What To Do When…You Have A Zit


You might think we have all the answers (or you might think we have space-cadet cereal for breakfast), but the truth is even we get stumped in the beauty department. Quite often, actually. Take Saturday for instance, when Emily’s 25 year-old brother texted her out of the blue:

What’s your go-to zit remedy? Be it product, or process.

 Now, nothing—short of a zit—makes you feel as icky as letting your family down, but she simply did not have the answer. She had an answer, in her head (Squuueeeze!!! Squeeze until your eyes flood with tears!!!) but she knew it was the wrong one, and to Google anything with the word “zit” in it is opening a disgusting can of worms (believe us; we just did). Calling a dermatologist—a medical professional—surely yields some good, sound advice (see below), but that’s only one person’s advice, and there’s just no way that could be where the buck stops when it comes to blemish-blasting. So we did what anyone can do nowadays and took to social media, Instagram to be precise. The outcome? 259 comments: cures, tips, tricks from our friends who follow @IntoTheGloss, ranging from homeopathic (tea tree oil), to classic (Mario Badescu's Drying Lotion), to weird (blue toothpaste!). Here’s what we discovered:

#1 Cult Classic

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion: With a whopping 16 mentions, this salicylic acid, calamine, and camphor potion not only allows you to be your very own mixologist (grabbing hold of the pink sediment with the tip of a cotton swab while being instructed “DO NOT shake the bottle” is as close you’ll come to playing Operation in your bathroom), it promises to banish a whitehead by sunrise.

#1 Natural Remedy

Tea Tree Oil: It’s (almost) a tie!!! Apparently many a beauty aficionado (14 people, to be exact) swear by a dab of good ol’ tingly tea tree oil.

#1 Bizarre But Oddly Appealing Option

Crushed Aspirin: While three people recommended breaking open an Advil Liqui-Gel, seven suggested turning traditional aspirin into a paste with a few drops of water, applying to blemish, and leaving on for a few hours. It makes sense that the aspirin might take down the swelling. (?)

What You’ve Learned From Your Mother

Toothpaste: The famous, albeit incredibly weird, alternative is dabbing some toothpaste on your zit. No word yet on whether classic minty fresh vs. whitening makes any difference.

The Most Witch Doctor-esque Choice

Witch Hazel: Only three suggested this cure, one even noting that it may not work as quick as some of the other options but could be the answer for those with more sensitive skin.

Honorable Product Mentions: Hydrocortisone, Umbrian clay, glycolic acid, EndZit Drying Lotion, apple cider vinegar, benzoyl peroxide (2.5% or 5%), Mario Badescu Healing Powder, Neosporin, coconut oil, a Clarisonic, Therapeutic Sulfur Mask, Murad Clarifying Mask,  La Roche-Posay Effaclar DuoKate Somerville EradiKate.

The Doctor’s Orders

Dr. David Colbert (founder of ColbertMD Skincare) had some suggestions of his own and, after all, he did go to medical school for this, so he's probably someone to trust when it comes to matters of skin care. Not to mention that his NYC practice counts several Victoria's Secret Angels as clients. His advice to us:

For an underground, red, and slightly painful pimple: “Try the Zeno device or one like it as well as a dab of OTC hydrocortisone and some bacitracin. Apply a small round Band-Aid overnight.”

For a small surface pimple with a pustule: “Dip a Q-Tip in alcohol, then firmly roll over the surface. Then apply some bacitracin.”

For multiple deep cystic-acne lesions: “Wash with benzoyl peroxide wash and consider calling your derm doc for a small course of antibiotics.”

For whiteheads: “Apply a dab of Retin-A for a few days and use my Intensify Facial Discs. Also, use a glycolic acid containing a topical such as my Stimulate Serum.”

For superficial blackheads: “Use two Q-Tips to gently try once to push them out. Then apply a dab of alcohol or toner. Or a light home fruit-acid peel.”

...And of course, tell us if we're missing any zit-zapping solutions. TELL US!

Photo via ITG.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Colleen Garrity

    Bare Minerals Blemish Treatment. It's a sulfur-based powder and is magic in a mini-pot. I break out around that time of the month, and it gets rid of even the super awful whiteheads in a day. A DAY. Even better, it layers super well under powder foundation.

  • Restless Blonde

    Hahaha this post is so funny :) Pimples - everyone gets some - more or less. My tips are:

    - toothpaste - it dries the zit and antibacterial action of it makes the pimple disappear faster

    - Bioderma Sebium AKN fluide (http://www.bioderma.com/pl/nc/produkty/nowosci/product/action/347.html) - it works!

    - La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo.


  • http://twitter.com/sequindoll Sequin Doll

    Mario Badescu has my fav products for getting rid of blemishes. If it's a white head, go for the drying lotion. If it's already popped (sorry for the visual that is no doubt now in your head) use the healing powder. Lastly, if it's a deep red blemish, first put on their buffering lotion and then the drying mask (just on the spot) on top of that. Leave on overnight.

    Definitely the best things I have tried!


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004459117112 Faith Rudd Trimmer

    Apple cider vinegar is my go to product! It's not harsh at all so it doesn't dry the skin out but it's an effective antiseptic and it really does work for me. And it's ridiculously cheap!

  • Lila

    I'm confused, where is the "attempt to ignore miniscule-but-pesky zit for a few hours, finally succumb to the urge to pick, attack it relentlessly with your fingernails until whitehead pops, suddenly find self filled with utter remorse, fruitlessly attempt to heal/cover up now-enormous red spot with a neosporin-concealer layering technique" option? That's usually my standby...

  • LittleMama71

    My rec is the Queen Helene Mint Julip Mask....apply to your pimple and sleep. When you wake up you should notice less redness. A huge tube costs about $4...it's been a staple on my shelf for probably 10 years!
    Best, Lisa

  • Ari

    I'm allergic to SPF and fragrance, sensitive to countless other ingredients (from red dyes to sulfates), and have tried so many of these products to no avail. From salicylic acid to toothpaste, benzoyl peroxide to alcohol, and none of it did anything. I think people forget that acne-ridden skin is sensitive skin! Bombarding it with harsh ingredients is a terrible idea. I reduced my beauty routine to just cleansing with unscented castile soap (Dr. Bronners) and using all-natural, coconut-oil based cosmetics (RMS Beauty and Kjaer Weis). I also take a daily vitamin. Then, when my period rolls around every month, I'll go to bed with a bit of kaolin clay on sprouted zits and occasionally use a cotton pad with Witch Hazel to treat it. This has worked wonders for me and now my skin is super smooth. My main issue now is dealing with the severe and widespread hyperpigmentation marks my acne left behind. Unfortunately, I haven't found any natural solutions that work, so a visit to a dermatologist is next up...

    • amber

      I have the same problems too and found that a really minimal natural approach reduces acne. (I use coconut oil to remove make up too!) As for hyper pigmentation... I found that drinking green juices in the morning (3 stems of kale, one pear, lemon and ginger) really has helped with that over time. I know it sounds crazy! Another beverage that I drink that seems to help is a smoothie made with frozen strawberries, unsweetened almond milk, stevia, and a little of organic vanilla. It sounds wacky but after spending tons of money on topical treatments, I found that internal treatments help far better! Try it and see what happens after a few weeks !

      • anne

        I agree, that internal is best. I also do a green smoothie (kale, parsley, celery, pear) every morning, and have cut out all dairy, refined grains, sugars and excess fats (even nuts). I also take a few supplements: Probiotic in the am with MSM, Ca/Mg & Zinc.

  • lisa_carbone

    You have to Queen Helen Mint Julip Masque! It's about $4 for a huge tube. It's been a staple on my shelf for 10 years! Dab it on your blemish and leave it overnight, you'll notice a big difference!
    Cheers, Lisa

  • Ali

    I feel your missing to obvious, "leave it the hell alone and become a temporary recluse (1-4 das recommended before your public may lay eyes on you)"

  • http://www.thewayweliveonline.com/ Kristie

    It's because it's super anti-inflammatory. How do you use it?

    • AltE

      It needs fat to activate. Mix it with full fat yogurt & use as a mask.

    • Susan

      Hi Kristie, I mix yogurt (as said below) with turmeric powder and add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (i have dry skin). If you have oily skin, I'd substitute it with honey. Then, I apply it as a mask 4x a week. I saw the benefits just a little after two weeks.

  • LoSpaz

    I swear by prescription Duac gel (a mix of topical clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide).

    For whiteheads, Origins charcoal mask left on overnight will almost always bring out the gunk after which I go straight to the Neosporin.

  • http://www.thewayweliveonline.com/ Kristie

    As an esthetician, I have party-line solutions, and then I have what I do at home (which is attack it mercilessly without proper preparation).

    Here are some things that really do work...

    16+ Manuka Honey
    High-Frequency with your esthetician
    Kate Somerville spot treatment (like this better than the Mario Badescu)
    Dab of retinol/retinoid
    Ice (if you can catch it early...it will often shrink back down)
    Keeping it moisturized (counter-intuitive, I know)
    Second the Mint Julep Masque, but make sure it's only on the pimple and not surrounding skin.

    • LoSpaz

      Totally agree with the moisturizer! If I am breaking out I slather it on since it generally means my skin is dehydrated and not clearing out as well - also the trite advice to drink water works, too, but don't JUST drink water - use the products!

  • AT

    My two cents :)

    These are my go-to products:

    -Cleansers: La mer cleansing gel, Neostrata cleanser with gluconolactone

    -Toner: Kiehl's blue astringent rocks !

    -Moisturiser: Creme de la mer (incongruent as it may sound, CDLM is great great great stuff for calming down the redness and healing acne scabs)

    -Masks: Aesop chamomile mask, Mario Badescu drying mask, Proactive sulfur mask, Queen Helen mask

    -Treatment/Medication: Skinceutical (Age+blemish), Adapalene, Epiduo

  • mermaidsdream

    YES to Tea Tree Oil-- FYI, they sell it at CVS in the nail aisle section (mine is by the Sally Hanse/Orly section)

  • cindy

    lush grease lightning. it's tea tree oil based but less harsh on your skin. Use it 2-3 times a day on a under the skin new pimple and it may take a few days to heal but it will never see the surface. amazing product!

  • Cat

    This has worked really well for me on those gross "pustule" white appetite-destroying zits (only when they look like they are ready to pop, ew): take a face towel and wet it with hot water. Gently press it on top of the affected area and leave it there until it no longer feels hot (a minute?). Press the towel into the skin and drag it across. The thing should have popped then (if not, you can repeat a few times). Apply alcohol/toner on spot. I found this left barely any marks or redness, and the skin healed a lot faster than with old-fashioned squeezing.

    • http://lilbabyscorcho.tumblr.com/ Ani

      THIS always

  • Ann Marie

    Fermented cod liver oil taken internally stopped all of my acne, even hormonal acne. It's a miracle-worker.

  • NeenaJ

    My go to is Peter Thomas Roth Acne Spot and Area Treatment. It's got Sulphur, Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid and Aloe. Sulphur is my favorite ingredient for fighting acne.

  • Tori

    -Aloe (as pure as possible, I like Aubrey Organics)

    -lemon juice for clearing AND lightening the left over red mark (just dabbed where needed using a Q-tip)

    -spraying rosewater throughout the day

    -witch hazel at night

  • julia

    Ice and visine to reduce redness. If you have picked it, dab on neosporin -- helps kill bacteria, heals it faster, prevents scarring.

  • tasha

    tea tree, several time a day...

  • Kat McElroy

    I've heard lemon juice works miracles. Squeeze a fresh lemon on to a cotton ball and dab over the problem area before you go to bed. It works really well for blackheads too.

  • Dani Fuentes

    I usually hit mine with some apple cider vinegar. Visine reduces the redness, so if I have to go somewhere I'll use that.

  • Randi

    I wash my face with Neutrogena Visibly Clear 2 in 1 wash/mask and use it as a mask once a week. Since I started using it, my skin has pretty much been clear, though a little dry. I've never had super-problematic acne, only spots from eating too much sugar/greasy food and the occasional hormonal one on the chin.

  • Madelene

    Dead sea mud ill tell ya:) It dries it out in no time (it takes the good grease out) it kinda dries it out in a good way. It has many minerals and it is very popular in Europe.Buy it at iherb.com. Cheap and it works.

  • Lua

    I´ve just tried Vichy´s new "Normaderm Hyaluspot" and seriously, it´s working! it´s the first time I can say so about these kind of products, so I just want to share it!

  • LoSpaz

    I was pleased with the Evologie too!

  • http://twitter.com/OneOblivion Oblivion

    I REALLY love this article!!! It is very helpful!! Thank you!!xx :)


  • Ilonka Miu

    not really much for Acne but I found that the Fancl deep cleansing powder works wonders for blackheads. Honestly amazing

  • Guest

    Short term solution for eliminating the redness=eye drops on the problem area
    works a charm, every time.

  • sybar1te

    To quickly (often within the day) clear all zits, including those underground, deep and painful, I mix a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment (Neutrogena On-the-Spot) with an equal amount of hydrocortisone cream and apply to the blemish ONLY. It's crucial that you apply the bare minimum to just your zit, because this is the nuclear option, and can be very drying to your face. Use this MAX twice a day -- morning and night -- and you'll be fresh-faced in no time.

    Sometimes I'll do that mix for my daytime treatment and Kate Somerville EradiKate for nighttime; I've never had to do this combo for more than 2 days in a row.

  • Emma

    would love to know what the proper technique is when you just can't help yourself ... which is every single time, let's be honest.

    • http://twitter.com/schmangelo Angelo

      Wash your hands first. Apply a hot compress for about 5 minutes. Make sure the pustule has a definite white head. Put a finger on either side of the blemish and pull outward. This is the key to not getting an unsightly blood clot under the skin, pull rather than push. It is more difficult to do the extraction this way, but makes it less likely that you'll be left with an unsightly mark for weeks. Hope that helps.

  • ariannaalexis

    Natural Oat Mask works wonders! I make it myself! Take raw organic rolled oats, boil water, and make a mushy paste. Apply to your face, leave for 10-15 minutes then rinse off! My "go-to" for pimples.

    Ta-taa for now,

  • Emma

    Heat up a green tea bag then put it on your pimple until the tea bag cools. Run to the freezer and put an ice cube on the pimple afterwards. Works like magic

  • Kasia

    I use Clinique spot treatment gel. It really works, I've been using it for 3 years. The aspirin method is also very effective.

  • sarah

    tree tree oil will burn your skin - it will do much more harm than good, i would absolutely NEVER put that in a blemished pore. blemishes need salicylic and lactic acids to exfoliate the pore that contains the blemish from the inside and out - it will also dry it out and draw it out. also deep cleansing clay based masques.

    • http://www.thewayweliveonline.com/ Kristie

      Tea tree oil does need to be diluted with a carrier oil...used neat, you are right, it will burn your skin. But mixed, it should be tolerable for most skin types.

  • http://twitter.com/Michelle_LLA Michelle

    I love the Mario Badescu drying lotion plus the Darphin Purifying Balm!

  • freudianslippers

    I'm in the tea tree oil camp.. I've tried everything - sulfur-based, salicylic-acid-based, benzoyl peroxide, even low-dose retinol - for spot treatments. Tea tree oil works the best and leaves the least irritation and redness behind. But you need to use the kind that is meant for your face!

  • Rachel

    Cutting a slice of garlic and applying it to the spot works wonders! Garlic is a natural source of sulphur, it will have a burning sensation, without actually burning or leaving redness...and you'll stink. For blackheads I make a mask of 1 tbsp unflavoured powdered gelatin and 2 tbsp whole milk and microwave for 10 seconds. Apply and wear until totally dry, then peel. Works like a giant biore face strip for your whole face! Totally changed my skin after years of acne in my 20s!

  • Haley

    I found Mario Badescu's Drying Lotion only worked for white heads. Now, when trying to get rid of those disgusting cystic pimples, try Mario Badescu's Buffering Lotion. Works like a charm!

    Not gonna lie, this topic made me queazy.

  • Eva S.

    I have a tube of prescription zit cream that I was prescribed in Paris in 2009. I still have it and it works miraculously at very quickly drying up my pimps. It is called Cutacnyl by Galderma and it is 2.5% benzoyl peroxide gel. It still works four years later, but when I run out I hope I can find an American equivalent. This stuff is magical, but maybe it's just because it's French.

  • Shannon B.

    Nobody mentioned this one yet... but my bf uses Eminence Herbal Spot Serum. Its the only thing, after trying tons of things, that has worked for him. Its $42 at dermstore.com.

  • http://twitter.com/strawbeemochi Catherine

    Also going to give a shoutout to Mario Badescu's Buffering Lotion - the ONLY thing that has every worked on my cystic zits! Depending on the severity of the zit, it's not necessarily an overnight wonder, but it definitely works and shortens healing time as well as the mark you're left with (it has arbutin which prevents hyperpigmentation). It's a little unwieldy at first, but so worth it! I usually shake it up and pour a nice thin line about an inch long on the tip of my left index finger to rub into the affected area.

  • Officetramp

    Mario Badescu buffering lotion for deep cystic pimples that deserve their own postcode/zipcode. Tea tree oil for regular whiteheads, just my 2 cents.

  • Andrea

    I usually apply a hot compress for 5-10 minutes (depending on how much time i have) then cover the pimple with the sticky part of a band-aid. cut up 2 bandaids so that you are left with 4 sticky squares. Layer them on top of the zip and wear overnight. I noticed it shrinks the zit and draws the zit to a whitehead. Read this online somewhere and have been doing it ever since.

  • Danielle Idan

    Okay in all seriousness and I swear by it, Burts Bees Natural Acne Solutions Targeted Spot Treatment (long name, I know). I dab it on a developing or existing zit and violaaaaa it vanishes it almost overnight. It has tea tree, calendula, yarrow and parsley extracts and best of all it isn't too harsh on your skin.

  • Bula’s Review

    I read this when it was posted, but just recently found my end-all-be-all solution for emerging pimples. After cleansing, I spray Boscia's Clear Complexion Tonic, let it dry. Then, I apply a moisturizer and while it is still moist, I rub in JUST the clear liquid part of Mario Badescu's Drying Lotion with a Q-tip. I find the stuff to be more effective without the pink calamine (and then I can do this process during the day beneath makeup). The pimple is significantly diminished, and I repeat until its gone. Boom!

  • Stef

    Did anyone mentioned Clinique Spot Healing Gel? Best thing for when you crack and squeeze the crap out of a pimple. And witch hazel is a great toner for super sensitive skin.

  • Amanda Scott

    I read this article a few months ago: http://thebeautydepartment.com/2012/12/the-only-way-to-pop/

    I like it because it gives me a sense like I'm doing something but it keeps me from picking at it. Unfortunately from all those times I told myself "Squuueeeze!!! Squeeze until your eyes flood with tears!!!" I use Kate Somerville's D-Scar™ Scar Diminishing Serum which you can see results from after a few days.

  • EB

    Arm and Hammer Toothpaste (the clear formulas...do not get the tinted green toothpaste!) will dry out any zit...but not leave skin too flakey!

  • cerra

    I'm one of the lucky teenagers with very rare zit encounters and my grandmother's suggestion is a green tea bag held under hot water and pressed to the zit. It usually takes down swelling and a bit of the pain


Mario Badescu
Mario Badescu Drying Lotion
Jason Natural Cosmetics
Jason Natural Tea Tree Oil
Kate Somerville
Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment
La Roche-Posay
La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo
Murad Clarifying Mask
Mario Badescu
Mario Badescu Special Healing Powder
Mario Badescu
Witch Hazel Astringent
Walgreens Aspirin Pain Relief Tablets 325 mg
Advil Liqui-Gels