How to Get Rid of Pimples for Clearer Skin

Different Methods to Reduce Signs of a Breakout

Medically reviewed by Susan Bard, MD

Most mild pimples last a few days to a week. But deeper pimples may take a few weeks or even months to resolve. While popping a new or stubborn pimple may be tempting, don't; it could lead to more inflammation, longer healing time, or infection.

Instead, try natural or over-the-counter (OTC) topical treatments. For stubborn pimples, a dermatologist can help.

This article explains natural remedies, drugstore products, skin-care routines, and prescription treatments for pimples.

<p>J_art / Getty Images</p>

J_art / Getty Images

How to Get Rid of Pimples at Home

There are some excellent home remedies to get rid of pimples naturally. Some of these remedies are anecdotal (coming from individuals' experiences), while others have limited evidence backing them up.

Apply Plant-Based Ingredients

Plant-based ingredients, like tea tree oil, aloe vera, and more, can treat pimples.

Tea tree oil: A review of studies found low-quality evidence that tea tree oil may reduce mild acne. Compared to the placebo (an inactive substance), tea tree oil reduced the number and severity of pimples. Dilute tea tree oil according to the vial instructions; then apply a small dab to the pimple. If you experience irritation, wash the tea tree oil off your skin and discontinue use.

Zinc: Research has found that zinc effectively reduces the number of pimples when used alone or in addition to other treatments. While effective, other studies noted some unpleasant side effects, including skin dryness, peeling, and reddening. The most direct way to treat acne with zinc is to use a topical zinc ointment or lotion intended for acne treatment.

Aloe vera: Aloe vera topical gel has been shown in studies to reduce the number of pimples when used with topical retinoids. You can find aloe vera gel at drugstores, pharmacies, grocery stores, and natural health stores. You also could squeeze the gel directly from a snipped leaf of an aloe plant.

Rose petal extract: According to researchers, due to the antioxidant activity of rose petal extract, it acts as an anti-inflammatory when applied to the skin. You can find rose petal extract at natural health stores and online.

Apply Kitchen Ingredients

In addition, some people rely on common kitchen ingredients, like turmeric and green tea.

Research has shown promising results when it comes to turmeric for treating acne. A review of 18 studies evaluated turmeric's effect on skin conditions, including acne. It found statistically significant improvement in skin conditions compared to control groups. You can add turmeric to food, drink it as tea, take it as a supplement, or apply it topically.

Due to the polyphenols (plant compounds that act as antioxidants) in green tea, which have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antineoplastic properties, studies have found that when green tea is used topically, it may reduce sebum secretion (oil made by the skin's glands) and treat acne.

You can drink green tea or apply it to your skin. You can find topical applications of green tea (or acne treatments with green tea as an ingredient) online and in natural health stores.

Manage Stress

Stress is one of the known causes of acne, especially in adults. Researchers say this is because stress releases pro-inflammatory cytokines and increased cortisol levels, which can lead to breakouts.

Reducing stress may help prevent pimples. Mindfulness practices, adequate exercise, fresh air, and enough sleep are all healthy habits that can help you manage your stress.

How to Get Rid of Pimples Using Drugstore Products

Dermatologists (doctors specializing in treating skin conditions) recommend the following ingredients in OTC treatments for acne:

  • Adapalene (Differin): A retinoid that exfoliates dead skin and promotes new skin growth.

  • Azelaic acid: Dicarboxylic acids kill bacteria and reduce keratin (a protein on your skin) production.

  • Benzoyl peroxide (Clearasil, Oxy 10): Kills bacteria and removes oil and dead skin cells.

  • Salicylic acid (Neutrogena, Stridex pads): Unclogs pores and exfoliates skin.

Mild acne typically responds well to OTC acne treatment. Not every acne treatment works well for everyone, so you may have to experiment to decide which one works best for you.

How to Get Rid of Pimples With a Dermatologist

Dermatologists may recommend the following prescription treatments:

  • Prescription topical acne medications: These may include the same ingredients available OTC but in higher strengths

  • Topical antibiotics

  • Combined topical medication: Usually a benzoyl peroxide and antibiotic

  • Oral acne medication: Oral antibiotics, oral contraceptive pills, and antiandrogens (in cases in which acne is caused by hormonal shifts, especially before a menstrual cycle), Accutane (isotretinoin)

As with OTC treatments, figuring out which treatment is best for you may take some experimentation. Be patient; it may take weeks or even months to see improvement.

What Makes Pimples Worse?

Just as some things can help you get rid of pimples fast, there are also some things you should avoid because they can worsen matters. Dermatologists advise avoiding the following:

  • Popping pimples (this can make acne worse and lead to inflammation or infection)

  • Changing up your acne treatment too often (give it at least six to eight weeks)

  • Applying acne medicine only to your blemishes (apply a thin layer all over)

  • Using makeup products that clog your pores

  • Sharing makeup brushes

  • Sleeping in makeup

  • Drying out your skin (be sure to moisturize)

  • Scrubbing your skin too hard

  • Wiping away sweat

The key to successful acne treatment is consistency and patience. Be gentle when you wash your face—extra scrubbing doesn't get rid of acne faster; it just irritates your skin. Many acne treatments are drying, so moisturize your skin, too.

Related: Apple Cider Vinegar for Clearing Acne

A Skin-Care Routine to Get Rid of Pimples

Dermatologists recommend the following skin-care habits:

  • Wash your face regularly—twice a day and after sweating.

  • Use gentle skin-care products.

  • Shampoo often to keep hair oils from your face. 

  • Give your treatment time to work (usually six to eight weeks). 

  • Keep your hands off your face to minimize germs and the temptation to pick at or pop pimples.

  • Stay out of the sun and tanning beds. 

If you have trouble creative a skin-care routine that works for you or need help finding the right products, talk to a dermatologist or aesthetician (a technician specializing in skin beautification).

Related: How to Choose the Right Acne Cleanser for Yourself


Many home remedies, OTC treatments, and prescriptions can help you eliminate pimples. Often, mild cases of acne respond well to home remedies and OTC treatments. But whatever treatment you try, give it time to work. While mild cases can resolve in a week or so, more severe cases may take six to eight weeks to see treatment results. A consistent skin-care routine can help manage and prevent acne.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.