Maybe you’re just waking up, or perhaps getting ready for that big dinner meeting with your boss’s boss (you’ve got this in the bag!). Ready to embrace whatever life has in store for you today, you can’t quite seem to shake the feeling that something isn’t right. You sense a disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. You take a look in the mirror and it hits you: you’re sporting a pimple that could rival Mount Vesuvius.
Think quickly! Do you:
A) Give up on the day and go back to bed?
B) Bejewel your 8th wonder of the world and own it?
C) Orchestrate a full-out tactical assault leaving death and destruction in your wake?
D) Take a deep breath and read on?
D is the answer I’m looking for, folks. If you picked A or C, we definitely need to talk because healthy habits, these are not. If you picked B, I mean, it’s not my personal choice, but you should name it Doug – world wonders deserve names.
So what qualifies me to even talk about how to deal with a breakout without going crazy? While I’m not any kind of mental health professional, I am one of those lucky people that gets hormonal acne that likes to stick around for weeks and I am (questionably) sane. Pair that with my dryness-prone skin and we’re looking at a potential catastrophe in the making if I choose to follow through on the tactical assault (option C from the earlier pop quiz).
Step 1: Just Breathe
Don’t panic. Put down the sharp implements and get your hands away from your face. I repeat: put down the sharp implements and get your hands away from your face!
Take a deep breath, grab your favourite beverage (I prefer the tasty adult kind in varieties such as scotch or fermented grapes but go with what works for you), and just take a moment to tell yourself “This isn’t the end of the world”. Because it isn’t. Have you heard what’s supposed to happen when the world ends? Look outside, we’re cool.
Step 2: Assess the Situation
I’m a fan of hyperbole. If I’m telling you my pimple is the equivalent of an active volcano that once buried two Roman cities it’s because I’m using my super-ultra-mega-magnifying mirror that makes the tiniest of breakouts look like a mountain range. In reality, it’s likely a small blemish that really isn’t noticeable to anyone but me – unless you happen to be me and point it out to other people for their assessment, asking “Is this getting bigger?”
Take a look in the mirror. Get right up close and personal. Now step back 3 feet, take a sip of that drink, and look again (no squinting or using binoculars!). That’s what most people are going to see, if they see anything at all. Humans have this funny thing where we feel like people are constantly looking at and judging us but they really aren’t. Most of us are so wrapped up in our own world, we aren’t paying close enough attention to small details about people we hardly know. Be honest, when was the last time you noticed that the clerk at the grocery store had a pimple so horrifying that it’s been etched in your mind ever since?
Step 3: Respond Appropriately
The worst possible thing you can do is to over-treat your breakout. If you go in no-holds-barred, you may end up doing more damage than good to the surrounding area. It’s also important not to pop it (aka The Hardest Thing EVER!) if you want to prevent possible scarring.
If your pimple happens to be a god hell-bent on having a virgin tossed into an active volcano that’s about to explode, after washing your face you can gently (GENTLY!) push on it with a q-tip. If it doesn’t budge, leave it alone. Don’t squeeze it, don’t pull out your extractor and leave that circular inden…I mean, I have no idea what that would look like. If it does give you that sweet, sweet release, make sure to clean the area again because that pus and bacteria can cause more issues. Dab on an acne spot treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide or slap on a hydrocolloid bandage and you’re off to the races! (BP is very drying so you want to be careful to only put it on the active pimple and not the surrounding skin, especially if you already have dry skin.)
If you discover your new best friend is not an angry deity demanding a sacrifice, you can wash your face and follow with a spot treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide. Check out the Treatment step on our Acne-Prone Skin Routine for some product suggestions!
Don’t forget to follow up with moisturizer and sunscreen!
For those bad boys that crop up in the middle of the day when I’m nowhere near my arsenal, I have a little emergency kit that consists of a spot treatment, concealer, and a hydrocolloid bandage and use them based on the severity. I find it works well enough until I can get home and treat it properly. Whatever you do, try to not mindlessly touch it while sitting at your desk for the rest of the day (intentional touching is also not a good idea).
Step 4: Have Some Patience
I know it might seem like this pimple came out of nowhere (and maybe it did if you’ve recently started a new product) but it is going to take some time to heal. Continue being good to your skin and bask in your amazing power to remain calm in the face of potential crisis.
If you have started a new product and didn’t patch test, you’ve probably learned your lesson and will take steps to save yourself from these types of reactions in the future (I still haven’t but my parents always told me I like to learn the really hard way). If the outbreak isn’t connected to a new product, happening frequently, or the pimples just aren’t going away, make an appointment with your dermatologist – there may be other factors causing your acne.