It’s pretty much a given that all of us have experienced a pimple that reared its horrible head the night before, days before or a week before a special event. No matter if you’re in your teens, 20’s or sometimes even 40’s and beyond, acne is a frustrating problem.

How to Get Rid of a Pimple
examining a pimple – Jose Luis Pelaez/Iconica/Getty Images

We got an email from a reader named Stephanie who asked the following question.

I deal with frequent breakouts on my face and sometimes back. Most times it’s not a big deal, but I’d like to ask about those times where it is a big deal. If I feel a big pimple coming on a week before my big event, what I should do to help it go away as quickly as possible? What if the pimple starts coming on the day or two before the big event? And lastly, is there anything a dermatologist can do in-office for these pimple emergencies?

We took Stephanie’s question to board certified Dermatologist, Dr. Jeanie Downie. Dr. Downie has been a regular guest on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show, Doctor Oz and many other national TV shows, radio shows and newspaper publications. We’re honored to get her expert opinion on dealing with that pimple before your special event.

A Week Before Your Event

Come in to see a board certified dermatologist for a quick cortisone injection. The cortisone is a specific anti-inflammatory and will shrink the pimple down much quicker. Whatever you do, do not pick it and do not pop it.

If you can’t get to a dermatologist, try to put a prescription retinoid on your pimple like Tazorac or Retin-A-Micro. If don’t have prescriptions available to you, try a great over the counter product like OXY 5 or OXY 10, and again don’t pick it, no matter what, don’t pick it.

You can put ice on pimple that helps occasionally, but toothpaste really burns the area around the skin, so I do not recommend that.

You can also try chemical peels, which will help with pimples all over your face if you have a big breakout.

One to Two Days Before Your Event

If a pimple comes on the day or two before an event, I would still recommend to going to see a board certified dermatologist. The pimple will go down in a day, so you can still inject it.

Everything the same applies. You wouldn’t pick it, you wouldn’t pop it, and you should use a prescription if it’s available to you, if not use over the counter options. Don’t put anything on to dry it, it’s too much because it’s two days before the event and you’ll want to be able to cover the area with makeup. When you are covering it with makeup the day of the event, be sure to only use oil-free makeup.

In-Office Emergency Treatments

Whenever someone comes in with a pimple emergency there are a few options. We inject it, we do chemical peels, and we do acne surgeries. These will all help significantly.

More Acne Advice

  • Top 10 Ways to Prevent Acne: What if you could significantly reduce the number of pimples you get on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s our bad habits that encourage acne. Check out our Top 10 Ways to Prevent Acne and see where you fall with these daily acne boosters.
  • Blackheads: What Are They and How Can I Get Rid of Them? – If you struggle with blackheads, come see what they are, how they differ from white heads and what you can do to get rid of them.
  • 8 Clear Skin Tips for College Students – You don’t need to gain the “freshman 15” and you don’t need to get the acne that is often times associated with heading to college. Follow these 8 tips for clear skin.

What is a Pimple? And Why Do I Get Them?

We’ve all been there – you go to sleep with the hint of a small red bump and wake up with the world’s biggest pimple on your forehead. What the heck is a pimple and why are you getting them? And why do some people seem to get only an infrequent pimple here and there while others have a face full of pimples?

What is a Pimple
Getty Images/The Image Bank

What is a Pimple?

Your skin, the body’s largest organ, is a well-oiled machine. Literally! Your skin is constantly producing natural oils to keep your skin and hair moisturized. Your body is also shedding dead skin cells at a rapid pace. (Almost 9 pounds a year!) Sometimes the shedding of dead skin cells can block the oil and the skin cells in the pore and cause a blockage. In simple terms, a pimple is a blockage of oil and dead skin cells in the skin’s pore. (What are pores and why are mine so noticeable?)

Why Do Some People Get Them and Not Others?

There is not one explanation for why some people get pimples while others hardly get a single pimple. Genetics likely plays a role in deciding your acne-future. Ask your mom and dad what their teen years were like. Were they prone to acne? If so, you can assume you will be, too.

You can blame hormones for your acne, which is why you tend to see teens suffer from acne the most, as well as women during their monthly cycles. Medications, such as the birth control pill can cause your skin to flare up with acne, as well.

Will I Always Struggle with Pimples?

It depends, and I can’t really tell you for sure. If you’re a teen right struggling with acne, you might not be so thrilled to hear that 80% of adults age 20 to 30 struggle with adult acne But Angela Palmer,’s Guide to Acne shares in that article that nearly everyone who deals with adult acne can find a treatment plan that works for their skin.

Are Whiteheads and Blackheads the same as Pimples?

Pimples can be whiteheads, blackheads or cysts that grow under the skin. Cystic acne is most often quite painful and the hardest to get rid of. Going to your dermatologist is a good option for you if you are constantly dealing with cystic acne. The best course of action is going to come from your doctor. (How to Shrink Your Pores – Or At Least Make it Look Like You Did)

What Should I Be Doing Daily For My Acne?

With proper daily treatment products, you should see an impact in your acne as long as you are consistent with usage. Go-to ingredients are salicylic acid and benzyl-peroxide. You don’t need to spend big bucks on an acne line, either. Many drugstore brands have great acne-fighting lines. A good example is OxyClinical. (Read Review) Tea tree oil is also a great pimple-fighting ingredient and there are entire acne lines based around it. Also check out our list of top face masks for oily skin for product recommendations.

Changing some of your daily habits can also help reduce acne. Check out our Top 10 Ways to Get Rid of Pimples for Good for tips on what habits might be causing more pimples.

One Plus We’ve Noted About Those with Oily Skin

There is no scientific evidence noted here, just our observation. Most older people that we’ve talked to with amazing skin had acne and oily skin growing up. Our theory is that because of the extra oil, the skin doesn’t get the early aging, dry skin signs. True or not, it is something we’ve noted time and time again. You might be grateful for your oily, acne-prone skin when you’re 50 and look a decade younger, unlike your friend with perfect skin as a teen who has aged faster than you.

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