak a clean washcloth in hot water. Apply the warm cloth to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this step three to four times daily until the pimple begins to heal.
- Target bacteria. Once the skin is clean, apply a small amount of acne treatment to the pimple. Choose a product that contains 2 percent benzoyl peroxide. This will help kill the bacteria that causes acne. Apply only a thin layer to avoid irritating the skin. Keep in mind that benzoyl peroxide can bleach fabrics, so avoid contact with clothing, colored sheets and towels.
- Resist the urge to pop or pick at pimples. You’ll only make your pimples more noticeable and increase the risk for infection and scarring.
- Be wary of “natural” acne remedies. Products advertised as natural could do more harm than good. Even natural ingredients may be combined with potentially harmful products.
- Talk to a doctor. Board-certified dermatologists are trained to help treat acne and prevent future breakouts. They can treat painful, swollen pimples with a cortisone injection. A dermatologist can also prescribe treatments to help maintain a clear complexion.
“Today, virtually every case of acne can be successfully treated, even severe acne,” Feely said. “However, not everyone’s acne can be treated the same way. If you have a lot of acne, or if your acne isn’t responding to over-the-counter acne medications after four to six weeks, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.”
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about acne.