- Inflamed acne lesions cause redness on the skin
- When inflammation is reduced this color will fade
- Over-the-counter and prescription medications can help ease the redness and inflammation by treating acne
- Some home remedies can temporarily remove the redness of acne blemishes within hours of application
While it is difficult to completely eliminate acne blemishes quickly, there are many treatments that can effectively treat acne and reduce the associated redness in the long term through the use of over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications. To temporarily get rid of redness from acne blemishes within a few hours of application, you can turn to some effective home remedies.
Why Does Acne Cause Redness?
Inflammatory acne presents as swelling and redness when pores become clogged with oil, dead skin, and Cutibacterium acnes (formerly Propionibacterium acnes) bacteria. Latest findings indicate that this bacteria is always present, and not the trigger for acne as once thought.
Acne is now believed to be caused by an imbalance within the skin’s microbiome, which is an ecosystem of bacteria, fungi and viruses normally present on the skin’s surface.
Once the pores (or hair follicles) become clogged with debris and bacteria, inflammation occurs, resulting in red bumps or pimples on the skin. This redness is a sign of inflammation.
Other acne blemishes that are red in color include:
- Papules: pus-filled red bumps on the surface of the skin
- Pustules: similar to papules, only larger
- Nodules: small, pus-filled bumps below the skin’s surface that are usually red but sometimes flesh-colored
- Cysts: large, red, pus-filled inflammations that can be painful to the touch that form beneath the skin’s surface
Redness From Acne Scars
Acne scars are commonly confused with another acne-related skin condition called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). However, with PIH, the post blemish dark spots on the skin’s surface eventually fade with time; acne scars are permanent and typically require medical procedures for improvement.
Treatments to Get Rid of Redness From Acne
To get rid of redness from acne, treatment must focus on reducing the inflammation itself which will result in reducing the redness and visibility of acne lesions. Fortunately, there are numerous medications available that effectively fight acne by unclogging pores, regulating oil production, reducing inflammation and killing acne-causing bacteria.
There are several OTC topical acne medications to help minimize redness from acne and speed the healing of blemishes. The two most effective active ingredients in these topical solutions are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, both time-tested, well-established medications to treat mild to moderate cases.
Benzoyl peroxide is a very effective acne treatment and can be used all over or as a spot treatment. It can effectively kill bacteria-causing acne, clear pores of excess oil and debris, and reduce redness and inflammation.
Benzoyl peroxide can be found within gels, creams and cleansers. It is available in strengths of 2.5%, 5.0% and 10%. To avoid further irritating your skin, read the product label carefully and follow all instructions. It is recommended to perform a patch test first to determine any sensitivities.
Salicylic acid is an antibacterial, and another valued acne-fighting staple that has been shown to soothe the irritation and discomfort caused by acne. It helps skin shed dead pores from the top layer, and reduces inflammation and redness from acne. It is also effective in reducing oil production – a key contributor to acne breakouts. Skin will also appear smoother with reduced pores.
You can opt for cleansers, toners, creams or lotions with a concentration ranging from 0.05–5%. As with benzoyl peroxide, it is advised to check first for any sensitivities. Salicylic acid should not be combined with retinoids such as tretinoin or adapalene as this can cause irritation.
When OTC treatments are not effective in clearing your acne, it is time to visit your doctor or dermatologist to discuss prescription-strength topical and oral solutions.
A dermatologist will prescribe topical medications with the same active ingredients found in OTC products, but in higher concentrations. They will also consider adding other treatments to create a comprehensive acne skin care plan.
Retinoids are another classification of acne-fighting medication that treat redness by clearing and preventing clogged pores. Retinoids, such as topical tretinoin, are commonly used in combination with other acne medications like benzoyl peroxide to allow medications to better penetrate inflamed follicles more effectively.
Oral antibiotics (usually from the tetracycline family) and oral isotretinoin, are other prescription medications used to fight severe cases of acne. Both target redness from acne as well as breakouts by reducing inflammation and killing acne-causing bacteria on the skin’s surface.
Home Remedies to Reduce Acne Redness Fast
While home remedies are not meant to be a replacement for OTC or prescription acne treatments, many can be used to temporarily treat acne redness fast – often within hours.
Home remedies can also be used as a temporary treatment when pausing traditional acne medications when skin flares up or becomes overdry and sensitive. Herbal or natural remedies offer a gentle alternative for those with sensitive skin.
One of the ingredients in Aspirin is salicylic acid, a well-established acne-reducing medication. Combine 1 crushed aspirin with 1 tbsp water to form a paste. After washing your face with a lightweight cleanser, apply the paste and allow it to rest for 10–15 minutes.
The salicylic acid should help unclog and dry out the affected area, while reducing swelling and redness from acne.
Apply a cold compress to reduce inflammation, which in turn will reduce the size of the pimples and the redness associated with it.
Wrap an ice cube in a clean cloth and apply it to the affected area for 5–10 minutes. Wait ten minutes and then repeat the process two more times. Never apply an ice cube directly to your skin as this can cause damage.
Eye Drops That Relieve Redness
While the evidence is strictly anecdotal, many people state that spot treatment with a few drops of Visine or similar redness-relieving eye drops can temporarily remove the redness from pimples. This is due to brimonidine, the active ingredient in Visine that reduces redness in the eyes. Brimonidine constricts the blood vessels which in turn reduces redness.
To use eye drops for this purpose, apply several drops of Visine on a cotton swab and lightly dab the blemish for 30 seconds. it should appear less red and visible within hours.
It should be noted that this is not a treatment that should be repeated regularly, as it can have the opposite effect and increase inflammation.
Aloe vera is an effective treatment to treat acne lesions, and reduce inflammation and redness from acne. It has strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is available in several formulations including as a gel, cream, cleanser, or juice, Aloe vera is applied directly to the skin to soothe inflammation and is safe to use in combination with OTC or prescription medications.
Tea Tree oil
Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil that studies have shown to be as equally effective in treating acne blemishes as a 5% benzoyl peroxide solution. Ensure you use a diluted solution first before applying to skin, and perform a patch test to determine if you have sensitivities. This oil can cause dryness, itching, burning, and redness – especially for people with acne-prone skin.
Other herbal or natural substances used to treat acne are green tea extract, brewers yeast, as well as lavender and thyme essential oils.
You can also follow the age-old practice of concealing a blemish with makeup. It’s important to only use noncomedogenic products that won’t clog pores and lead to more breakouts.
Choose a green primer or concealer and apply it directly to the blemish. Follow with a yellow-based concealer and apply it to the outer edges of the blemish, then blend with the healthy skin around it. Always use a light hand, as too much makeup can backfire and highlight the blemish.
As with the cold compress, a warm compress can also reduce inflammation and redness. The warmth of the compress helps reduce inflammation by drawing the plugged oil, dead skin and bacteria to the surface where it can then be released. The heat also helps reduce discomfort and pain.
Inflammatory acne will always be associated with redness, however there are several preventative measures you can take to keep this redness to a minimum.
Never pick at or pop an acne blemish as this will increase redness and potentially leave you with scarring once the blemish has healed.
Treat your acne with a topical acne-fighting medication as soon as possible – the faster you treat inflammation, the quicker it can heal, and the associated redness from acne will diminish.
Follow a skin care routine that includes a gentle facial wash and topical treatments. Use consistently and as directed to keep acne breakouts at bay. Active ingredients will work to unclog the pores, soothe and reduce the inflammation, and kill bacteria.
How to Get Rid of the Redness from Acne Scars
Acne scars can result from picking or popping blemishes or as a result of severe acne.
While home remedies and topical medications are effective in treating acne, this is not so for acne scars. For optimal results, it is best to consult with a professional about your options.
Redness from acne is a result of inflammation. Treating acne early and with the right medication can heal breakouts and prevent future ones.
Standard acne treatments such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid are highly effective in treating acne and the accompanying redness. There are many options to choose from with OTC formulations; if you don’t see an improvement in your acne, see a professional who can prescribe a stronger treatment. They may also prescribe additional medication to offer greater results.
Home remedies may reduce redness from acne but this should be a short-term solution only. Oral and topical acne products are designed to target acne with specific ingredients that are known to treat the inflammation and redness.
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