As much as I believe that acne is an internal problem with an external manifestation, (and therefore needs to be treated internally), sometimes you desperately need an effective short term solution, especially in an emergency, and this is where Dr. Terry Dubrow’s acne treatment comes in. This is a great approach to use when you need something quick and effective before a big night out or an important event. I first discovered this technique several years ago when I read Dr. Dubrow’s book “The Acne Cure.” Dr. Dubrow is the former director of the Acne Clinic of Newport Beach, and a board certified plastic surgeon with over 30 papers published in peer reviewed journals.
Here are the steps to treat blemishes according to his method:
- Use an ice pack to cool the area of the breakout until it’s wet and cold to the touch, taking care not to freeze your skin
- Apply salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to the affected areas, running an ice cube over your fingers and palm first so that you don’t heat the product (you should store your acne treatment in the fridge to keep it cold – this makes it even more effective)
- Once the application is complete, place an ice pack on the breakout and leave in place for no more than 10 minutes, it’s very important not to freeze your skin as this can cause damage
- Once finished, remove any excess product and leave the residue in place to kill the p.acnes bacteria overnight
I’ve personally tried this method many times and it works. The key is to start treatment as soon as you see/feel a blemish developing, as getting on it early will give you dramatically better results. The reason why this cold method works so well is that it reduces the inflammation in the pore, opening it up so that the medication can penetrate more deeply and kill the bacteria a lot faster than it would with just a straight application. Furthermore, the cold also reduces swelling in the nearby pores, thus reducing the possibility that additional pores will become clogged. And last but not least, although the cold initially shrinks your blood vessels and opens your pores, the body soon responds by gradually sending blood to the area to warm it up, and re-swelling will not occur as the process is slow. With this increased blood flow, you now have the added benefit of the healing powers of the extra white blood cells now coming to the area. (The Acne Cure, p.59, 60).
What I love the most about this method is that it’s DIY + produces great results with low risk and low cost. It’s an excellent alternative to cortisone shots, which “…can lead to a problem called fat atrophy. Fat atrophy causes loss of fatty tissue, which can lead to dimpling of the skin” according to the BayCare Clinic of Wisconsin. These indentations in the fatty tissue surrounding the cortisone injection site can take 6-9 months to resolve, and sometimes they never resolve at all, which means you either have to accept it or consider injectable fillers.
As effective as it is, there are limitations to this approach. It will significantly reduce swelling, redness + discomfort, but it usually won’t make your zit totally disappear overnight. What it will do is make it a lot easier for you to cover it up and help you get through that date, party or work event with confidence, and it will also shorten the life of the breakout if you continue the treatments. That said, the other major limitation of this approach is that it is not optimal for treating mass breakouts, it’s far more ideal for that lone monster zit or mini breakouts in concentrated areas. It’s also important to remember that this cold method is just one facet of Dr. Dubrow’s overall approach to acne treatment. For more info on his whole program, check out his book “The Acne Cure,” just keep in mind that the approach outlined in the book is topical, not holistic, and therefore may have limitations in terms of long-term efficacy in resolving acne.
To sum up, this is a phenomenal short term emergency fix for that dreaded breakout that has you stressing right before a major life event, and isn’t that when they always seem to happen? And while acne ultimately needs to be treated holistically for sustainable results, this cold method has saved me from many a beauty crisis, and I hope it saves you too.