Even 10-step skin care routine devotees get pimples. If you’re suffering from red, irritated acne blemishes, there are ways you can minimize redness through skin care efforts.
However, if you’ve arrived to this page with little time to spare, there are also some tips for concealing blemishes until you can get the redness to go away for good.
The keys to reducing redness from acne are to apply anti-inflammatory compounds while being gentle to your skin. That’s right — gentle. This means don’t try to use every scrub or irritating product to treat your acne. Instead, try using a “keep it simple“ approach.
If you apply too many oil-removing products, your skin could react the opposite way: It could start to overproduce oil, which will worsen your acne. The goal is to keep your skin clean and apply targeted products to reduce redness while your blemishes heal.
Here are some tips for reducing redness:
- Cleansing. Cleanse the skin twice daily (morning and night) with a gentle, fragrance-free, and noncomedogenic (won’t clog pores) cleanser.
- Niacinamide. Add a product with niacinamide into your daily routine. Niacinamide is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3 that’s been shown to reduce acne-related inflammation and redness. You can usually find it in serum or cream forms for topical application.
- Salicylic acid. Apply topical salicylic acid to red, irritated blemishes.
Salicylic acidis a peeling agent that also has anti-inflammatory (anti-redness), antimicrobial, and antifungal properties when applied at percentages ranging from 0.5 to 5 percent.
- Pimple patches. Consider pimple patches or stickers. If the redness is limited to one (or two) locations, you can purchase pimple patches designed to minimize a pimple’s appearance. Most contain salicylic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C, or some combination of ingredients designed to reduce the pimple’s appearance and promote healing.
- Ice. Apply a cloth-covered ice pack or piece of ice over areas of redness. Leave on for 10 minutes or less.
- Hypoallergenic. Use a lightweight, noncomedogenic moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out. Some key words to look out for when purchasing include hypoallergenic in a lotion or gel formulation that usually contains moisturizers, such as hyaluronic acid.
Sometimes, you’ll need to call in the professionals for consistent, painful, and inflamed pimples. A dermatologist can evaluate your skin and prescribe professional-level treatments, such as topical applications, chemical peels, or laser therapy.
Acne can also closely resemble rosacea, a condition that causes significant skin redness. Because the treatments for rosacea can be different from traditional acne-fighting approaches, it’s a good idea to see a dermatologist if you’re not sure.
You can also apply a mild cortisone cream to an inflamed pimple to decrease redness and swelling. This should be done sparingly and only as a spot treatment, as topical steroids themselves can actually cause acne, as well other potential side effects such as skin thinning.
Sometimes, even your best efforts at reducing redness don’t show enough immediate results. When this is the case, you can use makeup to cover up the redness. Here’s how to start:
- Clean your hands thoroughly before touching your skin.
- Cleanse and moisturize the skin.
- Apply base makeup (if you wear any). This usually won’t be full-coverage makeup (sometimes heavier makeup is a giveaway you have a blemish). Instead, try a tinted moisturizer or other lighter coverage foundation.
- Choose a concealer for the blemish. You’ll want to look for a concealer that is like putty (thick) in consistency. Some makeup companies will offer color-correcting concealers that are green that may help for especially red zits. If not, matching the concealer cover as closely as possible to your skin will help.
- Take a small, clean makeup brush and apply concealer over and around the pimple, blending well with your surrounding skin.
- Set the concealer with a powder (loose or pressed is fine).
- Sometimes, you may have to apply more than one layer of concealer. You can apply the first concealer layer, wait a few minutes, then apply another layer.
- Clean your makeup brush with a gentle cleanser or rubbing alcohol after using it to conceal your blemish.
You’ll want to use products that are all oil-free and noncomedogenic when concealing your pimple. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of making it worse.
Consistent skin care is beneficial for reducing redness, and so is adopting an acne prevention plan. Your acne prevention skin care routine should include the following:
- Cleansing twice daily with a gentle cleanser.
- Applying topical, anti-acne agents. These may include azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or topical retinoid applications (such as adapalene). These each have different acne-fighting powers that include antimicrobial and exfoliating qualities.
- You can also use natural acne fighters, such as tea tree oil, oral barberry extract, and gluconolactone solution, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. However, there’s less research on the effectiveness of these products.
- Apply a light moisturizer (and don’t forget the sunscreen in the morning).
- Remember: Never squeeze your pimples. While a pimple (especially one with a white top) can be tempting to squeeze, this will only make the redness worse.
If this plan doesn‘t help your acne subside, see a dermatologist.
Acne redness can indicate underlying irritation and inflammation in your skin. A lot of this can be hormone-related, as hormones can determine how much oil your skin produces. However, you can use a consistent skin care routine with topical agents intended to reduce blemishes.
Keeping redness fighters (plus a good concealer) on hand isn‘t a bad idea for when the occasional blemish pops up. But remember to call your dermatologist if your blemish won’t go away after a few days of at-home care.