Reader B. Z. asks:

I currently have an enormous zit in the middle of my nose. While I’m embarrassed that puberty has apparently decided to re-emerge and smite me in the midst of my mid-20s, I’m more concerned about the fact that I’m the maid-of-honor in my best friend’s wedding this weekend. Please help me tame the reddened beast!

Dear B.Z.:

Zits are nature’s way of telling you to slow down. Or is that a gaping chest wound? I can’t remember. In any case, while these pests appear to have minds of their own, there are several things you can do to tame them and, more importantly, help make them disappear, especially when they appear singly rather than as a herd.

Do not annoy the thing.

Like other savage beasts, taunting it will only make it angrier. Don’t squeeze it, don’t scratch it, don’t stick needles in it. It’s an infection and it needs to heal. Annoying it will not only make it redder, but may spread it and make it bigger. If it gets a head on it, you can gently pull the skin apart (instead of squeezing) and see if it’ll come out. But don’t push too hard or aggravate it! The best advice is leave it alone, much like the seventh-grade terrors who are known for carrying these things around.

this is how your face feels

This is how your face feels. Image: Ian Kahn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Medicate it.

Find the right tranquilizer for your adolescent nightmare. Depending on your skin type, there are several options. You may find that using antibacterial soap is your best bet, but that stuff tends to be pretty harsh. I recommend that you use a gentle cleanser (like Aveda’s Botanical Kinetics Purifying Gel Cleanser) twice a day, pat dry, apply a gentle salicylic acid cream (like Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment), and use moisturizer like you normally would. (You do use moisturizer, don’t you?) Note that the key word here is “gentle”. Don’t overdo it on the medication– you don’t want to dry it out, or aggravate it, as mentioned above.

Try home remedies.

There are, of course, several “home remedies” that are both gentle and helpful  (and will cost less than the medicines listed above). Many of my friends say you should get a washcloth as hot as you can stand it and hold it against your zit to draw it to a head, which can be a good way to help it heal faster. Steam can be useful in this endeavor, too; just don’t burn yourself. (The only thing less attractive on your nose than a zit is a blister.) Try holding your nose over a cup of peppermint tea. In fact, peppermint tea is a good toner/astringent, and you can give yourself a peppermint facial to dry up extra oil as necessary. I know of at least one woman who steeps peppermint leaves in hot water until the water cools (so the resulting “tea” is nice and strong), then keeps a spray bottle full of it in her fridge and sprays it on her face after cleansing (and before moisturizing). Very refreshing.

Remember ice.

Hopefully by this weekend the beast will just be a bad memory, but if it’s not, ice is your new best friend. It’s an anti-inflammatory. The day of the wedding, if you still have the big nasty on your nose, put an ice pack on it for 20 minutes before you apply your make-up. It ought to at least go down a bit and give you less trouble throughout the ceremony.

Take a deep breath.

Stress can make acne worse. Stress makes everything worse. Just relax. Remember that this weekend, everyone should be looking at the bride, not you. So there’s one less thing to worry about.

Generally, this advice will help for bigger breakouts, too, although if you’ve got an on-going problem, it may be time to stop in and see a dermatologist. He or she may recommend pills or creams or tonics (oh my!). But if it’s just the occasional blemish rearing its ugly head, these tips should help.


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