Photo: 123rf

Not trying to be a drama queen here, but nothing wrecks your face (and your entire life) quite like an acne breakout… or even just a single angry zit. And the worst part is, you’ll never see them coming. Zit onslaughts are more unpredictable than the plots twists in Game of Thrones, and more devastating than the Red Wedding, and frankly, they just seem impossible to plan for and avert. But fret not, here’s everything you need to know to survive a break out.

It comes down to hormones

Photo: Burt’s Bees

One reason these red welts are so unpredictable is because they are often linked to hormonal changes. Pimples may strike just before your period when estrogen levels dip, or when you are super stressed out and cortisol peaks. Even switching or stopping birth control pills and other medication can cause angry zits to flare up.

While you need a long-term strategy in place, you also need emergency SOS on stand-by. Stock up on at least one good targeted spot treatment or acne patch – these tend to be more intensive, and work faster. Try Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Invisible Dots, $56, or Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Targeted Spot Treatment, $28. Both products are formulated with tea tree to eliminate bacteria and calm inflamed skin, as well as salicylic acid to unclog pores.


Time to unplug

Photo: Juice Beauty

And by ‘unplugging’, we don’t mean a social media detox. If blackheads and whiteheads plague you often, you may not be exfoliating enough. Blackheads occur when a large pore is clogged with sebum, which oxidises and turns black. Whiteheads, on the other hand, form when dead skin cells accumulate, plug pores, trap sebum and bacteria, and becomes inflamed.

That said, don’t be overzealous about clearing out your pores. Scrubbing troubled and inflamed skin with a vengeance (and a harsh scrub) is literally beauty suicide! Try incorporating a gentle exfoliant into your daily regime instead. CNP Laboratory A-Clean Purifying Foam Cleanser, $26, delicately lifts off dead skin cells and prevents sebum build up with salicylic acid and amino acids, and Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum, $52.50 from Bud Cosmetics, purifies pores and renews skin with organic fruit acids, salicyclic acids, vitamin C and organic aloe.


Beauty first aid kit

Photo: Innisfree

To set the record straight, you should never burst pimples, no matter how big or ‘ripe’ they seem to you. But, if you’ve accidentally burst one, immediately apply a clean, cold compress to it to help the swelling subside. Once the wound has closed up, apply a balm to reduce scarring. Innisfree Bija Cica Balm, $35, is power-packed with centella leaves to enhance skin’s ability to heal itself and strengthens the skin barrier.


How to camouflage zits impeccably

Photo: Clé de Peau Beauté

Concealers are not one-size-fits-all. Get it wrong, and you might be drawing unwanted attention to your zit instead, warns celebrity makeup artist, Clarence Lee. “The most common mistakes are picking a concealer one or two shades too light, or using illuminating concealers meant for the undereye area – this actually highlights the acne! Another common faux pas is applying too thick a layer and making your blemish look like it’s ‘cracking’,” says Clarence.

“A good acne concealer should have yellowish undertone, not a pink or orangey undertone as this would bring out the redness. Stick with matte cream or stick formulas; watery concealers won’t hold well or provide optimal coverage,” he adds. Clarence recommends Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer, $116, to mask pimples inconspicuously.


Be a clean freak

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It goes without saying that you should clean makeup brushes and sponges regularly – dead skin cells, oil, sweat and product residue accumulate, making them breeding grounds for bacteria! But don’t forget your sunglasses and mobile phones – disinfect them with an alcohol wipe regularly. Some experts believe that mobile phones have more germs than a toilet seat! Imagine adding all that bacteria to your face daily.


Do a beauty audit

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Google ‘comedogenic ingredients’ and you’ll find a long, mind-boggling list of ingredients that can aggravate acne. Common ones include mineral oils, beewax and synthetic lanolin. If you can’t remember them all, try to stick with products that are said to have non-comedogenic ingredients.

Another rule of thumb, if you suffer from acne, avoid stifling your skin with too many products – the various ingredients may interact and irritate your skin. Also, if it’s not already a given, avoid getting any hair product on your face and steer clear of products with strong fragrances – these tend to irritate skin, increase sebum production and clog pores.


SOS on speed-dial

Photo: Porcelain

If you have a respectable threshold for pain, facial extractions are the fastest fix for bumpy and congested skin. While they may vary from uncomfortable to excruciating, depending on your skin condition, they will clear out the solid and fluid contents of oil clogs from within. Try Porcelain Quintessential Face, 120 minutes for $425.86, which includes an extremely thorough extraction, followed up a series of clarifying, soothing and renewing ampoules, serums, tonics and masks. Fair warning: once pores are cleared out, maintenance is key – so cleanse makeup properly and exfoliate skin regularly. Otherwise, they will clog up again in no time.


Try light therapy

Photo: EstheClinic

If you suffer from chronic breakouts, an aesthetic doctor or dermatologist can offer more lasting solutions and prevent scarring. Try LED therapies such as EstheClinic Soothe and Becalm LED Photomodulation Treatment, 30 minutes for $150. Blue light eliminates acne-causing bacteria and regulates sebum production, and red light soothes inflammation, accelerates skin renewal and even supports the healing of scars. Expect improvements after 8 to 12 bi-weekly treatments.

Lasers such as Mizu Aesthetic Accelera Laser for Acne, 20 minutes for $250, also zap zit effectively. This uses cutting-edge nano-second and sub-millisecond lasers to kill P-acne bacteria responsible for acne, reduce facial hair that contributes to clog pores, and rejuvenate the skin. Your acne should improve after two to five monthly or fortnightly sessions. Plus, it’s pretty painless and it feels like gentle warm prickling.