Whether it’s heavy-duty acids or at-home sit-zapping devices, we all have our go-to methods for keeping those breakouts at bay. But as much as we know about caring for our own complexion, dermatologists always seem to have another trick up their sleeve. To help you battle your arsenal of acne, we asked five dermatologists to share their best-kept secrets for skin cleansing. The best part? One by one they get the job done fast.
1. Switch up your hair care products
“Most people don’t realize that everyday hair care products like shampoo and conditioner can cause skin problems, including acne and breakouts,” says Iris Rubin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of SEEN Skin & Hair Care. “This is because these products come into contact with the skin as they are rinsed off and drip down the scalp, face and body in the shower. But here’s the catch: if you wash these products off, they can remain for hours on the skin. That residue passes from the hair to a towel or pillowcase and then to the skin. To make matters worse, if your shampoo or conditioner contains pore-clogging ingredients, such as coconut oil, certain waxes, and even polymers, you can roll around on your pillowcase in it all night, so it’s important to wash your pillowcase and towels at least once a week.”
“People with acne-prone skin should take a good look at their skin care and hair care to make sure it is non-comedogenic (does not cause breakouts). Sometimes swapping your regular shampoo or conditioner for one that’s non-comedogenic and safe for acne-prone skin, like SEEN, is all it takes to clear up breakouts quickly.
2. Low salicylic acid under a pimple
“What’s even better than leaving a pimple alone is dabbing on a spot treatment with powerful acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid,” says Sandra Lee, MD (aka Dr. Pimple Popper), board-certified dermatologist and founder of SLMD Skin Care. “Let it dry and seal the salicylic acid with a salicylic acid pimple.” Leave that for a few hours and then repeat. I like this hack because it doubles down on salicylic acid, which has pore-cleansing and anti-inflammatory properties.
3. Book a professional chemical peel
“When a red, angry pimple pops up, there are a few go-tos I rely on simply because they work quickly. A topical steroid applied lightly to the skin will help, as will a professional chemical peel, which most people associate with skin maintenance,” says board-certified dermatologist Papri Sakar, MD. “Salicylic acid or glycolic acid peels can help reduce the size of a super inflamed cyst, but there are also many combo peels that use a small amount of different ingredients. Salicylic acid is the easiest to use because the skin doesn’t necessarily have to ‘peel’ for it to work. The treatment is quite quick – it takes 20 to 30 minutes in the office – and I usually treat the whole face rather than an isolated breakout… If you’re in trouble and need a quick fix, a peel generally works Good.
4. Try topical steroids
“A pimple can appear as a small asymptomatic red bump, a small pimple with a whitehead in the center, or a deep, painful cystic acne pimple,” says board-certified dermatologist Kseniya Kobets, MD. “If you have steroids at home, such as over-the-counter hydrocortisone, it’s worth using as a spot treatment for a few days to a week, especially if you get irritation or sensitivity from benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to clear up active breakouts. A word of caution, though, when using use of topical steroids: it is not a good idea to apply them all over the face or for a long time, as it can lead to thinning of the skin, dilated blood vessels, stretch marks and even worsening of acne.
5. Use a few drops of Visine
“Many people ask me what to do if they get a pimple when they travel because so many of us get pimples when we are away from home due to increased stress and dirt and impurities getting on the skin. Visine,” says Nazanin Saedi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Plymouth Meeting Dermatology. “The over-the-counter eye drops contain tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride, a vasoconstrictor that constricts superficial blood vessels to temporarily reduce redness. However, you’ll want to take Visine for a day or two at most. using on a pimple, as this can cause rebound redness.