Why is it that pimples can seemingly sprout overnight, yet take days to disappear? Anyone who has suffered a nasty breakout will know the frustration of waiting for the flare up to pass.
In the meantime, unless you have a will of steel and avoid touching/rubbing/picking/applying every lotion under the sun, you run the risk of making it even worse. (And yes, that includes putting toothpaste on before bed.)
So what is the quickest way to treat a pimple? And how can you avoid getting them in the first place? HuffPost Australia spoke to dermatologist Professor Rodney Sinclair to find out.
How long should a pimple last?
"That's something people often underestimate," Sinclair said. "It takes four to five days for a pimple to fully form and then another four to five days for it to fully go away. It's not as quick as people think."
What's the quickest way to get rid of a pimple?
"The quickest way is to allow it to form a pustule, or a yellow head, then popping it," Sinclair said.
Um... wait. Did a dermatologist just say it was okay to pop a pimple?
"I don't think anyone will tolerate a yellow head on their face, I think that's quite reasonable to want to pop it," Sinclair said. "The thing is they need to stop squeezing as soon as they start to see blood, because otherwise it will take longer to heal."
"Now the only other thing you can do in an emergency -- so if you have woken up in the morning and have a big yellow headed pimple, one that has been brewing and it's come to a head and you have to get married in the afternoon -- is get some strong cortisone cream on it," Sinclair advised.
"It has to be prescribed, over the counter isn't strong enough and won't cut it.
"The pimple will come back the next day 150 percent the size but [the cream] will get you through the afternoon."
What's the best way to soothe an aggressive breakout?
According to Sinclair, once you've broken out, there's not much you can do except try to hide the irritation and put steps in place to avoid the next flare up.
"Camouflage helps. Water based cosmetics are better -- they have to be water based and not oil," he said.
"Most of the other treatments are medium to long term and are more about preventing the next pimples coming through, rather than getting rid of ones already there.
"Antiseptics are good and there a whole range of different brands to choose from. Personally, I favour the Benzac wash. Stronger concentrations don't actually [heal it any faster] and they can damage the skin, so the wash is good.
"Benzoyl peroxides can bleach clothing and bleach towels, so if you're going to use it, use white towels.
"Beyond that, virtually everything else for acne is prescription. For women who get a flare up before their period, for instance, hormonal treatment can be useful -- and that can be the contraceptive pill or otherwise -- and finally there is Roaccutane.
"One other thing you can do which is not prescription is Kleresca LED treatment. This has actually shown to provide quite a rapid resolution to pimples."
What should I put on my pimple before I go to bed?
Spoiler: it's not toothpaste or tea-tree oil.
"An antibiotic lotion before bed can help dry them up," Sinlair said. "People can try and use astringents and things... but I don't think tea-tree oil or toothpaste will help, and in fact could make it worse."
Will changing my pillow case and washing make up brushes daily make a difference?
"Not really, because it's not really a hygiene issue," Sinclair said. "The issue is the bacteria deep in the pores.
"Yes, oil-based make up will clog pores, but water based won't. There's a whole spectrum out there and these days, most of the make-ups people apply are pretty sophisticated. The people who run into trouble are actors or stage performers who apply really thick make-up on a regular basis."
How should I clean my face?
According to Sinclair, this is where a lot of people get a bit overenthusiastic.
"People don't need to be over-vigorous washing their face," he said. "It's best if you wash just with water. The only benefit of washing with soap is for people with oily skin, because it cuts through.
"As I said before, I do like a Benzoyl peroxide wash, but otherwise, over vigrorous washing can really dry you out."
How long should it take for my skin to get back to 'normal' once I stop taking long term medication like the contraceptive pill?
"When it comes to contraceptive pills, some make acne worse and some make it better. So if you're on one making it worse, it will generally take two to three months for your skin to get better," Sinclair says.
"If you are on the one which is making your skin better, it will take two to three months for it to get worse. That's the general time frame."
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