What’s possibly even more annoying than a really bad zit? The red, dry spot that’s leftover after the blemish has subsided. Brie Larson knows the struggle.
In a recent post on Instagram, the actress pointed out such a spot on her face with a big fat arrow: “When you’re stressing/obsessing over a zit so you put on too much zit cream before bed and wake up to [a] giant dry spot but you gotta get your photo taken anyway,” she wrote in the caption.
We know she’s not alone, so we got the scoop from a derm on how to get rid of a pimple without ending up in Larson’s position. Here are a few tips from Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Less is more
Loading up on your spot treatment won’t necessarily make your pimple go away faster, no matter how satisfying it may feel to slather on the medicine. “Higher concentrations of acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide may not be any more effective than lower concentrations, but can certainly end up being more irritating. Plus, any medication not fully rubbed into the skin is just excess and can lead to irritation,” explains Dr. Zeichner. To minimize the risk of that telltale red patch, choose a product with a low concentration of benzoyl peroxide (like 2.5%), such as Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment ($8; amazon.com). And don’t apply the medication more than twice daily, says Dr. Zeichner.
Tap the acne-fighting trio
If you want to hit fast forward on the life of your pimple, Dr. Zeichner suggests combining a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide product with a 2% salicylic acid treatment and a 1% hydrocortisone cream. We like Clean and Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment ($8; drugstore.com) and Cortaid Maximum Strength Cream ($7; drugstore.com). “This trifecta of ingredients will help calm an inflamed zit, kill acne-causing bacteria, and remove dead cells on the skin’s surface,” Dr. Zeichner explains. But whatever you do, don’t pick at your pimple, he warns, because that can cause more inflammation and possibly scarring.
Be sure to moisturize
To prevent that flakiness from cropping up post-pimple, “moisturize the skin to keep the skin barrier in good shape and maintain hydration,” says Dr. Zeichner. Even though it sounds counteractive to put anything other than a spot treatment on your blemish, an oil-free moisturizer could be your best friend and keep irritation at bay.
If you do end up with a dry spot…
“Continue to apply the 1% hydrocortisone cream, like Cortaid Maximum Strength Cream, to reduce skin inflammation. An occlusive ointment will seal in cracks between skin cells and improve hydration,” says Dr. Zeichner. Got that, Brie? This is your next step!