Question: I feel a pimple forming. How do I prevent it from getting bigger?


Uh-oh. You feel a zit forming on your face. You can't see it and it's not that big yet, but when you touch it, the spot feels tender and sore. You can tell it's going to be one of those big, deep, and painful pimples. It might not grow into a monstrous cyst, but you know it's going to be bad.

When you get a "feel-it-coming" pimple like this, the below tips can help you stop it in its tracks and prevent it from getting even bigger:

  1. Apply heat. Many people will tell you to put ice on a pimple that's just forming. This can work for some people, but in my experience (believe me, I've had my fair share of breakouts), a warm compress is one of the best things you can do to kill off a budding zit. Heat from the warm compress actually helps emulsify the sebum beneath your skin and ease inflammation. When I put a warm compress on a pimple that is just forming (several times a day, as often as I can do it), it almost never turns into a full-blown, inflamed pimple and shrinks within a day or two.

  2. Cover it up. There's a reason why the Nexcare 3M Acne Patch is so popular, particularly in Asia. Covering up a pimple that's just forming helps it heal faster, especially if you apply a warm compress on top of it all. You can also dab some acne treatment on a "feel-it-coming" pimple and cover it up with a band-aid or piece of DuoDERM. This seals in the acne treatment and allows it to penetrate your skin deeply, helping to treat the pimple faster. However, sometimes sealing in an acne treatment can backfire. For example, when you dab a retinoid like Retin-A on a pimple and seal in the treatment with a band-aid, it can be too penetrating and actually burn your skin, making it red and raw.

  3. Leave it alone. Don't pick or squeeze at the spot that's just forming. The more you touch it, the more likely the zit will grow bigger and more inflamed. Whatever you do, don't try to force the sebum clog that's stuck in your pore out before it's ready. If you try to squeeze a "blind" pimple, you will push the clog deeper into your skin and cause the spot to be inflamed. That's the opposite of what you want to do: you want to prevent the pimple from getting bigger, not make it bigger by messing with it.

You generally have to let acne run its course. However, if you feel a pimple that is just forming, putting a warm compress on it several times a day, covering it up with a band-aid, and not poking and prodding the zit will prevent it from turning into a full-blown pimple.

Last updated: October 8, 2012

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