You look in the mirror and there it is — a zit as big as your palm. Well, maybe not quite that big, but too big to go unnoticed. It’s not like you can stay home all day and hide. What can you do? There are steps you can take to quickly zap (or at least diminish) that zit.

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Why Me?

The folks at Merriam-Webster define a zit as a small, red, swollen spot on the skin. Millions of people suffer from outbreaks of zits, pimples and acne. It’s not just a plague on the young, either. People of all ages find themselves dealing with the irritating skin blemishes. You’re not alone.

Medical News Today points out that zits are caused by blocked pores. The skin glands in mammals, including humans, secrete sebum which is an oily/waxy substance. Sebum is the body’s way of lubricating the skin and hair. Sebum’s oily texture makes it easy for dead cells and other substances to stick and block skin pores. That’s the scientific explanation anyway. It’s not much help when you’re dealing with an angry red zit, though. Fortunately, you don’t have to let an ill-timed zit ruin your day.

Resist the Urge to Pop

Your first reaction is probably to squeeze that zit into oblivion. Don’t do it. Squeezing causes infection and scarring. Popping also makes the area look worse, not better. Instead, gently clean the skin with a mild cleanser. Don’t scrub or apply pressure. Rinse cleanser away with water.

Get the Red Out

It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, makeup can be your best friend when it comes to reducing the redness that accompanies skin blemishes. Try green-tone makeup to counteract the red color and apply a foundation that matches your skin tone. Avoid overdoing the foundation. The lighter, the better. If you have time for an overnight treatment, apply pure tea tree oil to the zit with a clean cotton swab. The zit should be considerably smaller and less red the next morning. If you need instant help, place a few drops of over-the-counter “get the red out” eye drops on cotton swab and dot the blemish. Let the area dry and cover with foundation.

Beware of zit zappers. They work in one of two ways — by shrinking the zit, which is of course what you want, or making it bigger. Trouble is, you won’t know until you use it. Why take the chance?

If it’s a real emergency and you don’t mind spending the money, see your dermatologist for a steroid injection. Typically not covered by insurance, steroid injections can cause permanent skin damage if a second treatment is applied in the same pore.

Preventive Zit Zapping

The best way to avoid zits is to stop them before they start with a good acne system that works. Don’t be fooled by well-advertised skincare products like Proactiv. Do your research and read all the reviews of Proactiv you can find, not just the glowing ones. In a recent online forum, Proactiv received an overall satisfaction rating of just a little above average. Other products scored higher. Research your options to find the best product available. Ignore the hype.

Additional preventive measures include using sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and keeping skin hydrated. Avoid any skin care product that uses alcohol.