How to Get Rid of Pimples Fast

5 Tips to Quickly Heal a Zit

Pimples always seem to pop up at the most inopportune times: just before prom night, the day before your wedding, or the morning of that important job interview. Breakouts are never welcomed but it's times like these when you really want to get rid of pimples fast.

Although the best option is always to treat pimples before they start by using an acne treatment medication regularly, these fixes can help banish individual blemishes when you need to heal that pimple quickly.


Use an OTC Spot Treatment

How to get rid of pimples fast
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Over-the-counter spot treatments deliver a generous amount of acne-fighting ingredients directly to the blemish. The most effective contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Experiment to find which works best for you.

Some spot treatments are made to be left on overnight. Others are incorporated into a makeup concealer or are tinted to hide the blemish while it heals.

If you'd rather go the all-natural route, try dabbing on a drop of tea tree essential oil once or twice a day, or buy a spot treatment that contains tea tree. Although it hasn't been proven, early research shows tea tree oil may help treat acne breakouts. Some people are sensitive to tea tree oil, so be cautious until you know how your skin will react and stop using if your skin gets irritated.

No matter what type of spot treatment you use, you'll most likely be tempted to over-apply it. Don't! You'll wind up with flaky, irritated skin you can't disguise with makeup. Always follow the usage directions precisely.

Remember, spot treatments work best on minor blemishes. They are not effective for serious breakouts like acne nodules and acne cysts.


Use a Sulfur Mask

Girl applying facial mask in bathroom
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If spot treatments aren't quite helping, you may have better luck with a sulfur mask. Sulfur helps unclog pores and reduce inflammation, and it has been used as an acne treatment for many years. Today's treatments don't have the unpleasant scent of those from years past, luckily.

Apply just on the offending pimple, or over the entire face (this has the added benefit of making large pores appear smaller.) You can find inexpensive masks containing sulfur at your local drug store, and more pricey products at posh department stores or salons.

Some products can be left on as spot overnight treatment for maximum effectiveness; others must be rinsed off after a few minutes. Make sure you follow the directions on your product, and never leave a mask on overnight unless it specifically says it's OK to do so.


Ice It Down

Ice can reduce swelling of pimples.
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Here's a tip I learned from my favorite esthetician: apply an ice cube to inflamed blemishes to help reduce redness, swelling, and pain. This is also a cool trick for those blemishes you can't yet see, but that you feel starting as a sore lump under the skin.

You never want the ice cube directly touching your skin, so first wrap it in a soft cloth. And don't ice the pimple for too long (frostbite anyone?) Ice for 20 or 30 seconds, followed by a minute or so of rest, a few times per day or just before you go out.

Why icy cold and not hot? If you're trying to hide a pimple, the worst thing you could do is steam it (or apply a hot compress) just before you go out. Heat expands, so it can make ​the pimple look larger and redder.

This is one tip that you can use for both minor blemishes and more severe inflamed pimples, like nodules and acne cysts. Icing can help ease the pain of these swollen breakouts.


Get an Cortisone Injection

Cortisone injections can help get rid of big pimples.
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For those incredibly deep, painful zits and cystic breakouts that don't want to heal, your best option is to call your dermatologist for a cortisone injection. During this quick procedure, a dilute cortisone is injected into the blemish.

Within just a few hours, the swelling will recede and the pain will go away. As the breakout flattens out, it's more easily camouflaged with makeup.

Large, deep blemishes usually don't respond well to other treatments, so if you really need that breakout to be gone quickly a cortisone shot is your best bet. Ideally, you'll want to talk to your doctor about this option before you really need one.

Cortisone injections aren't meant to be used as a regular treatment for big zits, but they're helpful in some cases when used judiciously.


Stop Breakouts Before They Start

Get rid of pimples for good by using a topical acne treatment.
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These tips are helpful for treating individual pimples, but if you're constantly battling acne the ultimate goal is to stop pimples from forming in the first place. For this, you'll need to use a good acne medication daily.

Over-the-counter products can work for mild acne. But if your acne is more inflamed, stubborn, and especially if you have severe acne or nodular breakouts, you'll need a prescription medication.

Don't hesitate to give your dermatologist a call. Your dermatologist can help devise an acne treatment plan to clear your skin.

A Word from Verywell

Everyone gets pimples, whether occasionally or on a more consistent basis. Although nothing can heal a pimple instantaneously, or even overnight, the above tips can help speed healing or at least make the blemish look and feel better while it does.

What you won't see on this list are things like toothpaste, cinnamon, or lemon. Although these are oft-recommended home remedies for pimples, there is no evidence that they actually work. They can cause contact dermatitis (a rash caused by skin-irritating substances), so it's wise to stay away from them especially if you have sensitive skin.

It bears repeating: the best way to get acne under control is to use proven acne treatments and see a dermatologist if you need help. They'll be happy to share their acne treatment secrets with you to get your blemishes under control.

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Article Sources
  • "Tea Tree Oil." National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, 01 Dec. 2016.
  • Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE, et. al. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016; 74(5): 945-73.