Have you ever looked in the mirror and been unable to see past a spot?
It throbs, it’s red, it has roots and you know it's going to hang around for ages.
I know I have. Because I’m sitting here thinking about this video idea with the worst spot I’ve had in years. Literally Mount Vesuvius is on my chin. And when this happens, it takes over your thinking brain - how do I treat a spot quickly? Do I pop it or leave it? Can I get rid of a spot overnight?
Now as with most things skin, the things that you shouldn’t do are almost as important as the things you do do! Let’s look at the worst offences.
Can toothpaste get rid of spots?
In my experience, the most common spot hack is probably toothpaste. Whilst they might contain the antiseptic Triclosan (although this is increasingly less common), they also contain ingredients that are hugely irritating. So stick to using it as originally intended and find a correctly-formulated anti-blemish solution instead.
Can my spot creams make my spots worse?
Unfortunately, yes. It blows my mind how many poorly formulated blemish solutions there are on the market. It seems that the concept that you shouldn’t irritate a blemish escapes many brands. There’s no place for essential oils or ‘drying’ ingredients in my book - stick to ingredients that act through anti-inflammatory mechanisms and contain a hydrating base to soothe ceramide-deficient pimples for minimal havoc.
Does exfoliation break you out?
Yes! The same principle applies here. When you want to exfoliate inside your oily pores as part of your anti-breakout strategy, use chemical exfoliants to achieve this, not brute force. Facial washes designed for twice daily use and contain physical exfoliants are one of the worst things you can use on breakouts.
Is it better to pop a spot or leave it?
Popping spots never ends well. Not only do you then have a weepy, open area that concealer won’t stick to, you’ve just massively increased your risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and even scarring. Step away from the magnifying mirror!
Can I get rid of a spot overnight?
Time is definitely of the essence. The less time your spot is inflamed the less of a post-acne mark it’ll leave behind and in order to nip a spot in the bud, you’ll need to get in there at the first hint of a red, angry mound. In these instances, you might well be able to nip it in the bud overnight. A lot of people ask if they should try to bring a spot to the surface? In the end, some pimples are destined to end up as pustules (red base and angry white top) and others aren’t - it shouldn’t change your approach which is ultimately all about calming inflammation.
Can over-cleansing cause spots?
Unfortunately, fussy cleansing is one of the commonest triggers for breakouts I see. Double cleansing, oil cleansing and balm cleansers can all cause issues. The key is to cleanse gently. Don’t try to target proper spots with your cleanser. That’s the work of your leave-on product and will only dry skin out unhelpfully, disturbing it’s acid mantle thus reducing the skin’s capacity to tolerate actives.
What can I put on a spot overnight?
Apply a properly formulated anti-inflammatory spot treatment. Look for the following:
Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5 -5%
Salicylic Acid 1-2%
Azelaic Acid 5-20%
Bakuchiol 0.5 -1 %
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA
And it's as important to check that there aren’t rogue extras in there that will increase irritation without delivering any upside.
Can a moisturiser break give you spots?
So many of you will have experienced breakouts from using the wrong moisturiser - BUT whilst this might seem counter-intuitive, hydration is really important when you have spots. It allows you to use your anti-blemish solution regularly and it avoids excess irritation, which can magnify the red mark that’s left behind.
The key thing is to use a non-comedogenic moisturiser (like Flawless Moisturiser Light) and you’ll be able to nourish your challenged skin without angst. It’s enriched with ceramides which are really useful in calming blemishes.This will also ensure that make-up goes on smoothly as skin won’t be flaky. So often it’s the dry texture that draws attention to the skin when moisturiser has been skipped.
When should I see a dermatologist for a spot?
Consider seeing a derm for a steroid injection if you have a larger lesion (a guide is anything 1cm in diameter or larger) or you have an event on the horizon. This is worth thinking about as lesions of this size are at greater risk of scarring.
Is it ok to put make-up on a spot?
1000%, YES! And it’s perhaps the most important point for our peace of mind. Use a highly pigmented concealer that doesn't clog and then activate a bit of distraction make-up - wing that eyeliner up if you’re sporting a blemish on your chin. Remember no-one else will see your blemish the way you do, especially if you conceal carefully.
So in the end, the approach is very simple and knowing that you have a plan will hopefully reduce the anxiety surrounding your ‘visitor’. Use a correctly formulated anti-blemish cream, don’t squeeze and ultimately, remember to keep things in perspective!!!! Rember, the best way to tackle spots is to prevent them - use non-comedogenic skincare and a retinoid as your first line of attack. For more on starting a retinoid read this.