I recently sat down with Rachel Nazarian, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group and Proactiv, to discuss all things clear skin, and the topic of my upcoming wedding came up. Despite having finally achieved clear skin on my face, my upper back breaks out like crazy in the summer months, and as luck would have it, I'll be wearing a backless dress for the occasion (just call me a masochist).
Thankfully Proactiv's Acne Clearing Body Spray does a pretty good job of keep breakouts at bay (this stuff really works), but should I wake up the morning before the big day with a huge shiner on my face or back, Nazarian said she could hook me up with what she dubbed an "emergency pack." Completely enthralled, I asked Nazarian to fill me in on all the details
Basically it's a prescription-pill cocktail you'll need to get from your dermatologist (so you may as well add their office number to your speed dial now). As amazing as it sounds, the prospect of taking a medication that helps knock a pimple out virtually overnight sounded a bit scary, so I asked Nazarian a few follow-up questions for clarity.
What exactly is the Emergency Pack?
"The primary medication is a steroid," says Nazarian. "The pack is simply several tablets that can be taken a few days before your wedding (or other big event) and can minimize pimples and acne in a short-term period. It's not utilized as a long-term treatment plan due to potential side effects and adverse effects."
Oral steroids mimic the steroid hormones that are naturally produced by our adrenal glands and bind to specific sequences of DNA to decrease the production of many different types of inflammatory molecules, thus decreasing the size, redness, and overall appearance of a breakout.
How much time does it take to work? Is it ever "too late" to take it?
According to Nazarian, you can notice a change in your breakout in as little as 24 hours, but waiting too long won't yield noticeable results. "If you're about to walk down the aisle and the flower girls have already tossed the petals, it's too late. Otherwise, even one day can make a difference."
Can you take it in conjunction with other prescriptions or OTCs?
"Generally, yes," explains Nazarian. "But always ask your dermatologist if there are other specific medications you're taking to ensure no cross-reactions." Medications that could interact with a steroid—meaning affect its efficacy or cause side effects—include painkillers like ibuprofen, blood thinners, and epilepsy medications.
What are the side effects?
"The pills can occasionally make you jittery or give you the feeling of 'high energy,'" says Nazarian. "If you take it in the evening, it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep."
If you don't want to take a prescription pill, what's the most high-powered topical for fast results?
"Combinations of salicylic acid, green tea, and witch hazel—or other potent anti-inflammatories—can decrease the size of your pimples over the course of hours," explains Nazarian. If you're up for it, your board-certified dermatologist could give you a cortisone injection right into the site to dramatically shrink down any pimples before the big day. Cortisone shots can leave behind scarring and hyperpigmentation, though, so be warned.
Worried about taking a medication? Try these high-powered anti-inflammatories.
This dermatologist-tested toner contains witch hazel to clarify the skin while sealing in moisture. Pat it onto your face after cleansing each morning and night for supple, hydrated skin.
Matcha green tea, jojoba seed extract, and willow bark extract come together in this potent yet gentle mask to reduce redness and inflammation. Plus, since it has Sephora's new clean seal, you know this mask is free of sulfates, parabens, and other harsh ingredients.
This lightweight gel contains salicylic acid, retinol, and tea tree oil to help treat breakouts, diminish redness, and prevent future breakouts from forming. In a brand-sponsored study of the product, 96% of users saw clearer skin with 72 hours of using it.
If you love a double-duty product (who doesn't?), this one's for you. This mask contains 10% aromatic sulfur and works to absorb excess surface skin oils, clear up blemishes, and prevent new blackheads and blemishes from forming. In addition to being a mask, you can also use it as an overnight spot treatment.
GlamGlow never disappoints. Its latest launch promises to clean pores and minimize their appearance in as little as 60 seconds. Plus, it's full of great ingredients like witch hazel, aloe vera, and bentonite and kaolin clay.
These Astringent Toner Pads make clearing your skin, tightening your pores, and controlling shine easier than ever. Sweep one over clean, dry, skin every morning and night for noticeable results.
Skip the mess of a typical mud mask with this sheet variation. It harnesses the power of kaolin clay to draw out dirt and oil from the skin, leaving you with a clear, glowing complexion. An added bonus? It also hydrates and reduces uneven skin texture.
Fight acne discreetly and effectively. Simply place these stickers directly onto the breakout before you go to bed, and their hydrocolloid technology and acne-fighting ingredients will work quietly (yet powerfully) to clear your breakouts.
These pads contain Dr. Gross's unique L-Carnitine Clearing Complex to help fight breakouts. The exfoliating formula also provides anti-inflammatory and soothing benefits to help flatten blemishes, address acne scars, and fade dark spots.
Apply this spot treatment at the first sign of a breakout to stop it in its tracks. It contains tea tree oil and salicylic acid, which promote the skin's natural elimination of breakouts, as well as chamomile to soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.
Up next, check out the $17 acne treatment celebrities love.