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The Ultimate Guide To Reducing Pimple Redness

woman squeezing a pimple on her face

Pimples are just the worst. There’s no way around it, no upside, no silver lining — it’s the one nearly universal issue that nobody is going to find a positive spin on, except that all breakouts eventually subside.

Especially when you have something important to do, or if you’re going somewhere you know people are bound to take pictures, having a breakout or even just one really prominent pimple (the worst kind!) can make something you were looking forward to, something you’re low key dreading.

One of the most disruptive parts of having a breakout, though, often isn’t actually the bump itself. It’s the redness that comes along with it, turning your otherwise even complexion into a bit of a warzone.

Especially if you have a few pimples or a full-on breakout, the discomfort your skin experiences, along with the zits and pimples that make up the breakout, can be really distracting and harder to deal with.

So if you’re trying to fend off a breakout so you can make it to your next party feeling fun, festive and confident — and not worrying that you’re going to look more like Rudolph in the family Christmas photo, this is exactly what you need. All the whys and wherefores of how to reduce pimple redness.

What Causes Breakouts and Redness?

While the redness is a massive part of what makes pimples and breakouts so noticeable, the redness is really the result of the breakout overall, so one of the most important things about treating the problem is understanding what caused it in the first place.

Because there are a few different factors that can lead to breakouts, it’s possible that just treating the redness might not do the trick — it might just lessen the appearance temporarily and leave you with the same problem in a day or two.

One of the most common causes of acne is changes in your body’s hormones. This is why acne is so much more common in your teenage years than at any other point in your life. But it isn’t just puberty that can send your hormones into a tailspin. Certain medications, such as birth control, can change your hormone production.

If you’re taking a medication that you know affects your hormones and then start to experience breakouts and redness, it’s worth speaking to your doctor to see if there’s any particular protocol for treating the issue or any alternatives that might not come with that particular reaction. Of course, you should never stop taking your medication without your doctor’s advice to guide you.

Stress can also cause your body to create extra cortisone and affect the balance of hormones in your body. That’s why people often say stress can cause acne — it’s not that the actual stress you’re experiencing makes your body break out. It’s your body’s response to stress that can cause pimples to start to appear.

Some foods may also have an impact on your diet. For example, it’s been shown that some people can make a link between breakouts and dairy consumption. Frankly, choosing between eating cheese and having clear skin seems almost impossible, but it’s unfortunately true! In general, making your diet a little more veggie-centric and focusing on eating healthy will always be good for your body, too.

Pimples are also often caused simply by an excess of oil production. If you have oily skin or use many products that don’t absorb very well, you may end up with too much sebum, which can clog your pores and follicles and lead to issues like blackheads and whiteheads and breakouts.

How Do You Dial Down the Redness?

While nothing will instantly get rid of your breakout, there are certain things you can do to get your skin tone to appear a bit more even, even if the effects only last long enough to get you through your next party or outing without feeling self-conscious.

One classic way to reduce redness, whether breakouts or other skin problems cause it, is to use ice! You may remember reading about putting a spoon in the freezer in old school women’s magazines or had a grandmother tell you that rubbing ice on her face is what keeps her looking young… and while it’s not a magic wand, it is actually true that ice can help reduce inflammation, and decrease the size of blemishes.

While you can totally do the old-school spoon trick, you can also just wrap a few ice cubes in a towel and hold them against the problem area for a few minutes. You’ll want to go in cycles — hold it on for one to three minutes, and then give your skin about 15 seconds to recover. Repeat until the redness is less noticeable.

On the flip side, warmth can also help make your breakout look a little less angry. Wet a washcloth with some warm water, and hold it over your pimple or area of acne for three to five minutes every hour or so until it’s time to go. Like the cold, the warmth will help reduce any swelling that may be causing your skin to look redder. A warm compress can also help bring any bacteria causing your pimples to the surface of your skin.

When it comes to products, the main thing you’re going to want to do when reducing redness is to try not to irritate your skin further. Suppose you’re managing a breakout on the day of something you need to do. In that case, you’ll want to keep your skincare routine targeted toward acne but still light — today is not the day for intensive facemasks or chemical peels that might help in a few days but leave your skin redder in the short term.

Some light exfoliating in the form of a gentle facial scrub like our Purifying 2-in-1 Pumpkin Pore Detox Mask and Scrub can help remove impurities without stripping your skin. A dab of spot treatment applied as part of your getting-ready routine can help reduce the appearance of your zits and pimples without causing an all-over battle to break out on your face.

You’ll also want to keep your moisturizer light and oil-free. We recommend our Shineblock™ Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30 so that you can use one product to both hydrate and protect your skin and avoid further clogging your pores.

If all else fails, your best bet is a good makeup routine. While it can be tempting to get out your heaviest foundation and most opaque concealer and really cake the product on to create a whole new artificial surface for your face, we don’t recommend this! It can actually further clog your pores and irritate your skin, and, no matter how good you are with makeup, layers upon layers of foundation always look a bit cakey and are bound to crack throughout the day.

Instead, look for a green concealer. It sounds crazy, and it will feel crazy if you’ve never used it before and are applying it to your face for the first time. But adding a bit of green to your red face actually has a color-correcting effect that can restore a more natural tone to your skin and calm your anxiety about looking like you’ve just run up a flight of stairs before the office holiday photo.

How Do You Get Rid of Pimples?

While getting rid of skin redness can go a long way toward making your complexion look healthier and more even, you might still need to get rid of a pimple in a pinch.

If you’re wondering how you can reduce the appearance of those nasty little buggers in time for your next photo op, there are some things you can do to try to get your skin back in fighting shape as quickly as possible.

If you’ve spotted your breakout a full night before you need it to be better, you’ve got a bit more wiggle room and time to let some great products work their magic. While it can be tempting to find the most heavy-duty blemish-fighting cleansers full of active ingredients, you’ll actually be better off sticking with a gentle cleanser and a good exfoliator.

Exfoliating during a breakout is important because it helps to clear away any dead skin cells that may have built up and give you a blank canvas upon which to apply the next level of products. The clearer your skin is of impurities, the better things like acne treatments and serums can work.

If it’s the night before a get-together or event you’re desperate to have clear skin for, your nighttime routine is key. Like we’ve said, you’ll want a gentle cleanser, a good exfoliator, and then you can follow up with a serum. While there are a variety of serums that are good for acne and redness, if your skin is already familiar with Retinol, we recommend sticking with it!

It may be tempting to try and pop your pimples or zits, especially if they look red and ripe — but this is actually really bad for your skin and can lead to scarring in the long term.

The best way to reduce pimple redness is to treat them intentionally and with care. And although it’s broadly a myth that bad hygiene is what causes pimples and breakouts, popping pimples with anything other than sterile instruments or incredibly clean hands can lead to infection.

If it’s the day of, and you’ve done all you can do when it comes to treatments, the best course of action is to — again — apply makeup. As we mentioned, if you’re fighting redness, a green concealer is a miracle worker. But if that hasn’t done the trick completely or if you’re worried about blackheads or other visible blemishes, you’ll want a bit of precision here!

Rather than caking on foundation and concealer, you’ll want to get a small brush and gently dab on acne-friendly foundation and concealer over the pimple. That way, you’ll get full coverage where you need it, without overwhelming your face (and your pores!) with layers and layers of makeup. If you can see where you’ve applied the foundation more heavily, you can use a bit of extra concealer to blend the edges into the rest of your face, so it looks softer and more natural.

How Do You Prevent Pimples From Coming Back?

The best offense is a good defense! We’ve talked about the best protocol for reducing pimple redness once you’ve already broken out, but after the pimples have cleared away, it doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.

The goal shouldn’t be just to get rid of pimples once they’ve happened but to make sure your skin is in such good shape that they don’t come back at all.

Regular use of Retinol can be helpful when it comes to keeping breakouts at bay. Likewise, Alpha Hydroxy Acids such as Glycolic Acid that provide chemical exfoliation, are great for increasing cell turnover and resurfacing your skin.

They keep your skin looking younger and fresher, and because they help break the bond between the top layer of your skin and the other layers, they’re great for clearing away grime and impurities that even the best cleansers might not get. Plus, if you’re prone to whiteheads or blackheads, these ingredients are key in opening up your pores and just overall keeping you fresh and clear.

It’s also important to have consistency in your routine. While it can be difficult to motivate yourself to do every step of your skincare routine every day, you can totally adjust your routine to suit what’s realistically possible for you and your lifestyle so that your skin doesn’t get startled by the sudden application of many products when you have a breakout and have a negative reaction as a result.

Washing your face in the morning and evening with a gentle but effective cleanser followed by a non-oily moisturizer and SPF is a great base for your skin routine. Exfoliating is important when it comes to keeping breakouts from happening, and while doing it daily can be good for your skin, if that isn’t realistic for you, try doing it a couple of times a week.

That way, there’s less pressure, and you’re more likely to give your skin the care it needs more regularly.

In Conclusion

There is almost nothing more infuriating than waking up after getting a full, restful eight hours of sleep right on time and knowing you have your day planned out to prepare you for date night out with friends or another get-together you want to look your best for… only to look in the mirror and see that your face has chosen today to turn bright red and breakout.

While you can’t turn back time or magically vanish your pimples, there are many things you can do to reduce pimple redness and get your face looking more like you again.

From skincare products to DIY helpers like ice and warm compresses to cosmetic solutions to reduce visible redness, there’s no reason why acne or just one unignorable pimple should get between you and totally feeling yourself on a day or night out. It takes a bit of time and consideration, but with a little work, we’re sure you’ll be finding your way into every possible picture with abandon in no time.

By: Tiesha Bridges Licensed Aesthetician & Customer
Service Representative