Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.

woman with a pimple

It’s been a while since we did a Twestion! That’s Twitter question if you just got back from 1998. (And next time, you can ask me yours here.) This particular issue, however, is so universal that it spans generations—it was a problem in 1998, and in 2008, and I’m sure will persist into 2018 and beyond. I’m talking about the moments in life when you simply MUST have clear skin and then, lo and behold, are cursed with a gigantic red blemish in the most conspicuous location possible. Oh, the humanity!

Here’s Simone’s (@Soucill_PR’s) Twestion: HELP! I have a massive blemish on my cheek and I have a friend’s wedding on Sat! How do I get rid of it FAST!

Now the beauty of Twitter is not just in the 140-character limit (a forced brevity that I, for one, appreciate since I tend to spend my days labouring over 1,200-word magazine articles). It’s also a fantastic way to crowd-source, so that your Twestion isn’t just answered by moi but also the entire @BEAUTY_EDITOR Twitterverse (and Facebook-verse, because I posted the question there too). Options, people! That’s what it’s all about.

So here’s a round-up of what they—and I—swear by for instant zit destruction. If you have a favourite remedy, let us know in the comments!


Not one but two Tweeples recommended this (which you can buy in Canada at Sears). It contains sage essential oil.

SAMPAR Prodigal Pen Blemish Corrector Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.
@EpicMakeup: for Zits I love SAMPAR’s Prodigal Pen – use it on all my celebrity clients! Get one!
@FournierComm: @SamparParis Prodigal Pen is the best to get rid fast of unwanted pimples and it smells great

Then there is this old favourite—apparently studies show that tea tree oil is as effective as benzoyl peroxide but with less irritation. (Some derms refute that, however, so it may be a matter of trial and error to see what works for you.)

The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.

@Gimped: The Body Shop’s Tea Tree Oil. Usually clears mine within 2-4 days.

I’m not sure what the active ingredients are here, but this is a toner that would be great for all-over zit-drying power:

Mary Kay Blemish Control Toner Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.

@kjourdanduff: Mary Kay Blemish Control Toner among other items.

And this glycolic and salicylic acid-based spot treatment sounds very promising:

Marcelle AC SOLUTION Imperfection Corrector Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.

@krystalmaietta: Marcelle’s AC-SOLUTION Imperfection corrector. Even my worst blemishes didn’t last more then 2 days.

The next few recos come via Facebook. The active in this natural one is salicylic acid:

Aveda Outer Peace Acne Spot Relief Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.Courtenay says: Aveda Outer Peace Acne Spot Relief. Amazing and not full of crazy chemicals

Another salicylic acid option:

Clinique Acne Solutions Spot Treatment Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.

Marisa says: Clinique Spot Treatment, or any other salicylic acid 10% treatment. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, so it penetrates deep into the pore to kill the goop inside.

And here’s a third salicylic acid option:

Bliss No Zit Sherlock Spot Treatment Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.

Mary says: Oh man! I just started using “No Zit Sherlock” by Bliss and I like it so far…but it’s only been a day. I’ll keep you posted!

Of course, this list would not be complete without a benzoyl peroxide shout-out. I just wrapped up an acne story and in terms of over-the-counter stuff, it’s most derms’ go-to ingredient (although it CAN be drying/irritating if you’re not that oily).

Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Treatment Cream Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.

Thomas says: Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Treatment Cream, been using it for years and it’s great for reducing the redness as well as the size!

I’ve never heard of this next one, so I imagine it’s only available in the U.S., but This one is apparently available at Walmart, Costo and Rexall and it works using benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid AND benzalkonium chloride (an antibacterial).

Acne Free System Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.

Michelle says: Acne Free System. You can get it at drugstores and it works better than proactive! Been using it for years.


acne emergency Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.

Two Tweeps suggested a trip to the derm (among other things—I like @beautywoome’s suggestion of applying [fake] tan):

@beautywoome: Sulfur lotion and a sun tan! Seriously. And if it’s cystic get to the derm to inject that s**t with cortisone!
@vivp: enough time for a visit to the derm for cortisone shot? extreme measure but then again it is a wedding

And this is excellent advice (which you may recall I followed myself for this event)! Most major cities will have an acne clinic that accommodates emergency, often same-day appointments. (In Toronto, try the Toronto Acne Clinic. I think they’ll charge you something like $10.) What they’ll do is inject the pimple with cortisone, which will dramatically bring down inflammation and speed up healing. Usually, it will start going down within a matter of hours, and within 24, will be flat as a pancake and totally cover-up-able.

Just don’t go for this remedy too often, because repeated injections of the same site can make the skin there look sunken in (because the tissue can atrophy). I believe most places won’t do more than three injections of the same spot—and really, if you’re having those kinds of issues then you need a more long-term remedy. Y’all know I suggest this one. (Although Nora, via Facebook, says: Blu-u! It’s the only thing that worked for me! It’s a little pricey but it’s worth it!)


picking a pimple Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.

Still reading? Good, because this is what I do in those rare premenstrual times when I haven’t taken my cod liver oil and my skin decides I should be punished.

1. Now, I know everyone says to never try to extract a pimple yourself—and that is good advice!—but sometimes, you just have to in order to speed healing. If the pimple is “ripe,” i.e. not one of those hard, under-the-skin kind, what you want to do is take a sterilized needle (PLEASE make sure it’s sterilized—about 30 seconds in hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol will do) and then gently pierce the epicentre of the (also sterilized) pimple.

2. Then, also gently, press down on either side of the pimple with your fingers. I wrap mine in Kleenex so that they’re also sterile. It’s very important that you press down and NOT squeeze, because you don’t want to damage or bruise your skin.

3. If any “stuff” comes out, great! But if not, don’t try to make it happen because you’ll only make the situation worse. Instead, sterilize the area again and move on to…

4. Bentonite clay!

Bentonite Powder Twestion time: What to do when you have a ginormous, angry zit on your face and (obvs) you need to get rid of it FAST.

I’m telling you, this shiz is better than any over-the-counter acne product I’ve tried. Shake a bit of the powder on to your palm (you won’t need a lot), and then mix it with some water until it forms a paste. Apply it to the pimple overnight, and I SWEAR it will dry it up like magic. Bentonite is simply incredible at drawing out impurities—like nothing else I’ve ever used.

UPDATE: Order the Bentonite Powder from—no minimum order and FREE shipping in Canada!

Other than that, some other things that have worked for me are: a) icing the pimple to bring down inflammation; b) popping an Advil (also takes down inflammation); c) zapping it with the Zeno Hot Spot; and d) doubling up on an anti-inflammatory diet, eg. wild salmon, green tea, fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of water, and of course, double doses of cod liver oil.

Has a mega zit ever ruined a special event for you?
Have you tried any of these products, treatments or remedies?
What zit-killers do YOU swear by?


Tuesday, June 21/2011 at 3:14 pm

I use Sudocrem – it makes the redness disappear overnight :)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:40 pm

Never heard of that – will look into it!


Tuesday, June 21/2011 at 3:23 pm

I can’t thank you enough for spreading the word about my panic over my rather large and ugly zit. I followed all the great advice I received and POOF that thing was gone days before the wedding I had to attend on Saturday! YOU ROCK to say the least!


Chelsea C
Wednesday, June 22/2011 at 3:31 pm

What method worked for you?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:41 pm

She did the bentonite clay.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:40 pm

My pleasure – so glad it worked!


Tuesday, June 21/2011 at 3:23 pm

Great post! This is definitely going into my favourites so I know what products to put on when I get my next emergency!


Tuesday, June 21/2011 at 3:33 pm


Moment over.

I have heard very good things also about using that bentonite as a whole facemask to really draw out impurities (which you just stated), however it is quite drying so you’d need to moisturise straight after! In fact, unscented kitty litter is perfect for it apparently!

HUGE FAN, fellow blonderexic Thomas xx

P.S. THANK YOU MICHELLE :D !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:42 pm

OMG Thomas – you make my life every time you comment! :-)

You are right about bentonite… it is very drying so I would only spot treat.


Tuesday, June 21/2011 at 5:26 pm

Visine! The eyedrops that shrink the bloodshotness of your eyes actually act as an antiflammatory and reduces the size of your spot. Just make sure it’s not the tinted blue stuff or you’d look as you’ve been spat on by a Smurf.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:43 pm

Oh yeah! I’ve heard of that method but never tried it.


Tuesday, June 21/2011 at 7:03 pm

Excellent topic, Michelle!

Four teaspoons of cod liver oil a day has been the only thing that’s made a difference in my skin.

I used to get four or five huge, painful breakouts a month. Now with cod liver oil I’m down to…nothing! Well, occasionally I’ll get just one. But I can live with those numbers!

For the deep underground kind, I swear by icing it for a good 20-30 minutes to bring down the swelling. If you can catch it in the early stages before it even emerges, sometimes icing can prevent it totally.

Then I apply Proactiv’s Advanced Blemish Treatment (with 6% benzoyl peroxide). Allure magazine recommended it in their Best of Beauty list for 2010, and I think it really works.

However, I’m putting some bentonite clay on my shopping list! I love that my adult acne regimen now comes from Whole Foods. It’s so old school!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:44 pm

Hooray for natural methods!!

I wonder what the difference is between Proactiv and all the other benzoyl peroxide treatments out there…


Janel Lisa
Tuesday, June 21/2011 at 8:00 pm

Crush an aspirin, mix with water to form a paste, apply to the zit, cover with band aid, go to bed. You’ll wake up to a shrunken, smaller, less-red blemish. Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory and acts like a mild version of steroid…and it’s dirt cheap!


Tuesday, June 21/2011 at 11:44 pm

Plus aspirin is salicylic acid, as mentioned the best thing for unclogging pores. The homemade “aspirin mask” is a legend…. a cheap and easy homemade salicylic acid peel.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:45 pm

I’ve heard of this one too! Will have to try it next time… thanks!


Tuesday, June 21/2011 at 8:23 pm

Great post Michelle!! I am wondering where I can buy this Bentonite clay. Sounds like great stuff! :)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, June 21/2011 at 10:56 pm

You should be able to find it at health food stores. Or has it with free shipping!


Wednesday, June 22/2011 at 12:28 am

You can totally buy AcneFree here, at least in Ontario. I’ve gotten it at Walmart, Costco, and Rexall. They have a regular which is in white bottles the severe that’s in your post. I like that stuff it works quite well. I also like Acnomel which has worked amazing for me. It’s sulfur based…it says it’s for adult acne but like I said I really like it lol.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:47 pm

Thanks, I’ve updated the post!


Wednesday, June 22/2011 at 2:24 am

Great post! Came at a time I need!


Wednesday, June 22/2011 at 1:52 pm

Just a word of warning on cortisone shots for cystic acne- I’ve had 2 shots – one on my forehead that left a big shallow scar and one on my chin that left a smaller scar. My regular doctor was like ‘oh yeah those shots often scar’ (I got the shots at a dermatologist’s office). Maybe the average person would be okay but anyone who scars easily BEWARE! Considering I’ve spent thousands of dollars on scar revision at the derm I was pissed when I wasn’t warned about this.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:49 pm

YIKES! So sorry to hear that. Did you go to a specialist acne clinic?


Wednesday, June 22/2011 at 2:30 pm

My HG prevention/spot treatment is Skinceuticals’ Blemish+Age Defense serum! It’s basically a light chemical peel with a mix of salicylic and glycolic (sp?) acids…and some other stuff (the website does a better job of explaining than I do).


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:49 pm

I can’t wait until that is available in Canada!!


Chelsea C
Wednesday, June 22/2011 at 3:45 pm

Being a person who had adult acne for 10 years, I am happy to say that I am pretty much blemish free. HOWEVER, I have bad flare-ups when I get my face threaded (I get small white pimples/ingrowns within 48 hours after the hair removal, especially around the jaw line and cheeks near the sides of my face – known as a histamine reaction to the hair follicle being disturbed) and I have yet to find a remedy or a pre-treatment that will stop these ugly guys from forming. I have tried everything, taking aspirin before, icing after. My derm told me to stop threading. He just doesn’t get it. Any ways….The purpose for my reply to this post is to ask…does anyone have any tips or solutions to stopping these little pimples (which can turn ugly) from forming. And when they do form how do I address them. I know popping them is out of the question but I am sure tempted!


Wednesday, June 22/2011 at 4:09 pm

I know this isn’t of much help, but the best idea is to do trial and error. For me, a mixture of salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acid) and glycolic acid (alpha hydroxy acid) is good for both prevention/maintenance and as a spot treatment. That’s why I looove skinceuticals’ blemish and age defense serum.

Some people respond better to tretinoin (retin-a) and benzyl peroxide, but they were just too irritating for my skin…they did work, though. The side effects were not worth it for me. Good luck!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:54 pm

I used to get that with waxing but not threading. Does tweezing give you the same reaction? I’m just wondering if it might be a slower but gentler way… I just started with a new eyebrow person and she did a mix of thread + tweezing and it was much less irritating than I’d ever experienced.

Otherwise… does your esthetician put anything on the area right after? I’m wondering if you could try an astringent… or hydrocortisone cream… or maybe Polysporin?

I found this thread, there are some suggestions here:


Wednesday, June 22/2011 at 5:09 pm

For emergency situations I’ve had good luck with sulfur-and-alcohol solutions that you dip a q-tip in, like Mario Badescu Drying Lotion ( It might leave a bit of a dry patch around the healed zit, but I attack this with a bit of clear tape (but not Scotch brand, it doesn’t have enough ‘stick’. I’m sure this is less than ideal but it works well for me in lifting the flakies left behind!).

For overall treatment/prevention, Ole Henricksen Invigorating Night Gel has been wonderful! ( It hasn’t caused any dryness for me, and I bought it as part of a skincare three pack (‘Three Little Wonders’). My skin has been consistently clear since (barring hormonal time of the month pimples) & I’m thrilled!

Figuring out the cause of your acne is a very important first step to recovery; I have oily skin that loves to clog up on itself so the Night Gel works perfectly for me by exfoliating and clearing out my oily pores.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:56 pm

I like the Mario Badescu lotion too! It’s a great product. Haven’t tried much in the Ole line but that’s a great testimonial! So great that it keeps your skin clear.


Wednesday, June 22/2011 at 5:44 pm

Thx for the mention, Michelle!!

The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil works on most of my issues. Severe ones — the ones that look like 3 have formed into one massive ugly spot on my face — it doesn’t touch. I’m going to get some of that Bentonite powder though and see what that does. A thick paste (like toothpaste), or thinner?

My own extractions are almost perfect. I use the needle thing … but unfortch I squeeze. I know that I shouldn’t, so I’m gonna change my ways. There’s just something (grossly) satisfying about seeing all that crap come out, though. You feel like you’ve done what you needed to do.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:59 pm

Almost nothing topical helps those deep cystic underground ones… I still do the bentonite on them but focus more on diet and cod liver oil. Oh and I ice them and take Advil to reduce the inflammation if I’m going out.

With the clay you can make it as thin or thick as you like… I like a medium thickness as otherwise if it’s too thick it can fall off when it dries.


Thursday, June 23/2011 at 8:05 am

I think q-tips are more precise and less harmful than fingers if you have to pop it. I also steam my face before I do that, opens the pores and leaves for less scaring.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 5:59 pm

Both great ideas! I forgot to mention steaming – I’ve done that as well and it really helps. thanks!


Thursday, June 23/2011 at 12:04 pm

Pure and Simple has a great mask for this which sounds similar to the Bentonite clay one mentioend. It’s called Purifying French Clay mask. I usually put in on at night let it harden and then wash it off in the morning. It’s quite drying, but great way to “pull” the redness out of blemishes!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 6:00 pm

I’ve tried that product! It’s not quite as drying as the bentonite though.


Friday, June 24/2011 at 10:22 am

I must admit these are some good options. I will confess I usually just pull out the airbrush on zit days! lol


Friday, June 24/2011 at 11:08 am

HANDS DOWN Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion for inflammed whiteheads or the Buffering Lotion for cystic acne, that stuff is unbelievably AMAZING!

Especially if you’re a dark-skin girl and you want to prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, this stuff is great at reducing inflammation rapidly to prevent any substantial dark spots afterwards. I HIGHLY recommend!!! :)


Tuesday, June 28/2011 at 9:21 am

Burts Bees anti blemish spot treatment… you can buy it at whole foods, and it works SO WELL. All natural too, so no harsh chemicals, but it is very strong and stings like a mother- which I personally like b/c it feels like it’s working. Also, it works just as well if you don’t pick at the pimple at all! Which I have never seen before. Takes maybe 2-3 days for a doozie blemish.


Tuesday, June 28/2011 at 2:52 pm

I have had STELLAR luck with an odd combo. I use RePly face cream from From the Meadow (an all natural Canadian company, google for their website) which has tea tree oil, plantain & I think rosemary in it, but is really gentle & still pretty moisturizing. I just use this on problem areas, like my chin irritated by Mr.’s scruff, or forehead irritated by motorcycle helmet, and it helps keep them really clear. Then if I actually get a zit, I dab Dr. Hauschka’s Normalizing Day oil on top, which totally nukes it. The zit is often subdued or disappears overnight.

The only odd thing is that this totally stops the majority of zits from happening at all or at least from “blooming” (I don’t know what to call it, coming up to the surface & getting scary?), but sometimes this means a small, colourless bump that sits for a bit while the skin slowly works whatever was causing the zit up to the surface & out. So I get a few tiny blackheads instead of big infected whiteheads. I can live with that!

& Most importantly, none of this fries or irritates my uber-sensitive skin!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Sunday, July 24/2011 at 10:10 pm

Whoa – Normalizing Day Oil gets rid of zits? Who knew? Here I was holding off using it because I didn’t want to cause them.


Wednesday, July 27/2011 at 11:29 am

Gets rids of them without (much) drying, yet! I used it all over for a while (when I thought my skin condition was acne) and it didn’t clog pores or anything, and helped with actual zits & a bit with the rash, quieted it a little bit. It just wasn’t moisturizing enough. Believe it or not, oils can be drying! It’s supposed to balance oil production, but I’m guessing it’s a little more focussed on over-production, rather than under.

It’s a great option for crazy-dry skin types like me, who still get zits.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Sunday, July 31/2011 at 10:51 am

Okay I am digging this out TODAY. Thanks for the reco!


Sunday, September 4/2011 at 3:19 am

Old post, I know, but I wanted to add this option. Natural, and a Canadian company:
The girl in the shop in Whistler told me its also good on mozzie and other bug bites (haven’t tried that myself). It works so well on pimples, clears them up in 1-2 days (along with 1-2 daily face cleanses).


Sunday, September 11/2011 at 11:16 am

Toothpaste!!! After I ‘pop’ the zit, I apply a small dap of toothpaste right on top and overnight, it dries up and is a little more tolerable.


Leave a Comment