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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

About the Author

Residing in Chippewa Falls, Wis., Jaimie Zinski has been writing since 2009. Specializing in pop culture, film and television, her work appears on Star Reviews and various other websites. Zinski is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in history at the University of Wisconsin.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images