This Super-Effective Zit Treatment Is Not What You Expect

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.
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Smile’s Prid Homeopathic Drawing Salve

Next time you want to pop a pimple, slather on Prid instead. While the brown, sap-like salve looks, well, gross, it will leave your skin smooth and clear. And, it doesn’t just work on tiny pimples. The active ingredients include: Arnica montana, which eases pain and swelling; Hepar sulfur, which relieves abscesses and boils; and silica, which heals eruptions. Simply put: This stuff is like the Holy Grail for cystic, chronic, and severe acne. While the company claims that it can take up to 12 days to see results, some users have witnessed a planet-size pimple disappear overnight.
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Dr. Christopher’s Black Drawing Ointment

The ingredients in this drawing salve sound more like stuff you’d use for cooking in your kitchen: extra-virgin olive oil, red clover, comfrey root, chaparral leaf, lobelia herb, and plantain leaf. But, its potent zit-zapping properties are something to behold. Chickweed relieves rashes, boils, and breakouts, while marshmallow root forms a soothing film over mucous membranes and helps calm inflamed, irritated tissues.
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Lucas’ Papaw Ointment

Dr. Thomas Pennington Lucas, a Scottish native who moved to Australia in 1876, created this cult-status salve while working at the Vera Papaw Hospital in Brisbane. The shockingly simple formula only contains three natural ingredients: fresh fermented carica papaya; pharmaceutical-grade petroleum jelly and wax; and gum balsam peru (to give it a slight scent). The antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of the fruit acids not only help nix a zit fast, but can be used to heal chapped skin, minor burns, cuts, rashes, insect bites, and eczema, and expunge splinters.

While it started as a heal-all for hospital patients, today it’s just as essential for celeb makeup artists. Recently, Melanie Inglessis (who works with Lea Michele, Olivia Wilde, Rosamund Pike, and Kate Hudson) showed off her giant-size jar on Instagram, captioning it: “Sometimes you just need a big pot of Lucas’ Papaw Ointment!!”
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J.R. Watkins Petro-Carbo First Aid Salve

What started out as a staple in the medicine cabinets of hunting and fishing lodges has grown into a universal skin-saver. The sappy ointment works much like bacitracin (Neosporin). The active ingredient, phenol (carbolic acid), is an antimicrobial agent that helps kill bacteria and heal infections. Bonus: The salve contains camphor, oil of spruce, and the tea-tree relative cajeput, which provides a cool sensation that helps soothe and calm acne that is tender, sore, or cystic.
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Egyptian Magic

The packaging looks a little gimmicky, but this “magical” balm is a serious multitasker. The all-natural ointment was formulated in 1991 with just six ingredients: honey, beeswax, olive oil, royal jelly, bee pollen, and bee propolis.

While the brand promotes it mostly for moisturizing purposes (for skin and hair), it has also gained traction as a serious anti-acne treatment. The honey’s antibacterial properties not only put the breaks on a blemish, but also provide additional benefits that most acne products don’t: minimizing scarring and erasing any signs post-breakout. (For that reason, it’s become huge in Hollywood for post-plastic surgery.) A-list fans include Cara Delevingne and Rachel Zoe.
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Charcoal has proven to be a buzzy beauty ingredient that actually works. How? It draws gunk out of pores — it's that simple. Activated with charcoal powder, this salve is a game-changer because it’s made with all-natural ingredients that are gentle, yet effective. When the ointment is applied to the acne-affected area it helps to bring the cyst or pimple to the skin’s surface and helps to drain the oil, without pissing off with the surrounding skin. Bonus, it's super versatile and can be used to relieve boils, wounds, splinters, and bee stings. So if your skin is prone to infection or irritation, it might be worth popping some of this stuff in your medicine cabinet.

Old Amish Remedy Charcoal Acne Salve, $22.99, available at Etsy.
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