Your schedule is busy. Penciling in time for a pimple to take over your face is not a high priority on the to-do list. But taking one down—that you can make time for. Depending on when you first detect the pesky pimple, you could be looking at preventative measures or a full force fight against the little sucker. To break down the treatment timeline of a breakout, we turned to New York City Dermatologist, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, who took us step by step through the various stages of a pimple.
how to treat acne

Stage 1: You Feel it Coming on

You just know when there’s a blemish brewing beneath the surface. It’s not a good feeling–but the good news is if you treat it properly at this stage, beating it can be a breeze. Dr. Zeichner says, “Apply an over the counter benzoyl peroxide containing gel to help kill acne-causing bacteria and prevent it from getting bigger.” Dr. Zeichner likes Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment to stop a pimple right in its tracks.
 

Stage 2: It’s Still Early

Once the uninvited guest has officially arrived, Dr. Zeichner finds the best plan of attack is to dry it out with some salicylic acid in addition to the benzoyl peroxide. Your best bets are the dual action acne treatments La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo and Kiehl’s Acne Blemish Control Daily Skin-Clearing Treatment.
 

Stage 3: The Peak

The number one piece of advice at this stage (and every stage) is to fight the urge to pick! Popping a pimple will nearly always make it worse. Instead, Dr. Zeichner recommends you add an over the counter hydrocortisone 1% cream to your current arsenal of blemish-battling treatments. If you need a quick fix, see your dermatologist for a cortisone shot.
 

Stage 4: It’s Healing

When a breakout is on its way out it’s important to keep the skin moisturized while continuing to treat the area with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. “There is some data showing that when the pimple goes away, the mark that is left still shows some inflammation,” notes Dr. Zeichner. So continuing to treat can help speed up the healing process. “But don’t overdo it. You do not want to cause skin irritation!” Try moisturizing in the a.m. with a gentle lotion like CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM SPF 30, and continue the healing at night with The Body Shop Tea Tree Blemish Fade Night Lotion.
 
Now you’re armed with the know-how to send any pimple packing! Are there any other skincare secrets you want revealed? Let us know in the comments and we’ll find the answers for you.
Photos: The Body Shop, CeraVe, La Roche-Posay, Kiehl’s, Neutrogena