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?