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Icing a Pimple: How to Treat and Reduce Acne at Home

Everyone develops a pimple at some point in their life. A pimple happens when oil (sebum) and extra skin cells clog a hair follicle, resulting in oil and debris getting trapped under the skin's surface. Inflammation triggers when the walls of the plugged hair follicle rupture, leading to swelling, redness, and pain.

Recurring issues with pimples and acne can happen for many reasons. Hormonal imbalances, food intolerance, and improper skincare routines can all be at fault, leading to painful cystic acne that saps self-confidence in one second flat. 

The best route to acne prevention is finding and treating the problem at the source. This can mean dietary changes, topical product changes, and hormone-balancing medications when necessary. 

But what can you do in the meanwhile to treat your existing acne? Heading to a dermatologist for helpful facial extractions and treatments is very useful. Still, you can also learn how to get rid of a pimple at home with a less expensive treatment.

Treating your skin at home can feel a little sketchy – after all, if you do it wrong, you risk worsening or spreading the infection and scarring. That’s why it's important to know exactly how to treat a pimple, so that you make it better, not worse. You can extract your pimples using sanitized tools and use ice for acne to reduce swelling and promote your skin's faster healing. 

Does ice help acne? You can learn the proper method of putting ice on a pimple to lower acne inflammation in our helpful guide below.

Is It Good to Put Ice on a Popped Pimple?

Does ice help pimples?

The short answer is yes, but the effect depends on the type of pimple. 

Ice helps reduce our nervous system's inflammatory response, making it great for use on a recently popped, extra sensitive pimple. Clear signs of an inflamed pimple include redness, swelling, itching, pain when touched, and leaking fluids.

Ice doesn't affect unpopped comedones, as the ice cannot remove the debris clogging the hair follicle. 

Instead, ice is most useful in speeding along the healing process in an already extracted pimple and reducing redness and swelling. 

Does cold water help acne?

Much the same way icing acne works, cold water can also reduce inflammation. A cold water rinse is adequate for minor pimples and skin irritations.

A short, cold water rinse after you wash your face can help to close pores and prevent new breakouts. 

How long do I put ice on my pimple?

Using an ice cube for acne is a relatively simple process, but overusing ice can do more harm than good. 

Ice should only be applied to your skin for 5-10 minutes maximum before taking a break. Leaving ice on any longer can cause damage to your skin. Ice burns happen when ice crystals form in skin cells, blood flow slows down, and tissues become deprived of oxygen. The most extreme cases of ice burn lead to frostbite. 

When icing your skin, you want to follow CBAN, which stands for Cold, Burn, Ache, and Numb. First, your skin will feel cold. Then, it will begin to burn, ache, and finally feel numb. If your skin ever feels numb, immediately remove the ice to prevent ice burn. 

In skincare, it's unnecessary to leave ice longer than 1-2 minutes at a time on your pimple.

How to Get Rid of Pimples at Home

Follow these steps to treat and heal your pimples from the comfort of your own home:

  1. Don't pop until the spot has a firm whitehead, which means the pus is close to your skin's surface.
  2. Clean your hands well with antibacterial hand soap and a nail brush to remove any leftover bacteria under your nails.
  3. With clean hands, gently wash and dry your face using an oil-free cleanser. 
  4. Sterilize a pin or needle under the flame of a lighter. Follow up with a dip in rubbing alcohol. 
  5. Wrap your fingers with a clean tissue.
  6. Hold the pin parallel to your skin, and softly pierce the top of the pimple.
  7. Squeeze the area around your spot toward the head. If pus isn't coming out quickly, stop immediately. 
  8. When finished, apply rubbing alcohol to the site.
  9. Apply ice, wrapped in a clean towel or paper towel. Make your ice cubes with an ice ball maker, which creates a comfortable rounded shape and uses directional freezing methods to remove impurities from the water that shouldn't come into contact with an open wound. 
  10. Keep ice on pimples for 1 minute. Remove from the skin. Repeat the process, as needed, for moderate inflammation. Take a 1-2 minute break between applications to avoid ice burn. 
  11. Apply alcohol to the pimple one last time, and avoid touching the pimple as much as possible. 

Can I Use Ice on My Face Every Day?

Rubbing your face with ice cubes is useful for treating acne inflammation; reducing pores, signs of aging, and puffiness; and increasing product absorption. 

Ice doesn't need to be applied to your face more than once a day. Be extra careful around the super sensitive skin in your eye area. Leave the ice here for only short periods, and don't rub aggressively.

Other Acne Treatments

Because acne can have a multitude of different causes, there isn't a one-size-fits-all acne treatment. 

Medications

  • Antibiotics: For reducing bacteria, which in turn reduces acne at the cause.
  • Birth control pills: For balancing hormones that may be out of whack. Acne is often caused by too much testosterone in the body, and birth control can bring counter-balancing estrogen up to the appropriate levels.

Over-the-counter treatments

  • Retinoids: Prevents plugging of the hair follicles through increased cell turnover and exfoliation.
  • Salicylic acid: Dissolves excess oil, reduces inflammation in breakouts, and gently exfoliates the skin.
  • Glycolic acid: Gently exfoliates the skin.
  • Benzoyl Peroxide: For its ability to kill harmful, breakout-causing bacteria. 

Therapies

  • Chemical peels: Performed by a professional using an acid listed above at a higher concentration than in over-the-counter face treatment products.
  • Light therapies: Many of these have been seeing good results. More thorough testing is needed to determine long-term efficacy. 

Final Word

Use these strategies to help to treat your acne at home so that your breakouts will heal up faster, and you can get back to your regularly scheduled life. 

If you are experiencing moderate to severe breakouts for an extended period, head to your doctor and get hooked up with a dermatologist who can assess your situation and personalize a treatment to help.

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