Should You Dry Out Your Pimples?

by Michele Ross

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Is it possible that all of your acne-fighting actives are doing more harm than good? See if drying out your pimples is a safe and effective way to clear breakouts.

When I first moved to LA, I remember sharing my skincare regimen with my esthetician (and personal skincare guru), Cielo Ruiz. Once I finished, I noticed—at least from my POV through the steam and goop—she was visibly taken aback. It turns out I was, as they say, *doing the most* when it came to my quest for clear skin.

I’ve since implemented her top tips to advance me along my journey—and dare I say that my current complexion is proof that they work.

A big part was learning how to dry out your pimples the right way. Here’s all of the intel.

Should you dry out Your pimples?

Yes, no, maybe so. According to Cielo, drying out pimples includes some gray areas.

Above all, if you choose to dry out your pimples, the focus should be on spot treating. “The goal is to dry out the pimple itself, and not your whole face,” she advises.

Doing the latter, she continues, can “impair your barrier function, which is meant to keep pathogens out. If you strip your skin of its natural moisture and don’t maintain a healthy 5.5 pH level, it can allow more bacteria in.”

On top of that, excess dryness can “make the skin’s texture irregular and can cause flakiness, cracking, and peeling.”

Last but not least, Cielo says that drying out your skin completely “can trigger your sebaceous glands to produce even more oil to make up for the lack of moisture.” The end result? Greater congestion and potentially even more breakouts that you had to begin with. Hard pass, thanks.

All things considered, rest assured that there still are safe methods to dry out your pimples—one by one, that is. The best solutions largely depend on your skin type and tolerance.

Woman clearing her breakouts by spot treating them with acne-fighting active ingredients

How to Dry Out Pimples Safely

For Acne-Prone Skin

“Certain over-the-counter and prescription treatments can be too harsh,” she begins. “But personally, I do like to dry out breakouts with a bit of benzoyl peroxide.” She notes that you can find benzoyl peroxide in face washes, spot treatments, masks, pads, and leave-on treatments.

However, for skin already prone to breakouts, “the trick is to use [this active ingredient] before you break out, so preventatively.”

Tip: Get proactive by avoiding foods that can cause breakouts.

For Dry/Normal Skin

For dry and normal skin types, Cielo says you can also use “a two-percent salicylic acid or two-to-five percent benzoyl peroxide spot treatment, so long as your skin can tolerate it.” That said, she recommends doing a patch test first to make sure the solution doesn’t provoke more inflammation.

Further, she recommends using a pimple patch to spot treat. “Typically in the form of a hydrocolloid sticker, it’s less drying, yet it’ll still allow your blemish to heal quickly.”

Tip: Pimple patches, such as Peace Out’s Acne Healing Dots, work best on whiteheads to extract impurities and reduce the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

For Normal/Oily Skin

If your skin tends to get more oily than dry, Cielo says you can use the spot-treatment solutions mentioned above. However, your skin may also tolerate higher levels of blemish-fighting actives.

Cielo says you could benefit from using up to a 10-percent concentration of benzoyl peroxide or sulfur. However, she adds, “the higher concentrations aren’t always necessary, and may end up aggravating your skin.” To err on the side of caution, she suggests treading lighting and starting in the mid-range (around five percent).

As a spot treatment, she continues that “sulfur in particular can really pull out excess moisture and kill bacteria.”

Tip: I recommend the Goldfaden MD Facial Detox Mask, which doubles as a spot treatment. It packs skin-clearing sulfur, camphor, and salicylic acid, as well as soothing zinc oxide.

Man at spa with skin-clearing green face mask for acne

How to Complement Your Regimen for Clear Skin

If you do opt to dry out your pimples with active ingredients, make sure that the rest of your skincare regimen complements them. Here’s how.

Apply One Active at a Time

“If you’re using a medicated product, I’d refrain from using multiple,” Cielo shares. “That usually leads to [overly] drying out and ‘purging,’ in which case you can possibly break out more. To play it safe, stick to only one medicated product at a time,” unless instructed otherwise by your dermatologist.

This point is especially pertinent if you’re using a topical prescription. For instance, if you’re using an acne-fighting Rx, skip a medicated cleanser for a mild one instead.

Oiler types take well to gel cleansers. (Personally, I love Youth to the People’s Superfood Cleanser.) Meanwhile, dry, mature, and sensitive skin types can benefit more from cream cleansers.

Use Face Masks Wisely

In addition to spot treating, you might be interested in incorporating skin-clearing face masks to up-level your regimen.

Since many clarifying face masks contain active ingredients such as sulfur, charcoal, and clay, be strategic with their use to avoid greater inflammation.

Tip: To be safe, Cielo suggests applying face masks for acne only on congested areas.

Hydrate + Moisturize Adequately

Further, if you’re applying these heavier-duty detoxifying masks, it helps to rebalance your skin with super-hydrating ingredients. Hyaluronic acid is the gold standard, which you can find in the likes of serums, masks, moisturizers, and more.

Tip: “Oily and acne-prone skin types in particular should opt for an oil-free moisturizer,” Cielo says.

Mature woman taking a wheatgrass shot to alkalize her body for clear skin

Drink Up + Alkalize

On the topic of hydration, Cielo reminds us to drink enough water—about half your weight in ounces of H2O daily.

“Also, a quick and easy way to get your skin on the right track at the root is to alkalize,” she adds. “Wheatgrass shots are great, and be sure to eat plenty of greens.” Additionally, she personally opts to eliminate dairy.

Reduce Inflammation

Lastly, Cielo recommends the old-school hack of rubbing ice on your blemishes to tame inflammation. She also champions the use of LED blue light therapy and far-infrared light.

Final Thoughts

All things considered, it’s okay to dry out your pimples, so long as you do it correctly. Also, while we’re on the topic, remember that you shouldn’t pop them. Save extractions for the professionals.

Topical and dietary solutions aside, Cielo also swears by reducing stress and balancing your hormones. After all, clear skin starts way beneath the surface. If you aim for these extra touches to benefit your skin, your body and mind will similarly thank you in kind.


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