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What to Put on Pimples Overnight

We Asked a Dermatologist How to Kill a Pimple Overnight, and Face Masks Aren't the Answer

What to Put on Pimples Overnight
Image Source: Getty / Moyo Studio

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Waking up to a giant, angry, red pimple is the absolute worst way to start your day. While your acne might get better over time as you learn more about different skincare routines and things that may cause irritation (like scented fabrics and greasy food), the odds of never waking up to a pimple again are pretty slim. So, what can we do to minimize these little demons overnight?

First, let's break down exactly what a pimple is and how it can affect our face. Dermatologist Caroline Chang, MD, FAAD, said that "the root cause of a pimple is a blackhead." She further explained, "If a blackhead gets overfilled, it breaks from the inside and causes inflammation, which leads to a pink bump," hence, an inflamed papule. Before the pimple regresses, it could turn into a larger, more painful bump. We could be stuck with this monster for up to two weeks.

"Benzoyl peroxide helps by destroying any bacteria on the skin surface, reduces inflammation, and helps to open up pores through exfoliation."

But how do we treat an inflamed papule? Dr. Chang recommends using salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. "Salicylic acid is oil-soluble, which means it can get right into pores and help loosen up the clogged pore. Benzoyl peroxide helps by destroying any bacteria on the skin surface, reduces inflammation, and helps to open up pores through exfoliation." A higher level of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide might seem like a good idea, but Dr. Chang advises you'd be doing yourself a disservice. "Start with a low percentage, especially when spot treating. The last thing you want to do is draw more attention to your pimple by causing a rash on top of it!"

When it comes to natural or botanical ingredients, she recommends to stay far away. "When you apply these ingredients to inflamed or broken skin, you have an increased risk of becoming sensitized to them, which means you'll develop an irritation or a rash when you are exposed to them again."

The same goes for picking at an inflamed papule on your skin. It might seem like an easy escape route, but Dr. Chang explained this is one of the worst things you could be doing to your face. Not only are you putting your skin at risk for an infection, but you could also be damaging the inflamed pore underneath. "When that pore's manipulated, it can tear further and cause an even bigger inflammatory response, which means your pimple can get larger." Picking can also lead to scarring — which is a whole other issue.

If you're battling a pimple that is refusing to back down, she recommends making an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist for an injection of cortisone to help calm down the pimple quickly. In the meantime, keep reading for 10 overnight spot treatment products, including some of Dr. Chang's favorites.

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