How to Get Rid of Pimples: An A-to-Z Guide to the Most Effective Pimple Treatments

Pimples are a fact of life for every human with pores. So it's only natural that everyone is looking for answers to how to get rid of pimples once and for all.

The truth is that there are tons of pimple treatments on the market but most don't work. So how do you pick the most effective ones? Well, when it comes to pimple treatments, forget the brands and forget the packaging because the most important thing that determines whether it will work or not is the product's active ingredients.

We've rounded up the top 10 heavy hitters that get rid of pimples. Some act immediately to calm red, inflamed pimples and dry them out while others penetrate deep into your pores to de-gunk, de-clog and prevent future breakouts.

Needless to say, many of the best pimple fighting ingredients below are most effective when combined - wisely, of course. Read on to get the scoop on how each ingredient works, what skin types it's best for and everything else you need to know to ensure another pimple never disgraces your face again!

When it comes to simple pimple remedies, we've found that the most effective ones are often all-natural, cost-effective and easy to make in the comfort of your own home. If you're on the hunt for some supersonic pimple busters, look no further than these simple ingredients below!

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal has made quite a splash in the natural remedies and beauty blogosphere, but it's a remedy that's been around for ages. Thanks to its high degree of absorbency, activated charcoal has long been used to treat poisoning and overdoses.

In fact, if you've ever been to the emergency room for food poisoning or a drug overdose (we hope not - drugs are really bad for your skin), you've probably already experienced how effective charcoal is at binding to poison and harmful drugs and filtering the toxins out of your blood stream.

But that's not all it's good for - when applied externally, activated charcoal draws out dirt, oil, and general ickiness from your pores. Unlike regular pimple-busting ingredients that dry out the pimple or remove just skin debris and superficial dirt, charcoal not only eliminates dead skin cells but also clears even the bacteria and their toxins, as well as deeply buried microscopic grime.

Result? Reduced pimples and pores that can breathe again.

Oh, and did we mention that activated charcoal is all-natural? It's great for your pores and won't hurt the environment - the perfect pimple buster!

Wondering activated charcoal has any other benefits? AC isn't just good for pimples. This stuff has a plethora of additional beauty benefits, including helping the healing of wounds (good bye acne scars), alleviating itchy, rashy skin conditions (and bug bites!), as well as eliminating body odor on underarms, feet, and scalp (thanks yet again, to its super absorbency). It's even rumored to help reduce cellulite.

Here are the best ways to use activated charcoal to get rid of pimples...​

Azelaic Acid

The moment you apply Azelaic Acid on your skin, you'll know why it's a cult favorite. It goes on smoothly, instantly matte-ifies, and if you have red, inflamed skin, you'll notice relief within a few hours. 

After all, that's what Azelaic Acid does best - decreasing inflammation and fighting bacteria. It works in part by inhibiting the growth of acne-causing bacteria​ and also works to change the way cells mature and proliferate, eventually decreasing clogged pores. The result? Less pimples, less blackheads and less whiteheads. Hurrah!

But it's good deeds don't stop there - Azelaic Acid also makes sure your pimples don't leave behind any nasty brown spots. It's actually able to selectively target hyperactive pigment-producing cells (like acne spots, dark spots and other hyper-pigmentation) while leaving normal melanocytes alone. This makes it one of the best ingredients to also get rid of hyper-pigmentation, even if you have darker skin. 

Here are the best ways to use azelaic acid to get rid of pimples...​

Benzoyl Peroxide

If you’ve ever had a pimple, you’d heard of benzoyl peroxide. It’s one of the most well-known over-the-counter pimple remedies and for good reason - it kills acne-causing bacteria, gets rid of excess oil and helps exfoliate dead skin cells.

In the process, it can encourage your skin ​to dry and peel, causing it to be a little too drying for some people. The good news is that Benzoyl Peroxide products typically come in strengths ranging from 2.5 percent up to 10 percent so if you have sensitive or dry skin, you might want to go with a lower concentration. 

A good option is to also opt for a pimple spot treatment that contains Benzoyl Peroxide. That way you don't run the risk of drying out your skin - only the pimples that occur. ​

Here are the best ways to use benzoyl peroxide to get rid of pimples...​


At the root of the pimple problem lies the double-headed Medusa of excessive oil production and clogged pores. Know what can slay that Medusa in a matter of minutes? Simple, humble clay. 

Healing clay can be used to remove toxins and impurities from the body and your pores (just like activated charcoal does). It has been used throughout history for this purpose, and has recently gained traction in the beauty industry.

It gets its unique absorbing power due to the way it combines with water. Once combined, the clay swells and becomes porous, drawing out any impurities it comes in contact with - dirt, dead skin cells, excess sebum, and whatever else is lurking in your pores.

There are a billion and one clay products out there but when you're looking for the best clays for pimples, we suggest you go with the most absorbent, deep-cleansing clays. 

Here are the best clays to get rid of pimples...​

Blue Light Therapy

Light therapy is different from every other pimple treatment on this list but that doesn't make it any less effective. In fact, it's one of the best known, proven treatments to decrease pimple and acne-causing bacteria. 

The way it works is simple: Blue light kills acne-causing bacteria (P. acnes) found in the oil glands in the skin while the infrared light (heat) causes the oil glands to shrink in size.  The result? Less acne-causing bacteria and less oil in the skin, which naturally leads to less pimples. 

Blue light therapy is especially useful for treating red, inflamed pimples but the best thing about it is that it's safe to use no matter how sensitive your skin is since it targets bacteria and excess sebum without drying out or irritating your skin. 

The bad news is that blue light treatments can add up pretty quickly - they range from $35 to $300 per session! The good news? You can get a blue light home device that allows you to give yourself as many sessions as necessary, whenever you want. 

Here are the best home blue light devices to get rid of pimples...​


Retinols are a derivative of Vitamin A that are pretty much the MacGyver of skin care products. In case you're too young to understand that reference, we simply mean that retinols are good for everything, and we mean everything from wrinkles to hyperpigmentation to fighting pimples and acne. 

The way it works is deceptively simple: Retinols are a keratolytic treatment that dissolves dead skin layers. And it does so at a much deeper level than traditional exfoliators like scrubs do, which is why many people experience redness and peeling when they first begin using retinols. 

But the initial redness and dryness is worth it - retinols increase cell turnover while clearing away dead skin cells, making clogged pores a thing of the past. In the process, not only does it get rid of pimples and acne, but it also whisks away blackheads, fine lines and hyperpigmentation. 

Here are the best retinols to get rid of pimples...​

Salicylic Acid

Every pimple you've ever had has been a combination of excess oil and clogged pores erupting into that red, angry bump you now desperately want to get rid of. 

One of the best pimple treatments that can do that for you? Salicylic acid. ​

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy-acid (BHA) that's oil soluble, which means it can penetrate deep in your pores​ for some serious "de-gunking." It's also great for speeding up cell turnover so you have less risk of being left with an annoying post-pimple scar.

The best thing about this pimple treatment? It clears out your pores and reduces excess oil production so that you get rid of your existing pimple and fight future blemishes. Win win.

Here are the best ways to use salicylic acid to get rid of pimples...​


Sulfur on your skin sounds kinda scary until you remember that sulfur's actually a natural mineral that's crucial to the overall health of your skin. It's been used since ancient times to treat all sort of skin conditions from acne to psoriasis and it's still one of the most widely used products to combat acne and breakouts as well as control excess oil on your skin.

It basically works as an efficient cleaner, with mildly antiseptic properties which help to gently remove dirt from pores and boasts both comedolytic and keratolytic properties. In English, this simply means that sulfur works to get rid of and prevent blemishes that form when oil and skin cells get trapped in your pores as well as to activate shedding and exfoliation of pesky dead skin cells, dirt and oil lodged in your skin.

On top of all that, sulfur helps reduce oiliness and dry out existing blemishes in an effective yet gentle manner. It's been shown to be as effective as Benzoyl Peroxide - without the harshness and irritation that BP can cause.

The end result? A brighter, clearer, smoother complexion - hooray! ‘OK so I am convinced, but how do I use it?’ you ask. 

Here are the best ways to use sulfur to get rid of pimples...​

Tea Tree Oil

For a completely natural pimple remedy, tea tree oil is pretty potent. It's got antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help kill bacteria and calm painful, inflamed pimples. It's so powerful, in fact, that research has shown that 5% tea tree oil has results comparable to 5% benzoyl peroxide! Take that, chemicals!

But like benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil can be a little too ​drying or harsh for some people. So if you've got sensitive skin or skin conditions like eczema, this is one natural pimple remedy you might want to shy away from. 

On the other hand, if you have stubborn pimples and not-overly-sensitive skin, you'll want to take advantage of this toxin-free, all natural pimple treatment. And when it comes to how to use it, you're spoiled for choice.

Here are the best ways to use tea tree oil to get rid of pimples...​

Zinc Oxide

Zinc oxide is a mineral that's best known for its role in diaper rash creams and natural sunscreens. And just like it helps dry and soothe baby bottoms, it also helps calm down red, inflamed pimples. 

Sounds crazy, right? But this is exactly why diaper rash cream has proved so effective for getting rid of pimples and acne.

If you're wondering how it works, the approach is multi-pronged. For started, zinc kills acne-causing bacteria. It can even work against anti-biotic resistant bacteria on the skin!

But it doesn't just kill bacteria, zinc also reduces your skin's inflammatory response. And this is hugely important when it comes to blemishes since pimples become red and painful when bacteria enters a blocked pore, causing irritation and infection. Zinc calms things down, reducing redness and inflammation.

Zinc may still be a "secret" pimple remedy but skin care formulators are catching on and there are a lot of great anti-pimple products featuring zinc oxide as one of the active ingredients. 

Here are the best zinc oxide products to get rid of pimples...​



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