How to Clear Acne Before Prom

Prom is one of the biggest nights of your high school life. But it’s hard to enjoy the experience if you’re worried about acne on prom night.

What can be done to clear acne before prom? Here are seven tips that will help your skin look its best.

Teenage girl checking makeup in car mirror
Zero Creatives / Getty Images

Start Taking Care of Your Skin Now

If you’ve been neglecting your skin, don’t wait another day to start on a skincare routine. Good skin care will help your skin to look and feel better every day.

A healthy skincare routine looks like this:

  • Cleanse your face twice a day. It's especially important to wash your face before bed to get off any makeup, dirt, oil, and sweat.
  • Exfoliate gently.
  • Apply an oil-free moisturizer if your skin feels dry.
  • Wear an oil-free sunscreen to protect your skin.

While clean skin is good, vigorous scrubbing is not. Pimples aren’t caused by dirt and scrubbing won't clear your skin anyway.

Don’t cleanse your skin too often, either. Over-cleansing can strip the skin, leaving your skin excessively dry, red and irritated.

A twice-a-day cleansing is fine, even if your skin is oily. Throw in a third cleansing only if needed, like after gym class or sports practice.

Start Using an Effective Acne Treatment

If you just have a few pimples here and there, you can treat your acne with store-bought products. It doesn't matter what brand you buy, as long as the product contains either salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulfur (hint: look for these listed as the active ingredients.)

If you're feeling overwhelmed with your choices, complete acne treatment kits like AcneFree or Proactiv can simplify your treatment routine. You can even make your own.

Whatever products you're using, make sure you use them every day exactly as directed. Don't be discouraged if you don't see results right away. It can take up to three to four months of using them before you notice a difference in your skin. If you stop before then, you aren't giving the products a chance to really start working.

See a Healthcare Provider About Your Skin

Is your acne moderate to severe? Is it inflamed? Have you tried over-the-counter products before without seeing results?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, a prescription acne medication is probably needed to get your acne under control. Talk to your parents about seeing a healthcare provider about your acne.

Time is essential here, especially if prom season is on its way. It can take several weeks before you see a noticeable improvement in your skin. Starting on an acne medication three days before prom won’t give you the results you want. The earlier you get started, the better your chances for clearer skin in time for prom.

If you don’t already have a dermatologist, you can make an appointment with your regular family healthcare provider first. Most family practitioners and pediatricians are very familiar with treating acne. They can also give you a referral to a dermatologist if needed.

Stop Popping Pimples

You’ve heard it a million times from your mother, but you’re going to hear it again: don’t pop pimples.

It may be satisfying, but it also damages your skin. When you squeeze a pimple, you can push infected material deeper into the skin. It also increases the possibility that a pimple will leave a scar.

And yes, popping pimples does make acne worse. Squeezing that pimple can easily turn it into a larger, inflamed blemish.

As tempting as it may be, leave pimples alone and allow them to heal. If you must do something, try a spot treatment.

Already had a pimple-popping session? Try these tips for healing a picked at pimple.

Extractions Are a Fast Way to Improve Blackheads

Got blackheads? They’re super common, especially on teen skin. Most medications that treat pimples also help clear blackheads.

Still, with prom coming up, you may not want to wait. There is a way to quickly improve the look of blackheads while waiting for your acne medications to kick in.

Try going to a salon to have them extracted. Warning: Don’t have extractions done within a day or two of the prom. They can leave you red and blotchy, and facials can trigger a breakout in some people.

Those pore cleansing strips are another quick-fix. They don’t treat blackheads per se, and they do nothing to prevent them from forming. They do, however, remove the top “plug” of the blackhead, leaving the skin looking smoother temporarily.

Use Medicated Body Washes for Body Acne

A low cut dress and "bacne"? Don’t stress. Acne on the back and body can be controlled, too.

Start using an acne-fighting body wash (or bar) containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Make sure you shower as soon as possible after exercising since sweat can irritate breakouts.

Sometimes body breakouts are caused by a form of acne called acne mechanica. Suspect acne mechanica if breakouts occur in areas where athletic equipment, backpacks, or other gear rests.

Body acne is stubborn, so you may need help from a pro. Your healthcare provider may recommend, among other things, benzoyl peroxide lotions, topical retinoids, topical antibiotics, and/or oral acne medications.

Cover Up Any Pimples With Concealer

Pimples always have a way of popping up at the worst possible times. If that inopportune breakout occurs before prom, you can cover it up.

Practice your makeup look before the big night, including products like concealer and green primers (to counteract red blemishes) in your regimen. A tiny amount of well-placed concealer and a dusting of powder can do a lot to camouflage breakouts.

Guys, a dab of tinted moisturizer can help tone down blemishes without making you feel like you’re “made up.” Tinted moisturizers can be found in the skincare aisle at any drugstore. And, if you're game, there are also plenty of concealers made just for guys, too.

Bonus Tip: Help for Last-Minute Skin Emergencies

If it's just days before prom and you find yourself in the midst of a breakout, no worries. There are steps you can take to heal those pimples quickly, from simple home remedies to more powerful (but quick) dermatology procedures.

You can also talk to your healthcare provider about getting a corticosteroid injection if a huge zit makes its appearance just before prom night. Commonly called “steroid shots,” this simple procedure can flatten out big pimples quickly.

A Word From Verywell

No matter what, remember that breakouts are way more noticeable to you than they are to anyone else. So, don't let them ruin your prom night. Most of all remember that, breakout or not, it's a positive attitude that makes you shine! You look fantastic. Enjoy this amazing night.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology. How to control oily skin.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Acne: Tips for managing.

  3. Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016;74(5):945-973.e33. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2015.12.037

  4. American Academy of Dermatology. Acne: Diagnosis and treatment.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology. Is sports equipment causing your acne?

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.