There's not a man or a woman alive who at some point hasn't looked in the mirror, said, "Uh-oh," and wished for a magic pimple-erasing potion. Especially because pimples often erupt just before a Big Day.
Blame stress. It's why grown-ups continue to break out long after the sex hormones that wreak havoc in teenage skin have calmed down. Weddings, speeches, presentations, and other tense events send stress hormones soaring. In fact, skin researchers found that a mock job interview slows down skin healing as much as sleep deprivation does. But any stressful situation -- happy or sad -- can do it.
When stress hits, a SWAT team of hormones primes your body for fast action. Among the racing hormones is one called corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). In your skin, CRH causes the kind of inflammation that triggers acne. If you absentmindedly touch a blossoming pimple again and again or (worse) squeeze it, you increase the inflammation, making things worse.
Here's how to defuse a breakout on a Big Day:
Plan A: See your dermatologist. Ideally, you have one you can see in an emergency as well as for skin cancer checks. And, yes, a derm understands that sometimes a pimple IS an emergency, says Manhattan dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD, author of The Mind-Beauty Connection. A skin doc has the one sure thing that will banish a blemish: a direct hit to the pimple with a shot of an anti-inflammatory steroid.
Plan B: Dial your derm. If you see stress coming (your own wedding or your kid's), ask for a just-in-case prescription for Vanoxide-HC (2% benzoyl peroxide with 0.5% hydrocortisone cream). If a breakout starts, dab it on. The cream is potent enough to do the job most of the time, though not as fast as an injection.
Plan C: Go to the drugstore. No dermatologist on board? Zeno Hot Spot, a handheld thermal device, kills the P. acnes bacteria in the pimple with heat and claims to do the job in three quick treatments over 24 hours. Dr. Amy prefers to spot treat with a benzoyl peroxide cream or gel. "It's far cheaper than a Zeno," she says," and can be used on whiteheads and blackheads, which thermal devices don't help."
Related: Check out these products that get Dr. Amy's thumbs-up.
Plan D: Hide it. No, you don't have to put a bag over your head. The solution of last resort is a good concealer. This is no time to save pennies. The pricier brands work better than thick, gloppy inexpensive ones, says Dr. Amy. Her faves: Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage Concealer and MAC Cosmetics Studio Finish SPF 35 Concealer.
And, while you're waiting for that pimple to clear, meditate on something lovely to soothe your stress. Humming your favorite tune helps, too. Here's why. The last thing you need is another breakout.
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