You wake up on the morning of your midterm, eyes drooping from staying up until 3 o’clock in the morning studying and tummy rumbling from drinking too much coffee and not eating enough food. You look in the mirror and, surprise! There’s a big ole pimple right between your eyes.
First of all, don’t pop it. If you do, the best case scenario is that it turns into an even bigger scab—and that’s the best case scenario. The pressure from trying to pop it can spread the bacteria, or the scab could leave a scar, or it will keep appearing. Basically, just don’t touch it, no matter how tempting it is.
So if you can’t pick your little cluster of stress spots, how do you deal with them?
Use a gentle, foaming cleanser.
Your skin is crying for help right now, so put away anything that contains the words “scrub” or “exfoliate.” Don’t use anything with those little scrubbing beads, any perfumed product, or any cleanser that is an eye-catching color like neon pink, blue, or orange. The less chemicals = the better. Your skin is having a hard time, so give it a gentle wash and not a harsh scrub. Soft cleansers work just as well as the more acidic ones and are far less likely to irritate your skin further, i.e. cause more pimples. Once the acne becomes less inflamed, then it’s okay to go in with an exfoliator and get rid of all the dead skin cells. Right now, your goal is to first tackle the surface bacteria in the least harmful way.
Here are some of the top gentle cleansers on the market:
Follow up with an oil-free moisturizer.
And as a bonus, use one with an SPF of at least 15. But the key here is “oil-free.” Oily skin and acne are like those two flirty friends that always end up hooking up even though they know they shouldn’t. Keep those two separated with a quality moisturizer. Having moisture in your skin helps get rid of the oil on top of the skin, which is what allows for the buildup of acne bacteria in the first place. No oil means drier skin, which leads to dried up and healed acne spots, and moisturizer helps you have hydrated skin so your face doesn’t get too dried out. (Again, don’t use products with artificial scents and colors. Try to also stay away from moisturizers that double as makeup, like foundation or concealer—your goal is to get rid of the acne, not simply cover it up.)
Additionally, if your skin is naturally extra oily or if the areas on your face where acne is most concentrated are extra oily, here’s an old home remedy: Dampen a cotton ball with hydrogen peroxide and lightly pat it over your acne, then coat the area with your oil-free moisturizer. The chemical will dry up white heads and bacteria below the skin. *BUT don’t use the hydrogen peroxide over wounded areas, scabs, or irritated and inflamed pimples. It may do further damage.
Here are some of the top oil-free moisturizers on the market:
Drink water and more water and then, even more water.
It’s time to choose the lesser of two evils: more frequent bathroom breaks or stress acne. Water is literally what gives us life and what we need to survive. It has innumerable health benefits because, hello, it’s water. Drinking at least two big glasses/bottles a day will help clear up those dreaded red spots. And if you “don’t like the taste of water,” add one of those flavor mixes in it. But please just drink it—you and your skin need it.
Take a deep breath.
You’re going to ace that midterm. You’ve got this!
All photos courtesy of Amazon.