How To Get Rid Of Pimples Fast: Evidence-Based Treatments That Work

Pimples are the number one enemy of clear skin, but they can be hard to treat and prevent. Unfortunately, pimples aren’t just limited to our teenage years. Young and old alike are out there searching for a miracle acne cure. If your pimples are leaving you feeling down, then you’ll no doubt want to get rid of them fast. These research-based methods can help you get your skin back on track.

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Why do we get pimples?

Pimples tend to be thought of as a condition of adolescence, but they can occur at any time. Pimples are skin blemishes that are often seen as raised bumps. These blemishes can occur on the face, neck, back, chest, and other areas of the skin. Pimples fall into three main categories:


These types of pimples occur due to a build-up of skin cells, natural oils, and bacteria. Whiteheads have a distinctive white top and tend not to be inflamed or sore.


Blackheads are very similar to whiteheads, except the point on top of the pimple is black. The difference in color occurs because the clogged matter at the top of the blackhead pimple has been exposed to air and has oxidized.


This type of pimple results from an infection in a clogged pore. Pustules are filled with pus, often have a white tip, and tend to be red, inflamed, and sore.

Our skin is made up of millions of pores — tiny holes in the skin that allow for the movement of sebum and dead skin cells from further within the skin’s surface. When too much sebum or dead skin cells build up in a pore, they can become clogged and form pimples.

Hormones can also play a role in pimple development. Certain hormones like testosterone can bind sebaceous gland receptors and cause an increase in sebum production, creating more opportunities for pores to become blocked.

Treatments to help get rid of pimples

With so many treatment options on the market, knowing what will actually work for acne can be hard. These treatments have been proven to make a difference in pimples and help you to clear up your skin. 


Also known as retinoic acid, tretinoin is a synthetic form of vitamin A that has shown an impressive ability to improve skin conditions and reduce acne. You might have heard of the popular skincare ingredient retinol. Tretinoin is essentially a stronger form of retinol. 

Studies have shown that tretinoin can reduce the size of pimples, prevent pimples from developing, increase skin cell production to reduce the opportunity for skin clogging, and reduce inflammation that often accompanies acne.¹

Tretinoin can be taken orally or used as a topical treatment.² It does require a prescription and cannot be used while pregnant. Be sure to consult your doctor about how to ease into tretinoin as it can increase skin sensitivity, dryness and lead to an initial acne purge.

Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a chemical compound with an impressive ability to help reduce breakouts.³ The main benefits of benzoyl peroxide are that it kills the bacteria that can lead to pimple development and infection and can help remove the dead skin cells and excess sebum that block pores and lead to pimples forming.

Because of its antibacterial nature, benzoyl peroxide can be especially effective against pustule-type pimples. Benzoyl peroxide can be purchased over the counter as a cream, gel, or face wash. Note that benzoyl peroxide can dry your skin out and bleach clothing and hair, so be sure to take care when using it and always do a test patch before trying for the first time. 


If your acne leans towards the severe end of the scale, your doctor might prescribe you antibiotics. Antibiotics can help reduce pimple development by killing the bacteria in the skin that contributes towards pimple formation.⁴ Tetracycline group antibiotics are typically used for acne treatment, e.g., minocycline, doxycycline.

Antibiotics can effectively help to treat acne, but it’s important to be aware that its side effects, like antibiotic resistance, should be taken seriously. Be sure to discuss the possible side effects of antibiotics for acne with your doctor.

Oral contraceptive medication

Birth control pills aren’t just an effective way to prevent pregnancy. They can also help women to get their acne under control. Oral contraceptive pills contain a variety of hormones, and pills that specifically contain both estrogen and progestin can help improve the appearance of acne — thanks to their ability to reduce androgen production. This hormone increases skin sebum production.

Research tells us that oral contraceptive medicine can have an impressive impact on the appearance of acne. One study involving combined oral contraceptive pills for acne treatment found that birth control containing both estrogen and progestin effectively reduced both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions.⁵

Oral contraceptive medication can result in side effects like weight gain, nausea, reduced libido, breast tenderness, and anxiety. It’s important to consult with your doctor about the possible side effects of oral contraceptives to determine whether they’re the best fit for you.


Spironolactone is an oral medication used for high blood pressure, liver disease, and as a treatment for acne in women. Spironolactone works by blocking androgen hormones, the male sex hormones that have been linked to acne development. Men tend not to be prescribed spironolactone for acne because it can result in the development of feminine features like breast growth.

Studies have shown that women who received spironolactone to treat their acne saw a dramatic improvement in their skin condition.⁶ There were very low rates of patients discontinuing the treatment, indicating that it was both effective and tolerable. 

However, while spironolactone can effectively combat acne in women, there are some side effects that you should be aware of. Spironolactone can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and enlarged breast size. Because of how the medication interacts with the body, it can also increase potassium levels and lead to a general feeling of weakness and heart palpitations. However, a potassium spike is unlikely because of the low levels of spironolactone prescribed for acne treatment.

Salicylic acid

While it might sound like a bad idea to put acid on your face, salicylic acid can help you to clear your skin. A type of beta-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid works by dissolving dead skin cells. This is important for acne management because dead skin cells can block your pores and cause pimples to develop. Salicylic acid is available over the counter, and it can take a few weeks of use to see its effects on the skin.

Research has shown that regular use of salicylic acid can significantly reduce inflammatory lesions and open comedones.⁷

When starting salicylic acid, be sure to patch test on a small area of your skin to see how you react to it. Salicylic acid can make your skin more sensitive, so it’s best to introduce it into your routine once or twice a week at first. It’s also important to note that salicylic acid can make your skin more sensitive to light, so make sure that you use sunblock on your face daily.

Natural remedies for pimples

Apple cider vinegar

It seems that apple cider vinegar is touted as a cure for everything at the moment, but it does show some promise as a treatment for acne, thanks to its antibacterial properties. Apple cider vinegar contains acids that have been found to be effective in killing the type of bacteria that causes acne development. 

Water down apple cider vinegar to 1:3 (apple cider vinegar: water) and apply a cotton pad to the skin to treat pimples. After around 30 seconds, rinse the treatment off with water and continue with your skincare routine. 

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is a great natural spot treatment option for pimples. This plant extract oil has shown impressive antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.⁸ One study found that tea tree oil significantly improved the appearance of mild to moderate acne. Another found that tea tree oil was as effective at reducing pimples as benzoyl peroxide, a common over-the-counter acne treatment.⁹


Zinc can play a key role in healthy skin maintenance, thanks to its ability to impact inflammation, cell growth, and hormone levels.¹⁰ One study found that patients with acne tend to have low zinc levels, indicating that zinc supplementation may be necessary to improve the appearance of pimples.¹¹

To add zinc to your routine, simply look for zinc supplements in your health store. Make sure to discuss zinc supplementation if you have any concerns, as excess zinc can lead to side effects like stomach pain.

Reduce dairy intake

There is a connection between dairy consumption and acne development, although research into dairy and acne can be contradictory. Studies have found that milk consumption and acne have been linked, but other research has found no link between dairy and acne.¹² ¹³

There does seem to be logic behind dairy and pimple development, as dairy does contain hormones associated with acne.

While more research is needed to determine the link between dairy and pimples, reducing your dairy intake could be one easy way to help clear up your skin.

Green tea

Green tea doesn’t just make a great drink.¹⁴ It also holds a lot of pimple-reducing properties and could help you get your acne in check, naturally. Green tea contains polyphenols. These are antioxidant molecules that have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that could help reduce sebum production and improve the appearance of acne.

Many skincare products available contain green tea extract, but if you want to DIY, you can simply brew a batch of green tea, wait for it to cool, and then apply it to your skin with a cotton pad.

What doesn’t help get rid of pimples?

When it comes to acne, there are a lot of old wive’s tales out there. Here are some common pimple-treatments that you should probably stay away from if you actually want clear skin:


This will just leave your skin more inflamed and can actually increase your sebum production as you strip oils from the skin. 

Popping pimples

We know, it’s so tempting! But popping pimples can spread bacteria, inflame a spot even more, and lead to acne scarring. 

Not moisturizing

Some people think that moisturizing leaves your skin oily, but all you will achieve with skipping moisturizer is dry skin with pimples. Moisturizer can help leave your sebum levels balanced. 

The lowdown

Getting rid of pimples doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Today, there is a huge range of medications, over-the-counter treatments, and natural remedies to help you keep your acne at bay.

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