9 Ways Dermatologists Get Rid of Pimples

Updated: Mar. 30, 2022

Good advice from the docs who know how to put a pimple in its place.

How to fight pimples

It doesn’t matter if you’re a teenager or a mature adult: It drives you bonkers when you see a pimple pop up on your face. Your tendency might be to get in front of a mirror and start squeezing, but the experts say that’s not the best move. Dermatologists know how to get rid of those annoying acne spots when they appear and they know how to help stop them from ever popping up in the first place. Here’s how to keep your face clear and pimple-free.

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First: Survey what products you’re using

The first thing Diana Bolotin, MD, assistant professor and director of Mohs Micrographic Surgery at the University of Chicago, does is check out the product label on her face washes and moisturizers, especially if it’s a new product. Certain products contain chemicals that can make your skin break out. “Make sure that nothing snuck into your regiment that has a lot of oil,” Dr. Bolotin advises. Consider one of these surprising home remedies for ance.

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Don’t pick!

Picked or popped pimples may leave acne scars behind, says Emily Arch, MD, a dermatologist at Dermatology+Aesthetics in Chicago. Though it may be hard, avoid picking and popping your pimples or whiteheads. You should also resist picking and popping and plucking these body parts too.

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Choose a new cleanser

When people get a pimple breakout, their first instinct is to reach for a scrub or a product with high astringent content. In reality, scrubs and astringents can worsen your pimples. “The way that your skin responds to that kind of irritation is to produce more oil because that forms a barrier to whatever is irritating,” Dr. Bolotin says. Look for ingredients in your cleanser like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, two ingredients Dr. Arch highly recommends. “[Benzoyl peroxide] has some anti-bacterial properties,” she says. “It also has some nice pore unclogging properties.”

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Try different hair products

You love the way argan oil makes your hair feel, but it could be the cause of your acne breakout. Dr. Bolotin says hair products can cause pimple breakouts because the oils often end up on the pillow when we go to sleep. All night, your face is lying in that oil. Try rinsing your hair before going to bed and change your pillowcases often to make sure you clean off all that oil. Hair that hangs against the forehead can also transfer oil from hair to skin. Dr. Arch says to pull it away from the face. Check out these tips for healthier, more attractive hair.

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Consider some dietary changes

Diet can sometimes affect your acne. Dr. Bolotin says the science is weak, but some studies have shown that a high amount of skim milk in a diet can cause acne. Dr. Arch recommends a low glycemic index diet, as there is stronger evidence linking a high glycemic diet with acne. That means choosing foods with fiber like vegetables, whole grains, and beans, which the body must work harder to digest. “Trying to cut back on junk food can definitely help,” she adds. Here’s more on foods that might help get rid of acne (and a few that make it worse).

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Eat smart to help control your weight

“Weight gain can precipitate acne,” Dr. Bolotin says. Don’t go for a crash diet—those can be harmful—but you may consider adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals and scheduling more exercise to keep your body healthy and your acne under control.

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Clean your cell phone

When your phone rests in the same place against your cheek, the oils from your skin collect on your phone and get into your pores. “The occlusion from all that on the side of the cheek can cause acne,” Dr. Bolotin says. Dr. Arch agrees. “The covers of our phones are so dirty,” she says. “They have so much dirt and oil from our fingers.” Check out these  7 skin conditions that look like acne but aren’t.

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Reconsider certain medications

That new birth control might make your periods easier, but it also might be giving you pimples. “There are some birth control pills that can control acne, but some with more progestin can cause potentially worse acne,” Dr. Bolotin says. Dr. Arch adds that some other types of medications can also cause acne, including steroids and anti-psychotics. If you suspect a new drug is having acne side effects, talk to the doctor who prescribed them. Never stop taking a prescription drug without your doc’s green light. Here are 10 ways to safely use prescription drugs.

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If problems persist, see a dermatologist

When pimples won’t stop, it’s time to see a doc. A dermatologist will work with you and discuss changes in your lifestyle, what products you’re using and any medications you’re taking to help determine what is causing your acne. “It’s most likely some trigger or change in your lifestyle that’s causing it,” Dr. Bolotin says. If you’ve been using a drugstore product for six to eight weeks and haven’t seen satisfying results, Dr. Arch says, see a dermatologist. “We like to get it under control before it becomes a scarring process,” she says. Next, read about these habits that will make your acne scar.