Learning how to properly treat pimples is the foundation of any great makeup routine: Makeup looks great on healthy, confident skin. Even more important, is not just learning how to properly treat pimples, but learning how to prevent them, the basics of pimples, and why they form. For your crash course in pimples,
If you get pimples, you are not alone. An estimated sixty percent of all people between the ages of 10 and 35 have pimple outbreaks at one time, and nearly 50% of those pimples leave a scar behind. While most people would define pimples as embarrassing nuisances, clinically, they are defined as a tiny infection in your skin pores, as a result of hormones and other substances on the skin’s oil glands and hair follicles. A pimple begins to form when skin cells clump together causing a plug, with excess oil being produced behind the plug. The causes of pimples varies greatly, and includes the following:
- Hormones, especially an increased production of androgen, a male hormone, or pregnancy hormones.
- Certain prescription drugs
- Oily/greasy cosmetics that clog pores
- Poor hygiene
- Increased oil production
- Bacteria, especially in clogged pores
- An improper diet
One of the most important pieces of information you can learn about pimples are the different types, what causes them, and how they are different from one another. If you have ever noticed that your breakouts can vary, depending on a variety of factors, you are not crazy! Below is a breakdown of the different types of acne you may see:
Four Most Common Types of Acne:
- Whiteheads: These pimples look like tiny, pearly, white raised spots formed in the skin. These pimples result when a pore is completely blocked, trapping oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells, causing a white appearance on the surface. Whiteheads are normally quicker in life cycle than blackheads. Whiteheads usually occur on the cheeks, or around the eye area, and can also be found on the neck, chest, and forehead. Because whiteheads are a result of a build-up of oils and dead skin cells that plug up your pores, the easiest prevention is a disciplined skin care routine.
- Blackheads: These pimples have a tiny, black appearance to them, and those with oily skin are especially prone to them. They result when a pore is only partially blocked, allowing some of the trapped oil , bacteria, and dead skin cells to slowly drain to the surface. The black color is not caused by dirt, but by the skin’s own pigment, melanin, reacting with the oxygen in the air. Blackheads tend to take a long time to clear, and while you may be tempted to “extract” them yourself, it is important not to do so, as infection and scarring can arise.
- Papules: These pimples are inflamed, red, tender bumps that often feel “large” on your skin, and have no head on them. Squeezing a papule will not only be painful, but it will do no good since there is no head on them. Squeezing papules will lead to scarring.
- Pustules: These pimples are red circles with a white or yellow “pus” center to them. Pustules are actually one of the most common pimples that people get, and often they are the most tempting to pop. Before you pop a pustule, be sure to continue reading below on how to properly and safely pop one if you must.
If you currently have pimples on your skin, breathe easy, because there are ways to treat your existing mild to moderate acne. The following tips are key to treating existing pimples:
*Have A Disciplined Skin Care Routine:
- Cleanse your face twice a day with a cleanser that is appropriate for your skin type. If your skin is sensitive, be sure to use a gentle formula, as further irritation will make your acne worse. If your skin is oily, be sure to use a stronger formula to help absorb more oil from your skin.
- Use a toner designed for acne prone skin. Many people skip this step, not realizing that they need to use a toner after cleansing their skin. Toners designed for oily or acne prone skin contain salicylic acids, glycolic or hydroxyl acids and benzoyl peroxide. These ingredients speed up skin cell turnover, dry up the oil on your face, and promote exfoliation. Apply your toner to the affected areas of the face or to your entire face after cleansing.
- Use a moisturizer. Do not skip! Many women think that if they have oily or acne prone skin, they do not need a moisturizer. A moisturizer will help keep your skins oil production in balance, as skin that is extremely dry, or dried out from an overzealous skin care regimen will actually produce more oil, thus being counterproductive. It is important to find a moisturizer that is oil-free if you have oily or acne prone skin.
- Spot treat your pimples. After you have cleansed, toned, and moisturized, be sure to spot treat any pimples you may currently have. Over the counter, two of the most common options are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Benzoic acid causes skin to peel and dry, exfoliating out the plugs of dead skin and oil that inflame your follicles, causing pimples. Benzoyl is sold in concentrations up to 10 percent, but studies show that concentrations of 2.5 percent are just as effective and much less irritating than stronger ones. Benzoyl peroxide is a powerful product that can be very effective, but it can also be very drying. If your pimples are deep underneath the skin, red, and tender, benzoyl peroxide is a great option because you need a product that will get deep underneath your skin to clear out the gunk. Salicylic acid is great for sensitive skin types, and those who have blackheads. You can also try cheap, at-home remedies, such as a spot of toothpaste on a pimple, which will help to “dry” it out. At-home remedies are not always guaranteed to work, and can sometimes lead to further irritation.
*Outside of Skin Care:
- Drink plenty of water. Water helps to flush out toxins in our body and our skin, and keeps our skin looking hydrated and young. Water has also been shown to help fight pimples, so be sure to sip plenty of water throughout your day.
- Ease off on the makeup. While this may seem counter intuitive, applying less makeup when you are breaking out is better for your skin. This gives your skin a chance to breathe, without further clogging your pores. If you must apply makeup, try to stick to mineral and oil-free makeup.
- Give yourself a facial. Whenever I have a breakout, I take a steaming hot washcloth and apply it to my face to gently open up my pores. Then, I apply my favorite face mask that has acne and bacteria fighting ingredients. There are fabulous over-the-counter acne masks that will help to soak up excess oil, and calm inflammation.
- To temporarily reduce inflammation of a pimple, make an aspirin mask. Crush aspirin, and combine with water to make a paste. Apply this paste directly to your pimple, and allow up to 30 minutes to dry. Rinse with cool water, and you will notice a temporary reduction of swelling in your pimple.
- To temporarily reduce redness of a pimple, apply an ice cube. An ice cube held over the pimple for about 20 minutes followed by a dab of milk is a temporary solution to reduce the redness of a pimple.
Resist the urge to pop unless you absolutely must, and if you absolutely must, there are still only certain types of pimples that can be popped safely. Trying to pop a pimple that is red and raised on the skin with no head will cause more damage than good, including pain, inflammation, and scarring. The most common type of pimple that can be safely popped is a pustule. Most other types of pimples should be left alone, or left to the experts. The right method to pop a pustule must be executed, or it can result in unsightly acne scarring, and further spreading of bacteria on your skin. A pimple is ready for extraction when a white head has undoubtedly formed above the surface of the skin. Here is a guide to safely extracting one of these pimples:
- Sanitize your hands with antibacterial soap and water.
- Wash your face with warm water and your cleanser.
- Prepare the pimple and the skin around it for extraction by sanitizing it with toner. Take toner on a cotton ball and wipe the pimple and the skin around it.
- Wrap both index fingers inside of a tissue.
- Place fingers on either side of the pimple, parallel, and perform a down-and-in-to-the-center motion so that the skin around the pimple forms a circle with the pimple at the peak. Be sure not to press too hard.
- When the pimple pops, white pus will come out. Take another cotton ball dipped in your toner, and carefully wipe this off. This will reduce the risk of spreading bacteria.
- Apply a clearing acne spot treatment gel to the area, such as one with salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after everything.
Remember that if a pimple does not pop when your index fingers are applying pressure, do not force it. This is the only safe and effective way to pop a pimple that has a white head.
Prevention of pimples to begin with is on every single one of our minds. Below are some basic, simple tips on prevention of pimples:
- Keep your hands away from your face. Touching your face, even if accidental, can result in bacteria clogging your pores. Keep your hands and fingers away from your face, and only touch once your hands have been cleaned. Also, watch your cell phone as you are talking on it – cell phones can house grease, oil, and makeup which you are holding to your face.
- Be aware of products that can clog pores. Makeup that is greasy or not oil-free can quickly clog pores and result in breakouts. If the product does not say oil-free or non-comedogenic, you may want to consider skipping it. Also, be aware of hair products clogging your pores, especially those around your hair line. Make sure you wash your pillow case frequently, as bacteria and product buildup can cause pimples.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Foods that are high in sugar, carbs, and fat can cause inflammation, dull skin, and may cause acne. Be sure to eat foods that reduce the risk of inflammation, such foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. To learn more about inflammation, and how to eat right for your skin, check out Beauty Gala’s exclusive interview with celebrity skin care doctor, Dr. Nick Perricone.
- ALWAYS wash your makeup off. Even on your most tired nights, don’t forget to wash your makeup off of your face and cleanse your skin. Failure to remove your makeup even one night can cause oil and bacteria to build up in your pores, resulting in acne.
- Keep your makeup brushes clean. A sneaky germ infestation may be taking place on your makeup brushes as you read this. Be sure to clean your makeup brushes once a week to reduce the risk of the build up of oil, bacteria, and germs spreading to your skin.
- Exfoliate at least once a week, or every other day. Dead skin cells can build up and cause our pores to become clogged and inflamed. Be sure to use an exfoliating cleanser at least once a week to remove this build up.
Remember that it can take up to four weeks for any pimple to completely heal itself. The best way to prevent and treat pimples is to remain educated on skin care, and how to properly care for your own skin!
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[ALL PHOTOGRAPHY ON THIS SITE IS TAKEN BY REBECCA KAZIMIR. NO PHOTOGRAPHS ARE TO BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.]
[I am not a professional skin-care specialist or a dermatologist. All of the above information is through years of research and experience. Never replace this information with information given by a professional or certified doctor.]