1. Spot-Treat It
Over-the-counter spot treatments deliver a generous amount of acne-fighting ingredients directly to the blemish. Choose one that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Experiment to find which works best for you.
Some spot treatments are made to be left on overnight. Others are incorporated into a makeup concealer or are tinted to hide the blemish while it heals.
If you'd rather go the all-natural route, try dabbing on a drop of tea tree essential oil a few times a day. Some sources claim tea tree oil is as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide.
You'll be tempted to over-apply that spot treatment. Don't! You'll wind up with flaky, irritated skin you can't disguise with makeup. Always follow the usage directions precisely.
2. Mask It
If spot treatments aren't quite helping, you may have better luck with a sulfur mask. Sulfur helps unclog pores and reduce inflammation, and has been used as an acne treatment for many, many years. Today's treatments don't have the unpleasant scent of those from years past.
You can find inexpensive masks containing sulfur at your local drug store or more pricey products at posh department stores or salons. Some products can be left on a spot overnight for maximum effectiveness; others must be rinsed off after a few minutes. Make sure you follow the directions on your product, and never leave a mask on overnight unless it specifically says it's OK to do so.
3. Ice It
Here's a tip I learned from my favorite esthetician: apply an ice cube to inflamed blemishes. The cold temperature will help reduce redness and swelling, making the blemish look better. This is also a cool trick for those blemishes you can feel starting under the skin.
You never want the ice cube directly touching your skin, so first wrap it in tissue or a soft cloth, and don't ice the pimple for too long (frostbite anyone?). Ice for 20 or 30 seconds, followed by a minute or so of rest, a few times per day or just before you go out.
Why cold and not heat? If you're trying to hide a pimple, the worst thing you could do is steam it (or apply a hot compress) just before you go out. Heat can make the pimple look larger and more red.
4. Zap It
Make an emergency visit to your esthetician, and let her zap the blemish away with her high frequency machine. This machine uses a high frequency current to kill bacteria that cause inflamed blemishes.
Your esthetician will run a small electrode over the blemish. You won't feel a thing, except maybe a slight tingle, and within a few hours the pimple will be noticeably smaller.
If you can't get in to the salon or you just like the idea of having your own personal zit zapper, you may want to invest in a Zeno device. It works under the same principle, except it is hand-held and battery-operated. You can buy Zeno at some dermatologist offices, salons and even at some retail stores.
5. Inject It
For those incredibly deep, painful, cystic breakouts, your best option is to call your dermatologist for a cortisone injection. A dilute cortisone is injected into the blemish. After a day or so, swelling is reduced. As the breakout flattens out, it is more easily camouflaged with makeup.
These deep blemishes don't respond well to other treatments, so if you really need that breakout to be gone quickly, a cortisone shot may be your best bet. Talk to your doctor.