Here’s *Exactly* How To Tackle Acne Redness (and Fast)
Main image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy
Hands up who’s tired of acne redness! Is it just us or does it cling like a needy, remorseful ex-boyfriend who’s just so last season?
Whether you just picked a spot during active acne and the skin is traumatised, or the redness is there post-breakout because of inflammation, we’re just not here for it.
So how do we banish it? How long does it generally last? And, while we’re at it, what causes acne redness anyway?
We asked board-certified dermatologists Dr Noreen Galaria, Dr Leah Ansell and Dr William Kwan, alongside aesthetician Dee Albanese and pro makeup artist Azesha Ramcharan to break it down exactly how to tackle acne redness.
What causes acne redness in the first place?
Lots of different factors cause acne itself, but the main one is hormones teamed with excess oil production. “This oil and bacteria can clog your follicles, creating acne,” explains Dr Noreen Galaria.
There are other causes too. “Although a change in hormones most commonly brings on acne, sugar and fat free milk consumption are also contributing factors,” she adds.
So where does acne redness come from during a breakout? “Redness from acne is caused by inflammation,” the dermatologist explains.
Inflammation is also the likely cause of redness even after an acne breakout is healed. The medical terms for the red marks left behind after an acne breakout are ‘post-inflammatory erythema’ (PIE) and ‘post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation’ (PIH).
The skin irritation from constantly picking at spots while they’re active doesn’t help either (hey, we’ve all done it…).
How long does acne redness normally last?
Dr Galaria says how long you experience redness after a breakout may depend on your skin tone. “In my lighter skinned patients, the redness can last about 3 months,” she explains. “In darker skinned patients the redness will gradually turn into a hyperpigmentation that can last over 6 months.”
Don’t panic though, there are plenty of ways to tackle it.
How to treat acne redness
In an ideal world, you’d start with prevention with a stellar skincare routine. “Use acne washes that contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid and topicals that have ingredients like retinol or azelaic acid,” Dr Galaria advises.
“Retinol is known to improve skin cell turnover and improve the skin’s tone and texture,” she says. “It also decreases the number of comedones that can lead to inflammatory acne.” Sign us up immediately!
2. Tackling acne redness during a breakout:
But what about redness during an acne breakout? The experts share their pro tips.
- Skincare products:
“Over-the-counter creams or gels containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can help reduce inflammation and redness associated with acne,” Dr William Kwan says.
- Warm compress:
To calm your skin, “apply a warm compress to the affected area to soothe inflammation and promote healing,” the dermatologist adds.
- Cold compress:
Cold also helps; “apply an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the red areas as this can constrict blood vessels and temporarily reduce redness,” he explains
- Avoid harsh ingredients:
Dr Kwan also advises steering clear of using harsh skincare ingredients and touching the affected areas; “this can worsen redness and inflammation,” he says.
- Pick the right SPF for you:
And think about what’s going into your sunscreen. “A non-comedogenic, oil-free one can prevent further irritation and redness,” he adds.
He adds, “For severe cases of acne, a dermatologist may prescribe topical or oral medications such as antibiotics, retinoids, or corticosteroids, which can help control inflammation and reduce redness.”
3. Reducing redness from acne after a breakout:
If you’ve been left with redness even after your acne breakout is gone, there are plenty of ways to reduce pigmentation.
- Sun protection:
Dr Kwan says that if your acne has healed but there is still redness, then plenty of sunscreen and sun avoidance are important.
- Pick the right products:
“Some topical acne medications could make post acne redness worse,” Dr Kwan warns.
Dr Kwan explains that some types of laser may be able to help acne redness.
Dr Kwan says, “Microneedling involves using tiny needles to create controlled micro-injuries in the skin, encouraging collagen production and reducing scar visibility.”
- Chemical peels:
Aesthetician Dee Albanese also recommends chemical peels. She tells us, “Chemical peels can help to unclog and cleanse pores, reducing the occurrence of acne breakouts. They can also improve the appearance of acne scars and hyperpigmentation caused by acne.”
3 ways to get rid of redness from acne fast
Dr Leah Ansell tells us, “Post-inflammatory erythema is one of the toughest parts of acne to treat.
“I always emphasise that first we must treat the acne and then we can address the redness. Time is best. But there are specific lasers that target the redness that can also help.”
If you’re in a hurry though and want results fast, there are a couple of tricks that may help to calm redness quickly.
Image – Starface
Option 1: Ice pack and concealer
If you want to tackle acne redness fast an ice pack followed by colour correcting concealer will help to visibly reduce discolouration.
Option 2: Eye drops
There is also some evidence that eye drops like Visine– that contain the active ingredient brimonidine- may help to reduce redness quickly by constricting small blood vessels in the skin. Experts warn this is not a long term solution though and that eye drops will not help to heal the blemish itself.
Option 3: Throw on a pimple patch
And if you’re looking to tackle acne redness over a few hours or overnight, some pimple patches (small translucent or sometimes even star-shaped hydrocolloid stickers) contain ingredients that help to calm inflammation and fade pigmentation.
How to cover up acne redness
However you choose to battle your acne redness though, learning how to cover it up like a pro is a great skill to have.
And proper concealing starts with colour-correcting; the process of neutralising unwanted tones by using the opposite colour on the colour wheel (just like we did at school). Once you get the hang of it, colour correcting is not only really simple but surprisingly effective.
Pro makeup artist Azesha Ramcharan tells we should be using yellow or green colour correctors to cover redness, but if the spot has turned into a darker red or purple dark spot that a peach colour corrector will work best,
She advises using a small, firm makeup brush to apply colour corrector to the spot before using a fluffy brush to blend it out into your surrounding skin. She suggests using a concealer or foundation in a similar shade to your own skin tone to finish concealing your blemish.
Aside from us all being able to agree that acne redness is, quite frankly, adding salt to the already painful wound? We’ve discovered that the first and easiest thing to address is our skincare.
To cleanse or not to cleanse? It should never be in question. Get those pores unblocked! And know that adding a few simple ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide to your regime might help calm down redness.
Also, consider your time of the month. If your hormones are raging, be kind to yourself.
Use Dr Kwan’s soothing techniques – a warm or cold compress – and make sure you’ve got your sunscreen down to a skin-hugging tee.
“Just remember, it’s essential to be patient and consistent with any treatment,” he says. “If redness persists or worsens, it’s best to consult a dermatologist for personalised advice and recommendations.”
Meet the experts
Noreen Galaria, MD FAAD is a board-certified Dermatologist with a laser and cosmetic fellowship and has been practising for over 20 years. She is also the CEO and Founder of Inner Glow Vitamins, a dermatologist and plastic surgeon-developed brand of skin nutraceuticals.
Dr William Kwan, board-certified dermatologist at Lasky Skin Center in Beverly Hills.
Deidre ‘Dee’ Albanese is a nurse practitioner who founded Nu Glow Aesthetics in 2019. With her conservative approach to injectables, Deidre has a passion for making people look and feel like the best version of themselves.
Azesha Ramcharan is a makeup artist based in NY’s Hudson Valley region. Clients have included NBC, The Juilliard School, Hessel Museum of Art, Craftsy, and VOZ.