- Redness caused by acne is the result of inflammations on the skin
- When the intensity of an inflammation is reduced so too is the depth of its reddish color
- Acne scars are not to be confused with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), which develops similarly but fades naturally over time.
- There are home remedies understood to temporarily remove the redness of inflammatory acne blemishes within hours of application.
Any kind of inflammatory acne is, as the name implies, an inflammation that has developed on the surface, or just below the surface of the skin, and is by nature red in color. While it’s notoriously difficult to completely get rid of redness from acne blemishes, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the intensity of these inflammations over the long term, and even home remedies that temporarily reduce the redness of an acne blemish within a few hours of application.
Why Does Acne Cause Redness?
Acne develops through a combination of factors: excess oil production, clogged pores, inflammation and a certain bacteria on the surface of the skin called p.acnes. Once the pores (or hair follicles) become clogged from excess oil production it becomes what’s called a comedone. When p.acnes bacteria penetrates a comedone it becomes inflamed, leaving red bumps under the skin. Essentially, the redness associated with acne vulgaris comes from inflammation.
Other acne blemishes that are red in color are:
- Papules: pus-filled red bumps on the surface of the skin
- Pustules: are similar to papules, only larger
- Nodules: small, pus-filled bumps below the skin’s surface that are usually red but sometimes the flesh-colored
- Cysts: also formed beneath the skin’s surface, cysts are large, red, pus-filled inflammations that can be painful to the touch.
Redness From Acne Scars
Acne scars are frequently confused with another acne-related skin condition called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), however, unlike PIH, where the post-blemish dark or red spots on the skin’s surface eventually fade without treatment, acne scars are permanent and typically require medical procedures to remove.
Treatments to Get Rid of Redness from Acne
Pimples and other acne blemishes are red because of inflammation, so it stands to reason that anything you can do to reduce inflammation will work to reduce the redness and visibility of the lesion. Fortunately, there are numerous treatments available that help minimize acne and reduce the redness caused by it. These include:
There are several OTC topical acne medications that help to minimize acne redness and hasten the healing of blemishes. The two most common active ingredients you want to look for in these topical solutions are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, both time-tested, well-established medications to treat mild to moderate cases of acne.
- Benzoyl peroxide is a good place to start because in lower strengths (as OTC creams containing it will be) it is less likely to present any negative side effects or irritate the skin as it might when absorbed in larger concentrations.
Spot treatment with a mild skin cream or lotion containing 2.5% benzoyl peroxide is recommended at first, until you see how well your skin reacts to it. Quite often this is all that’s required to effectively treat a breakout.
- Salicylic Acid is another acne-fighting staple that has been shown to both soothe the discomfort of inflammations while reducing the redness of acne blemishes. It helps treat redness caused by acne by reducing the number of skin cells being shed while further unclogging the pores.
- Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil that studies have shown to be equally effective in treating acne blemishes as a 5% benzoyl peroxide solution. The advantage of tea tree oil, however, is that it’s a 100% natural product with no significant side effects, hence it’s much less likely to irritate sensitive skin and can be used by people who might have allergies to its pharmacological counterparts.
- Other herbal or natural substances used to treat acne are green tea extract, aloe vera, brewers yeast, as well as a few non-tea tree essential oils such as eucalyptus, lavender and thyme. When using any natural or OTC acne medications, it’s important to closely follow the application instructions and look for any warning labels. For example, some people are more susceptible to sunburn after applying certain topical acne medications.
Also, some redness and skin flaking are not uncommon side effects with topical acne treatments. This isn’t a cause for concern, however, should any such irritations persist for more than a few weeks, you should consider discontinuing the use of the product and consult your dermatologist about alternative treatments that might be easier on your skin.
Sometimes the OTC and herbal remedies for acne simply aren’t strong enough to significantly improve the condition. In these instances it becomes necessary to visit your doctor or dermatologist to look into more powerful topical medications to address the situation. Often, a dermatologist will prescribe topical medications with the same active ingredients found in OTC products, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, only in higher concentrations and/or in combination with a retinoid.
Retinoids are another classification of acne-fighting medication that treats redness by first unclogging and then preventing the pores from getting clogged up again. Retinoids (such as tretinoin) are frequently used in combination with other acne medications like benzoyl peroxide as opening the pores helps these medications penetrate the inflamed follicles more effectively.
Antibiotics (usually from the tetracycline family) and azelaic acid are other prescription medications frequently used to treat more substantial or stubborn cases of acne. Both reduce redness as well as breakouts by reducing inflammation and killing acne-causing bacteria on the skin’s surface.
Home Remedies to Reduce Acne Redness Fast
There are any number of home remedies people have been using to treat acne and other inflammatory skin issues for generations. While much of the evidence supporting the efficacy of such treatments tends to be anecdotal, some people prefer them because they typically treat blemishes without any side effects. Also, while only temporarily, there are home remedies understood to reduce the redness of acne inflammations very quickly, as within hours, not weeks or days.
Plus, overuse of traditional acne medications like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can eventually dry up the skin and actually worsen acne, so home – or herbal/natural– remedies serve as a convenient alternative for those who experience frequent, stubborn breakouts.
Eye Drops That Relieve Redness
While the evidence is so far strictly anecdotal, many people insist that spot treatment with a few drops of Visine or similar “redness relieving” eye drops will temporarily remove the redness from pimples. It won’t remove the blemish, but brimonidine, the ingredient in Visine that reduces redness in the eyes, apparently has the same effect on pimples. Brimonidine constricts the blood vessels which in turn reduces redness.
To use eye drops for this purpose, just take a cotton swab soaked in Visine [or your preferred brand of “redness relieving” eyedrops, not artificial tears or products designed to relieve dry eyes), lightly dab it directly on the blemish for half a minute, and a few hours later it should be less red and visible.
Similarly, a one percent hydrocortisone cream is alleged to have the same redness-reducing effect on pimples.
It should be noted that this trick is only a temporary fix that can only be done once or twice on a given blemish, as overdoing it can have the opposite effect and amplify the inflammation.
For inflammatory types of acne, the application of ice and/or a cold compress reduces inflammation, which in turn theoretically reduces the size of a pimple and the redness associated with it.
Apply the compress to your inflammation in one-minute increments, in the morning and then before going to bed at night, after having thoroughly washed the area being treated with a gentle cleanser. If the inflammation is particularly severe, you can leave the ice or cold compress on the blemish for up to five minutes, but no longer than that, as apparently overdoing it could lead to complications and potentially damage the skin.
Applying a warm compress to acne blemishes is also believed to reduce inflammation, and by extension, skin redness. The warmth of the compress helps reduce inflammation by improving circulation to the area, opening the pores to make removing excess oil and other pollutants on the skin more effective.
One of the ingredients in Aspirin is salicylic acid, a well-established acne-reducing medication. By crushing up several tablets of Aspirin and turning it into a paste that can then be applied to a blemish, the salicylic acid should help to unclog and dry out the affected area, while reducing swelling and redness.
When in doubt you can always follow the age-old practice of trying to conceal a blemish with make-up. If you choose to follow this path, it’s very important to only use non-comedogenic products that won’t clog up your pores and lead to more breakouts.
The best way to hide any obvious redness with make-up is to use a green primer or concealer and apply it directly on to the blemish. Then, take a yellow-based concealer and apply it to the outer edges of the blemish so it blends the concealed area with the healthy skin around it. Always apply make-up for this purpose lightly, as too much may cake around the blemish and make it stand out more than had you left it alone.
Inflammatory acne will almost always involve some degree of redness, however, there are a few sure-fire preventative measures you can take to keep any such pigmentation issues to a minimum, and eventually get rid of redness caused by acne.
Never pick at or pop an acne blemish. This is the very worst thing you can do in order to get rid of redness caused by acne, and will, in fact, only worsen redness and potentially leave you with acne scar once the blemish has healed.
Upon noticing an acne blemish forming gently wash and apply a topical acne-fighting medication to the area as soon as possible. The sooner you start to treat an inflammation the less chance it will have to expand and worsen. Tea tree oil or any good OTC acne cream will work to unclog the pores, soothe and reduce the inflammation, and kill bacteria and other debris on the surface of the skin that typically amplify break-outs. Just make sure that whatever product you use has anti-inflammatory properties – although anti-inflammatories are a staple of most acne creams, so this shouldn’t prove difficult..
Finally, diet plays a role in inflammatory acne so you might want to consider eating an anti-inflammatory diet to help reduce or get rid of the redness arising from acne flare-ups. You don’t necessarily have to change your entire diet or completely rearrange your eating habits, but you can and should consciously avoid foods that increase inflammation, such as caffeine, chocolate, sugar, starch, refined carbs, alcohol, and certain spicy foods.
How to Get Rid of the Redness from Acne Scars
Acne scars are often avoidable, as in most instances they result from picking or popping blemishes. Severe cystic acne can also sometimes result in scarring, but is the least common type of acne and something most people will never have to experience.
There are three types of acne scar; atrophic, hypertrophic, and keloid. They come in different shades, some are indented, others are raised, but all tend to be treated with the same or similar medications and procedures.
As discussed earlier, acne scars are not to be mistaken for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) marks, which are also dark spots that remain on the skin after an acne blemish has healed. Unlike acne scars, however, PIH will eventually fade naturally – although they too can be treated so as to reduce their duration. Acne scars are notoriously difficult to fully remove, and even dedicated professional treatments won’t necessarily fully remove them, although their visibility can be reduced quite substantially.
Many of the home remedies and topical medications used to treat blemishes, such as salicylic acid, retinoids, essential oils, and benzoyl peroxide, can be used to reduce the visibility of acne scars as well, but to significantly reduce or fully remove them, professional medical treatments are generally required.
Dermatologists usually determine the appropriate scar reduction/removal procedure for any given patient based on the individual’s skin type and the severity and type of scar [keloid, atrophic, or hypertrophic) being treated.
The redness of an acne blemish is the result of inflammation, so any steps taken to reduce the intensity of inflammatory acne should also reduce the intensity of the accompanying redness. Hence, standard acne treatments such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and other topical remedies such as tea tree oil, will gradually decrease the redness of blemishes stemming from inflammatory acne.
There are, however, some home remedies with little to no scientific study to confirm their efficacy, that are understood to temporarily reduce the redness of acne blemishes, such as spot treatment with eyedrops like Visine.
Hyperpigmentation that results in the permanent redness of an acne scar is notoriously difficult to treat, and even professional medical procedures such as microneedling and laser therapy may not fully remove them. As such, the best treatment for an acne scar is to avoid getting them in the first place, which in most cases simply means not picking at blemishes when you experience an acne flare-up.
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