The Acne Survival Guide: How to Get Rid of a Zit in 24 Hrs or Less!

School, weather changes, and added stress can all lead to one thing no one has time for: breakouts.

Stress has a nasty way of manifesting in the form of a large, angry zit, generally somewhere highly visible, like the tip of the nose. The morning of some big presentation, exam, or date, and one or two of these horrific spots just magically appear…like clockwork.

Of course, following a diligent, proper skincare routine while simultaneously finding ways of dealing with stress and deadlines will be your best bet in achieving flawless skin. However, no one is perfect and immune to the occasional disaster-zit…or a full-fledged pimple attack.

Here is how I, the self-proclaimed acne-queen, combat everything from those giant, “submarine spots” that never actually surface to full-scale, this-means-war massive breakouts.

Dealing with a Large-Scale Breakout:

When you wake up only to find a war-zone on your face, follow this four-step plan:

  1. Cleanse your face with a low pH cleanser.
  2. Tone using a moisturizing toner or “skin booster” toner. Gently pat it in until it fully absorbs.
  3. Sheet mask. Stick it in the fridge (even if it is freezing outside) to help reduce morning puffiness in the face, and constrict blood vessels, bringing down the swelling. This is what often causes breakouts to look much, much worse at first sight than they actually are.
  4. Finish off with a soothing, anti-inflammatory, moisturizing ingredient like snail secretion filtrate, aloe, honey, or hyaluronic acid. Pat it in until fully absorbed.

This will get your face into a much more manageable state by both jump starting the healing process, and also minimizing the appearance of the breakout. Of course, your milage may vary, but for me, one use shows a significant improvement, and if used consecutively every morning (or evening) will generally clear the breakout completely before the week’s end (around 3-5 days instead of the typical 8 day healing time).

A Note on Sheet Masks:

Sheet masks are my secret weapon when it comes to sudden breakouts, especially when it involves more than 1-2 spots. While any sheet mask will supply your skin with the extra boost of moisture it needs help start the soothing and healing process, why not tackle the redness and swelling at the same time?

Masks with soothing ingredients like snail, lotus, or hyaluronic acid will help with the redness and jump start the healing process. Brightening ingredients are also a good bet as they make the face look healthy, awake, and help even the tone of the skin.

These are the masks I always have on hand for such acne-emergencies:

Pony Soothing Mask Pack– seriously smooths and soothes while also reducing redness. One of the best masks for breakouts that I’ve tried!

Innisfree Its Real Bija Mask-a tried and true favorite. It helps prevent breakouts, but also soothes skin should one arise. I always have 5 or so on hand for days when I wake up to a less-than-awesome face.

Leader’s Pore Scaling Black Aqua Mask-this mask is super creepy looking-its completely black-but I like to use it anyway. I typically use it for preventative measures (when my skin feels congested and ripe for a breakout), but also for (warning: super gross) small, “wet” breakouts…aka lots of whiteheads, blackheads, and/or pustules. It will literally suck the pus out, and when you take off the mask you can see what was previously in your skin. Gross, but effective. I also have a few of these on hand at all times.

Leader’s Coconut Mask with Orange -this mask is my special occasion prep mask because its brightening claims are dead serious. My face looks not just glowy, but downright luminous, after using one of these. Some days, your face needs that boost. Having the good sections of your skin looking amazing (and possibly blinding people with the light radiating from your pores) will distract them from the not-so-wonderful breakout zone(s).

After the sheet mask, add something like the CosRX Snail 96 Power Essence to help calm the skin and moisturize it further. Snail is soothing, calming, and redness-reducing. Gently pat it in to absorb, letting all the product sink in before moving onto makeup.

Dealing with Cysts and Nodules:

You know those spots that never actually surface, but just lurk big and red, underneath the skin without ever coming to a head? I call these types of monstrosities “submarine spots” for that very reason. Since they take forever to resolve on their own, on the rare occasion that I have to deal with one of these, I have a game plan to send them on their way in under 48 hours. Luckily, with a little ice and eye redness remover drops, the pimple is easy enough to conceal while you contend with it behind the scenes when you have the time.

If you have a day off to deal with this sort of zit, great, if not, attack it in the evening. Basically, my tried-and-true plan of attack involves two phases of two alternating steps.The pimple will do one of two things: either dissipate under the skin without ever coming to a head, or slowly shrink into a smaller and smaller head until it vanishes.

Phase One:

Alternate hot and cold compresses for 15-30 minutes at a time until the pimple responds (starts dissipating under the skin, or coming to a head).

I find that an ice pack, bag of peas, or an ice cube in a thinly wrapped towel serve as easy cold compresses.

If you don’t have a hot water bottle or heating pad, a comfortably warm mug of water or soaked washcloth can work just as well for the heating component.

This step will take some time (generally 1-2 hours) so cozy up with a good book or have some quality Netflix time while you do this.

Phase Two:

Now that the pimple is either much smaller underneath the skin (the nodule/cyst has shrunk) or has started coming to a head, the next phase begins.

The first step is to use a drawing/purifying agent to bring the infection up to the surface of the skin so it can be better targeted and treated. To do this, use a drawing salve (like Prid’s) or a product with a high concentration of charcoal, sulfur, or clay. I personally like to use things like Scinic’s All Day Fine Clay Pore Mask as spot treatments for these sorts of spots. Apply according to directions, and give the product a few hours to work (if not overnight). You can alternately use a hydrocolloid bandage. I love these from CosRX.

The next step is to apply medication; I like 10% benzoyl peroxide as it works the quickest on me, but feel free to use whatever heavy-duty treatment you probably remember from your teen years. Apply and allow a few hours to work.

Continue alternating the purifying agent to draw up and dry out the infection, then layering a spot medication afterwards to further treat the infection. Be sure to only treat the immediate zit surface as to not dry out the surrounding skin.

Also, do not pick at these! It will cause MAJOR scarring. Don’t squeeze it; don’t try to “drain” it with a sterilized needle. Just leave it alone and keep at it with phase two!

Properly Concealing a Pimple

99% of the time, a pimple shows up when you have absolutely no time to deal with it. The easiest way to flawless skin? Faking it.

  1. Use a primer to keep everything in place. You don’t want all of your hard work to slide off your face after a few hours.
  2. Foundation goes first. Apply with a beauty blender/makeup sponge in stippling motions to avoid the micro exfoliation caused by fingers and brushes that will cause additional redness and irritation. Don’t sweep, rub, or pull too much, especially in the affected area(s). By applying foundation first, it is easier to gauge how much concealing will need to actually be done. You also don’t need a very thick layer or high coverage formula depending on your skin. If its only one or two spots, or even just one area (like the jawline), don’t hide the rest of your perfectly good skin. A cake face will only point to what is being hidden.
  3. Pin point conceal with a small eyeliner brush. Thick, waxy formulations generally work better than thin, watery ones when the pimple is very red and inflamed. Apply a light layer over the pimple and use a makeup sponge to gently dab it outwards. Avoid creating a circle around the zit with a concealer; blend, blend, blend the harsh edges for the most natural look. Layer it up until satisfactory coverage is achieved.
  4. This may be the most essential step in concealing a pimple: securing the concealer. Be sure to lightly dab some powder on top of the area to set it. Don’t rub, even if you are using a brush. If you want to lock the concealer firmly into place, go ahead and bake it on with some translucent powder. If you would step-by-step instructions on how to do this, you can visit my in-depth tutorial here.

The biggest part of concealing a pimple is more about drawing attention to the nicer areas of skin on your face, rather than masking the problem areas under a cakey layer of makeup. By using heavy layers on pin-pointed areas, the rest of the face can look very natural and help fake the look of all-over nice skin (a phenomenon that does NOT occur with pancake foundation or concealer).

And at the end of the day, a zit or two is just that, a zit or two. The world does not end, or even stop for the slightest second, at a sudden cyst or breakout. Most people are too busy with their own lives and troubles (or too busy looking at their phones) to even notice the “giant” zit on your cheek that you think looks like a jaw-breaker in size, but honestly, its more like a pea.

As I said earlier, having a diligent, regular, and effective skin care regimen in combination with having a diligent, regular, and effective stress management routine, will be the most important and effective things you can do to prevent pimples. Eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep (life goals right?) are not only great for preventing acne, but also in managing stress…which helps manage acne. Daily choices are more important than we sometimes might think.

But good daily choices aside, these tips and tricks will get you through even the roughest breakouts when they do happen, and get your skin back to normal in no time 🙂

Reminder/Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and YMMV. Use my tips with caution, I am not liable for anything at all, and what works for me does not guarantee it will work for you.