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There’s no ideal time to get a pimple, but for some reason, a breakout always seems to hit at the worst time possible; the night before a first date, a big interview, your birthday… We’ve ALL been there. So here at HB HQ, we’ve formulated the ultimate pimple-zapping routine to banish zits ASAP! Because when it comes to pimples, we’ve tried it all; the cult products, the DIYs, the weird remedies – you name it, we’ve tried it! Here’s how we tackle a breakout:

But first…

Before we get into the deets, it’s important to note that while the natural reaction is to attack a pimple with whatever could possibly work, the less is more approach is often more effective. Try not to overwhelm your skin with too many products or active ingredients as this can irritate your skin. Finally, remember that pimples are normal and everyone gets them, and honestly, you’re the only one who will notice them anyway – check out these 7 celebs who were real about their skin issues for a little reminder!

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Step 1: Ice it!

A lot of the time, you can feel a pimple before you can even see it – it’s like a sixth sense! As soon as you feel that little tingling (or sometimes throbbing), apply some ice to the area for around three minutes to help reduce swelling. Remember, this will only work on inflamed pimples (anything slightly red or painful to touch), so it won’t do anything for blackheads or whiteheads.

Step 2: Protect the pimple!

Pimple stickers, in our opinion, are one of the best things to come out of Korea (other than BTS, obvs). They’re cheap and easy to use – just whack on a sticker as soon as you feel a zit emerging. The dressing is airtight, so it’ll seal in any oil or sebum, preventing acne bacteria spreading. We use the COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch, $11, although you can make them out of blister plasters, find out how to DIY your own acne stickers here.

Step 3: Do a pimple-zapping DIY

We’re firm believers that there’s a DIY to fix any beauty problem, and pimples are the perfect example. Here are our go-to pimple-busting DIYs:

Banana peels: Whenever we have a blemish we use the peel of a ripe banana and rub it directly onto a pimple – leave it on for 30 minutes, wash your face, and repeat twice, daily. Banana peels are bursting with anti-inflammatory ingredients like zinc and vitamin A, as well as enzymes that’ll help fade scars.

Tea Tree Oil: For a quick and easy DIY, lightly press a warm flannel onto your skin to open your pores, then dab tea tree oil onto the blemish. Tea tree is a triple threat: it has both antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties to kill acne bacteria and calm existing pimples.

STEP 4: Use a drying solution overnight

Before you sleep, we recommend applying an overnight drying solution. Our fave is the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, $17, it contains salicylic acid to unclog dead skin cells that are blocking your pores, and calamine lotion to soothe and reduce redness. To apply, dip a cotton bud in the bottle until it reaches the pink sediment and then dab it onto your pimple. Read the full review here.

What to avoid when you have a pimple

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Don’t apply toothpaste: We’ve all been there – a pimple starts to emerge, and your instant reaction is to drown it in toothpaste. Well, while it may dry your pimple overnight, it could also irritate your skin as it contains potent ingredients like alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda.

Don’t touch it: We know it’s tempting and oh-so-satisfying to squeeze your pimple, but avoid touching it at all costs! If you squeeze your zit, you’ll most likely aggravate it and could worsen the breakout. If you seriously attack it, you’ll also increase the risk of scarring. If you absolutely insist on doing it – sometimes we don’t take our own advice either – make sure your skin and hands have been thoroughly washed, then wrap clean tissue around your fingers and gently apply pressure to the skin immediately around the pimple. Never use your nails!

Don’t eat these foods: Certain foods trigger acne, so while you’re dealing with a breakout try to stay away from these foods as much as possible. The most common triggers include foods that are high in refined sugars or complex carbs, like white bread or pasta, and of course candy. Eating high amounts of dairy can also result in a breakout as it’s an inflammatory and promotes redness and swelling. For more foods that could be to blame for you breakout, read this post.

Avoid astringents: As astringents (like witch hazel, alcohol, apple cider vinegar) can disrupt the skin’s barrier and irritate the skin, it’s best to avoid them while you’re dealing with a pimple. This means unless you have very oily skin, you should cut back on astringent toners.

Avoid acne-triggering formulas: People who are prone to breakouts should stay clear of rich formulas as these could clog your pores further. Avoid makeup that contains mineral oil or lanolin and instead look for ingredients that are non-comedogenic as these will help unclog your pores and lower oil production.

In the case of a PIMPLE EMERGENCY

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If a pimple hits at THE worst time, like the night before your wedding, don’t worry there’s always a solution: find the nearest dermatologist and ask for a cortisone injection. This will seriously reduce the size of your pimple and in most cases will ensure that your pimple is barely noticeable within 24 hours. Hydrocortisone cream is also a great option (the over-the-counter cortisone), and if you dab a little on your pimple, you’ll banish redness and flatten any swelling. Although don’t use it regularly, as it’s very strong and can thin the skin.

Let us know your fave pimple-zapping routine in the comments below.