There’s nothing worse than when a monster zit starts to take over your face. And, that always seems to happen at the worst times — a first date, the morning of your dream-job interview, your wedding day. While most people believe the best way to get rid of a blemish is to dry it out, that could be the worst thing you could do. In fact, that’s exactly why it’s bad to overload your skin with alcohol, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide — the active ingredients in modern-day acne treatments. Stripping the skin of moisture to the point that it cracks can cause bacteria to spread and the infection to get worse.
So, what does work? Salves. “They’re old-school, but they work to help balance the skin,” says Doris Day, MD, dermatologist and founder of Day Dermatology & Aesthetics in NYC. We know what you’re thinking: You want me to use something that feels like sap on my blemish-prone skin?! While it might seem that something so thick and tacky would clog pores more and make matters worse, salves actually help soothe the skin, protect wounds, and draw out any infections lurking within.
“The ingredients vary from one salve to the next, but basically it creates an environment locally where the skin has to give something up to maintain its pH balance,” Dr. Day says. “For example, charcoal, sulfur, clay — ingredients that are often used in drawing salves — are drier than the skin, so the pimple will give up the moisture and draw out the infection to create that balance.”
So, what types of breakouts are these balms best for? “Everything but blackheads,” Dr. Day says. “In fact, they are great for cystic acne, because they draw out the excess moisture and calm the skin without irritating it.” Keep clicking for five salves that will zap your zits in no time.