Spot treat swollen, irritated acne with over-the-counter or prescription products.

How to Heal a Swollen Zit

by Jaimie Zinski

Acne manifests in several forms, from tiny whiteheads to larger, pus-filled pimples. If you pop them or they become irritated from over-washing of your face with harsh products, zits can burst and become red, irritated and very noticeable. No matter if you're suffering from a single pimple or several red, swollen zits, treating them is a matter of soothing the pustules before washing your face and treating the acne with over-the-counter or prescription products.

1 Use clean hands to wash your face with a foaming or cream cleanser formulated for your skin type. If you're suffering through a breakout, skip the exfoliator to prevent aggravating your existing acne. Rinse the cleanser away with lukewarm water and pat your face dry with a soft towel.

2 Apply a thin layer of moisturizer formulated for your skin type. Work the moisturizer gently into your face with clean fingers. If you suffer from oily, acne-prone skin, soak a cotton ball with astringent and pass it gently all over your face before applying the moisturizer.

3 Hold an ice cube against your red, irritated pimple. The cube helps to lessen the redness and swelling while soothing your skin.

4 Apply an over-the-counter acne medication containing a 5 percent benzoyl peroxide. If the 5 percent benzoyl peroxide isn't effective after four to six weeks of daily applications, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation recommends switching to a 10 percent benzoyl peroxide solution, which is also available over-the-counter. You should speak to a dermatologist if the over-the-counter products aren't effective.

5 Avoid touching your face, and refrain from squeezing or picking at the pimple. Treat the pimple with over-the-counter or prescribed medications and allow it to heal on its own.

Items you will need

  • Foam or cream facial cleanser
  • Soft towel
  • Moisturizer
  • Cotton ball
  • Astringent
  • Ice cube
  • Over-the-counter acne medication


  • To help prevent further breakouts, check to see if your makeup is clean. Dirty makeup is a common cause of blocked pores, as are dirty makeup tools such as brushes and pads.


  • Steer clear of the sun or tanning beds, suggests the American Academy of Dermatology. Aside from drying out and damaging your skin, some over-the-counter and prescription topical acne medications react unfavorably to ultraviolet (UV) light.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images