Adult Acne: Dealing With Emergency Breakouts

emergency breakouts

If you are an acne sufferer, you understand the deep, emotional turmoil of realising you’re developing a heavy crop of sore red bumps the night before the most important meeting of your life so far. The problem with acne is that it can be exacerbated by stress so if you are already stressed, you’re much more likely to get a fully-charged, scarlet flare up.

In these times, it may feel like you are completely and absolutely helpless. Okay, realistically, you can’t completely eradicate a full face breakout in the space of eight hours. But you can greatly reduce the appearance of your spots and the size of them as long as you know what to do!!

Tips for dealing with emergency breakouts


  • Avoid wearing cosmetic makeup, especially heavy makeup. A full coverage foundation may seem like the solution to your problem but it is absolutely not. Not only does cosmetic foundation trap sebum and skin cells in the pore as it cannot move past the makeup sitting inside the pore, it can also make lumpier, larger spots more noticeable rather than less. Give your skin a break from the cake and you lower the chances of them getting bigger!


  • Cleanse with salicylic acid based products. Salicylic acid is a BHA (beta-hydroxy acid) that gently chemically exfoliates the skin, getting rid of the very same dead skin cells that become trapped in the pore causing a spot. It also soothes the skin, brings down redness and inflammation and dries out the spot. Environ B-Active Sebuwash (€20.00) contains tea tree oil and salicylic acid and works wonders on oily and acne-prone skin.

emergency breakouts


  • Avoid using things that can introduce additional bacteria to the skin or disinfect them. This includes but is not limited to facecloths, phones and makeup brushes. You can apply your makeup with fingers that have been washed with antibacterial soap and you can cleanse with clean hands (or a hyper-clean Cleanse Off Mitt). Maybe continue using your phone though… you might need that. However, give it a wipe with phone-safe, antibacterial wipes… these are the only wipes I will ever own.


  • Do not pop your spots. Popping spots (especially if they are not “ready”) causes scabbing, inflammation and infection and spreads bacteria, causing more breakouts and keeping you in a constant cycle. Popping your acne can also affect your skin in the long term, as in you could be left with permanent scarring and semi-permanent pigment marks.


  • If you have a big, pus-filled, white pustule (ie. the head is very clearly visible under a translucent layer of skin) and you really cannot bear being seen with it, you can go ahead and pop it as this is the only time you should ever pop a spot. Be careful not to draw blood and to sanitise your hands and your skin carefully with anti-bacterial soap and/or hand sanitiser if you are going to do this.


  • Zap the suckers with a spot treatment that includes benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or lactic acid, like Biotrade Cosmeceuticals Acne Out Active Cream (€23.00). Treating the spot this way may cause it to become a little bit cornflakey around the edges but if you are able to trade that off against size and redness, definitely go for it!


emergency breakouts


  • WEAR YOUR SPF!! You should be wearing it everyday anyway, that’s a given. However, the sun can brand you with acne marks if you do not wear SPF, as acne marks are pigmentation.


  • If you have an acne cyst, nodule or a particularly vicious pustule that’s causing you pain, hold ice wrapped in a clean piece of tissue or cloth over it for a while. Ice can bring down the inflammation, even if only temporarily.

All in all, when it comes to acne, the key is prevention with medicated treatments prescribed by your GP or dermatologist alongside a solid skincare routine. Acne can really zap at one’s self esteem, as myself and the sufferers of Team Nerd know, but in the end, it’s ALWAYS a lot less noticeable than the client thinks.

Further reading: Adult Acne: Scars, Marks, Treatment and Prevention, Adult Acne: Why Do Adults Get Acne?

Jennifer Rock

About Jennifer Rock


  • Ali C says:

    Ohhh… I didn’t know that about not drawing blood… I always thought that was the key to making sure the pore was cleared out! Oopps!!
    I do love Acne Out to help zap spots!

  • Claire Hanley says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I recently moved to Vietnam so am very aware of the extra importance of wearing a high SPF everyday..the problem is that the SPF50 is leading to regular breakouts with big spots I haven’t seen since my teenage years! I’ve tried so many different brands including boots Solait, amber Solair, la Roch posé ultra light (anthelios XL) and their invisible fresh mist (which I got sunburned through) and all have the same effect! My skin is generally spot free besides the odd one in my t-zone but now it’s a mess! Do you have any recommendations for an ultra light spf I could wear every day? Any improvement would be welcomed!!


    • Jennifer Rock Jennifer Rock says:

      Hi Claire, if spots are the problem, it’s extra important to go for something non-comedogenic! It may be worth it to give Avène Cleanance SPf 50 a try. x

  • Erin says:

    Hi There,
    I am a follower from NZ.

    I have really poor skin, I have been trying EVERYTHING, from Image ormedic to environ sebu range now to mesoestetic hydra range.
    Nothing works, my diet is clean 80% of the time I drink at least 4 L of water every day, sleep well and exercise 2-5 times a week.

    Have you got any suggestions on how to manage unruled, painful and embarrassing acne (which I get predominantly on my chin, jawline and below my cheek bones?).

    I would really love to have clear skin!

    Thanks in advance, Erin

    • Jennifer Rock Jennifer Rock says:

      Hi Erin, I’d recommend speaking with a GP about this if you haven’t already. Have you had a full and thorough consult? If you haven’t, I’d suggest having one at a local clinic but you are more than welcome to have an online one with us (which would suit you living in NZ)! x

  • Louise says:

    Hi Jennifer. I have been told I have foliculitis on the back of my thighs and behind. Is there anything you recommend using as the tablets I tried from the doctor did nothing. Can be painful spots when it flares up. Thanks

    • Jennifer Rock Jennifer Rock says:

      Folliculitis is usually caused by infection, and in this, a doctor is the only route to go. Sorry about that, Louise x

  • JOSS says:

    Hi Jennifer, I have adult acne in my t zone but my cheeks are the opposite I get psoriasis there. Would these products be suitable for my cheeks as well?

    • Jennifer Rock Jennifer Rock says:

      Hi Joss, there will be an article up on psoriasis this evening but psoriasis is a medical condition so it is important to speak with GP about recommendations x

  • Niamh says:

    Hi Jennifer

    I have been directed to your wonderful page by a friend – having previously been treated with roaccutaine for hormonally triggered acne, i’ve noticed recently that my chin is becoming very uneven again, and monthly hormonal fluctuations becoming obvious in my skin again. I was considering acne out. I have booked for an online consult in Jan but wondering if it’s worth trying in the mean time 🙂

    • Jennifer Rock Jennifer Rock says:

      I hope you’re excited for your consult! The Acne Out Active Lotion is great for bringing down inflammation and helping to dry spots out, definitely worth a try in the mean time, especially as it is reasonably priced! x

  • Eilis says:

    Hey Jennifer 🙂 I would love to hear if you have any suggestions on how treat whiteheads and prevent them? Thank you 🙂

    • Jennifer Rock says:

      Exactly as described in the article – salicylic acid and a full routine that is tailored to your skin! x

  • Megan says:

    Hi Jennifer.

    What sort of moisturisers would you recommend for acne prone and oily skin, for both day and night time! I’ve been using dermalogica medibac wash which has salicylic acid in it, and then a duac cream at night.

    Megan xo

    • Jennifer Rock says:

      Hi Megan, I actually would rate serums much higher than moisturisers. To know your specific skin, we’d need to book you in for an online consult – would you consider this? x

  • D says:

    Hi Jennifer, Just wondering why in some articles are you recommending Image and others its environ for acne – I am so confused I just started to attend consults in an Image salon and now feeling I should have started with Environ – How long should i give it before switching? 🙁 thanks a mil

    • Jennifer Rock says:

      Hi Dawn, I actually don’t really rate going with products from only one brand – I’m a firm believer in using a regime made up of products that suit your skin first and foremost. Have you considered having an online consultation with us? We stock IMAGE, Environ, Skinceuticals and Murad among more than 20 other brands. If you pop an email to, our customer care team can give you some more info and get you on our waiting list! x

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