You’ve woken up with a breakout, now what? Relax. Here are six expert-approved tips on how to treat an acne breakout at home. Beat the breakout now!
6 Ways to Tackle an Unexpected Breakout
Most of us know the horror that is waking up on the day of something important (see: job interview/first date/wedding day), only to find a new spot has appeared overnight. There’s nothing more perplexing than seeing a pimple where, just eight hours earlier, there was nothing but smooth skin. While it can seem as though acne sprouts up out of nowhere, the truth is spots brew under the skin for days before they appear on the surface.
According to Rachel McAdam, scientific communications manager at La Roche-Posay Australia, every breakout starts with a build-up of oil and cells. “This is followed by bacterial proliferation which results in inflammation,” she says.
Aside from committing to a skincare routine that works to help prevent pimples (one that includes an anti-acne treatment product with clarifying salicylic acid), it’s important to know the steps to take as soon as a breakout happens.
Often we’re tempted to squeeze straight away in the hope of fast tracking the process. Unfortunately, popping can actually do the opposite—and possibly leave you with a scar. “Picking spots forces the debris blocking the pore deeper into the follicle making the blemish worse,” says McAdam.
While there is not one best acne treatment, there are certain steps you can take before seeing a dermatologist. (That said, McAdam advises anyone who feels that acne is affecting their quality of life to see a doctor.) We’ve curated the following steps if you’re suffering from a breakout.
Six Steps to Care for an Acne Breakout
Resist the Urge to Squeeze
It is tempting, but picking at your spots is rarely a good idea. “Certain types of pimples and pustules should never be popped yourself, no matter what,” says McAdam. This short-term fix can extend healing time, spread bacteria (potentially causing more breakouts) and even make scarring likelier, leading to longer-term skin problems. If you really can’t deal, see a professional. “Go to your dermatologist and ask for an extraction,” advises McAdam.
Avoid Harsh Scrubbing
We’ve been told exfoliation is key to clear skin, but this doesn’t mean scrubbing. Rubbing a spot forcefully, whether with your fingers or a washcloth, can push the infection further in, causing more blockages, swelling and redness. It can also burst the spot on the skin’s surface, spreading acne-causing bacteria over other areas of your complexion.
The best acne products are made with BHAs—these are your best bet for a gentle chemical exfoliation. La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Duo (+), is made with salicylic acid to target pimples and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (aka the marks left behind after a spot is gone).
Cleanse, Hydrate, Treat
The first step towards treating a blemish is to clean the area thoroughly. Choose a cleanser that whisks away grime and makeup without stripping the skin. (Anything too drying can encourage increased sebum production which can lead to further breakouts.)
Next, hydrate. Resist the urge to skip moisturiser even if your skin is slick—acne-prone skin needs hydration too. La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Mat Anti-Shine Moisturiser is formulated to nourish without clogging pores making it a solid pick for use during a breakout. Lastly, use a targeted product, like the aforementioned Effaclar Duo (+), to combat spots directly. McAdam recommends treating the entire area to “ensure underlying pre-pimples are also targeted”.
Wash Your Hair Regularly
If your hair tends to be a little oily, it’s a good idea to keep it as clean as possible as oil can transfer onto your skin through daily wear and also via your pillow. Certain ingredients used in haircare and styling products can be occlusive or irritating to acne-prone skin too, and that’s the last thing you need when battling a breakout. This is why it’s equally important to launder your pillowcases at least once a week.
Don’t Touch Your Face
Touching your face during the day can be a problem for acne-prone types as you’re effectively transferring bacteria back and forth. If you’re in the midst of a breakout, this becomes even more important. Washing your hands regularly is a must—give them a good clean especially after using public transport, talking on the phone, eating, and toileting (goes without saying).
Consider Dietary Changes
If breakouts are a regular occurrence for you, you might like to consider looking more closely at your diet. Sometimes food intolerances can show up in the skin, however you should always consult your doctor before making changes to your eating habits.
DISCLAIMER: Except where specifically referenced, the content in the above article is provided for your information only. It is not intended as advice and you should not rely upon it as you would advise. You should use your own judgement regarding health information and seek independent advice prior to making any decisions.