Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Acne Tips for a Last-Minute Breakout Before a Big Date

By Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, Double board-certified dermatologist

You have a date tomorrow night, but a huge, red, ugly pimple just popped up? How can you get rid of it in time? Pimple emergencies happen to everyone who has acne. There are easier ways and harder ways to get rid of, or at least cover up, pimples before an important occasion. Let’s talk about the easier ways first.

Steroid Injections for acne
Steroid injections can help shrink acne fast.


  • If a pimple pops up just before a big date, don’t panic, but make sure you have the right products ready to cover it up.
  • Foundation makeup (which guys can use, too) covers a pimple in natural skin tones. A single layer of foundation is best if you have very oily or very dry skin.
  • Green makeup cancels out the redness of a pimple. Unless you want to go on your date with a green spot (or spots) on your face, however, you need a second layer of foundation makeup.
  • Don’t overdo makeup. It can streak or clump.
  • Steroid injections from your dermatologist can take the red out of a pimple and shrink it fast. You may still need to use makeup to conceal the red spot.
  • “Zit zappers” are too unreliable to use for important occasions.
  • Benzoyl peroxide won’t get the red out of a pimple overnight. Tea tree oil will, but the only kind of tea tree oil that will work overnight is pure tea tree oil dabbed on a pimple with a clean cotton swab.

Cosmetic Cover Ups

One of the easiest of all pimple emergency tactics before a date is a cosmetic cover up. You don’t get rid of the pimple, but you make it invisible through the proper, strategic use of makeup.

Pimples are red, and to disguise a pimple, you need both to hide the red color and to replace the red color with your natural skin tones. We see our skins as black, brown, red, yellow, or white, but the natural pigments in our skins are gray, brown, or yellow.

Gray doesn’t really look good on your skin. For that reason, the top layer of your emergency pimple cover up should be brownish or yellowish, but compatible with your unblemished skin. You will need to have bought foundation makeup in a tone that you can use all over your face before you start your emergency pimple coverup—so plan ahead.

And to cancel out the red of a pimple, many aestheticians will recommend green makeup. Unless you want to wear green spots on your date, you cover up your pimple with green makeup before you cover up the green with foundation makeup. But if you have oily skin, the green make streak, and if you have dry skin, the top layer may clump. That’s why it’s usually best to cover up your pimple with just a single layer of brownish or yellowish foundation makeup. Some people look OK when they where peach (the color of Clearasil), but most will look better with just a single layer of foundation.

You don’t want a big hunk of makeup sitting on top of a zit. The best way to apply foundation makeup to coverup a pimple is with a clean feather brush. You put a pea-sized chunk of makeup on the back of your non-dominant hand (your left hand if you are right-handed, or your right hand if you are left-handed), and then run the brush through the makeup lightly over and over again until it is just coated.

Then dot the makeup on the pimple to cover it. Spread makeup with clean fingers around the pimple so the edges are even. If you don’t have a feather brush, you can apply makeup with your fingers directly to a pimple, but resist the temptation to squeeze. That’s all there is to it—but if you have never done a coverup before, you may want to practice the day before your big date.

A pimple coverup, or even several pimple coverups, won’t cost you more than US $20. If the evening runs long, you might have to touch up after about three hours, sooner if you perspire. But makeup is the easiest inexpensive way to cover up a pimple. There is another, even easier way to deal with pimples before a big date.

Steroid Injections For Pimples

You can “let the air out” of a bulging pimple with steroid injections. These are validated legal steroid injections (don’t even think about using locker room steroids for treating acne since they will actually make acne much worse) given to you by a dermatologist. The doctor injects a small amount of hydrocortisone or prednisolone into a pimple the day before your big event. The pimple flattens and fades, although you will still need to cover up the color with foundation makeup if you want to keep the pimple invisible or at least mask the affected area.

The advantage of getting a shot for zit is that it is very quick and nearly painless. It’s the only way to shrink a pimple quickly. But the downside is that each injection will costs $50 to $125 and doctors don’t take insurance for this kind of treatment. The will probably require cash.

What About Zit Zappers?

Cosmetic coverups, just like steroid injections, is a reliable method of emergency pimple treatment before a big date, even for men, but they aren’t the only methods around.

Various kinds of acne heat treatments are very popular for shrinking pimples. These “zit zappers” work by heating a pimple with a hot metal point or a jolt of electricity. The heat or electricity is enough to kill bacteria but not enough to injure the skin (usually).

This method just might work if you have a week before your date. But if you need to look your best in 24 hours or less, you need to know that heat treatment devices may either shrink pimples or make them larger. You can wind up looking worse instead of better, and the $50 to $200 expense of the heat treatment unit is a big dent in most people’s entertainment budgets.

What About Spot Treatments?

Another approach to managing pimples is spot treatment—but benzoyl peroxide won’t work. The kind of spot treatment you need to take the red out of a pimple is 10% tea tree oil. It kills bacteria on contact and also stops the inflammatory process that enlarges a pimple and makes it look read. The only kind of tea tree oil treatment that will work overnight is dabbing a cotton swab in the “real thing” and coating the pimple the night before. In just 24 hours it will help—but the pimple will probably still be visible.

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