When it comes to getting rid of zits, we’ve all done something kinda ~out there~. And rightfully so—acne is the actual worst.
Sure, there are tons of different over-the-counter ingredients and Rx meds available, but how many of them actually work for your skin? Plus, it seems that a billion different factors—many not even skin-related—can trigger breakouts or make them worse. Ugh.
So what do you do when you’ve struck out with the usual remedies? Try these eight alternatives—none of them too ridic.
1) Ease up
When you break out, naturally your first thought is: It’s war. But before you overload your face with every anti-acne product in your medicine cabinet, know that that approach may backfire.
Traditional acne treatments tend to be harsh and potentially irritating, and your skin can only take so much before it revolts and turns into an inflamed, dry, sensitive mess—still with pimples, btw. So, as difficult as it may be, check yourself before you wreck your skin. Instead, try killing zits with kindness: Use only one or two acne-fighting products at a time plus a calming moisturizer, like Veritas Farms Hyaluronic Day Cream. Leave it at that!
2) Light ’em up
LED light therapy, which involves shining specific wavelengths of blue and/or red light on skin, may sound like something from a sci-fi movie, but it actually works. Studies suggest that the light penetrates skin and triggers changes that may reduce inflammation, kill acne-causing bacteria, and reduce oil production.
One review of more than 20 studies found that eight to 20 minutes of twice-weekly pro treatments reduced the number of inflammatory zits by 60 to 70 percent. However, light therapy doesn’t seem to work that well on whiteheads, blackheads, or cystic acne—just your run-of-the-mill red, angry, pus-filled pimples.
If you want to give it a go, derms offer it in their offices (you sit in front of something that looks a bit like a giant Lite-Brite board), but you’ll also find lower-strength handheld and mask devices to use at home.
3) Go on a sugar detox
We all know going overboard on sugar and processed carbs doesn’t do great things for your health. But in addition to triggering weight gain and mood swings, too much of the sweet stuff—and specifically the sugar highs and crashes—could be taking your acne on a wild ride.
A high-glycemic diet (that is, one filled with sugar and not much fiber, protein, or healthy fats) spikes your blood sugar, which experts say may increase oil production and trigger inflammation. So cut back on sugar, white bread, pasta, and other processed stuff, and swap in more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein.
This kind of low-glycemic diet keeps blood sugar steady, and research shows making the diet switch could help clear breakouts. In one study that followed people eating a low-glycemic diet for weight loss, 87 percent of participants said they also had less acne and 91 percent said they needed fewer acne meds.
4) Fight zits with Zen
Most of us could use some daily stress-squashing meditation regardless of our skin, but if you’ve got acne, it may be a game-changer for you. Stress ramps up your body’s production of hormones and releases other compounds that may trigger inflammation and make skin oil thicker and stickier. Plus, stress has been proven to slow wound healing.
On the flip side, meditation and exercise seem to do the opposite. Research suggests meditation, specifically, may switch off genes that otherwise promote inflammation, for example. If you’re not sure where or how to start, download a meditation or mindfulness app to serve as a guide.
5) Throw Full Spectrum CBD at the problem
Because why not? Cannabidiol, aka CBD, is one of the active compounds in cannabis plants (no, not the compound that gets you high), and lately it’s everywhere. It’s seemingly being used for just about everything these days, including in skincare.
There hasn’t been a ton of research (yet), but a few preliminary lab studies on skin cells suggests that cannabidiol and hemp seed extract might have anti-microbial and sebum-affecting properties. Will it cure acne? Who knows, but it’s worth a shot. Try Veritas Beauty Mattifying Blemish Cream, which also contains ingredients that help calm redness and irritation while reducing the appearance of pores.
6) …or ACV
Before CBD became everyone’s fave multitasking fix, that designation belonged to another three-letter acronym: ACV, or apple cider vinegar. TBH, the jury’s out on this one—and some derms even warn that ACV may actually irritate or burn skin—but there’s lots of anecdotal evidence (read: proselytizing) floating around that it can help clear skin, especially of blackheads.
If you decide to try it, be sure to dilute it at least 4-to-1 with water and consider doing a patch test behind your ear or elsewhere before applying it all over your face with a cotton swab. And if it starts to burn, rinse ASAP.
7) Chill out
For those big, red, headlight-sized zits, wrap an ice cube in a thin cloth and hold it on your pimple for a minute or two. Cold constricts blood vessels, which helps cut down on redness and reduces swelling and inflammation. The best time is after washing your face and before you put on any spot treatment or concealer.
8) Cover and conceal — but not the way you think
Makeup is great and all, but topping zits with of pound of concealer can sometimes make them look even more noticeable—not to mention it usually does nothing to help the actual problem.
Enter the pimple patch. Not only do they protect your acne from dirt, bacteria, and your fingers tempted to pick, but many are made of hydrocolloid, which is the same material used to treat actual wounds and doubles as an effective way to draw out pus.
Some even come infused with acne-fighting goods like salicylic acid and tea tree oil. You’ll find lots of plain-jane patches that do their best to be inconspicuous (some you can even wear under makeup), but a few brands have taken the opposite—and dare we say, IG-friendly—approach. Starface Hydrostars, for example, let you trade your red, ripe pimple for what we truly deserve: a little gold star for being ourselves, blemishes and all.