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Pre-Wedding Breakout? Here’s How to Clear It Up in Time

Posted on: June 1st, 2023 by Kristen Chang

This article was edited by Stefan Lowenstein, MD.

Your wedding day: a once-in-a-lifetime event, when you want to look your absolute best. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most likely times to suffer an unsightly breakout. “Why??!” you may ask, shaking your fist at the pimples in the mirror.

Largely, in a word: stress. On top of all the complexion-menacing alcohol and feasts that typically lead up to the wedding, you may be feeling pressure and anxiety and having trouble sleeping. Understandable, with your ridiculously long to-do list, the logistical lunacy and the myriad of important details. It can trigger the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, which throws your production of sebum into hyperdrive. This clogs pores and enables bacteria to thrive, creating pimples… which can add to your stress, further boosting cortisol to fuel a vicious cycle!

Try as you might to manage stress using methods from massage to meditation, you may still find yourself with a pre-wedding breakout. Whatever you do, don’t panic — that will only make cortisol levels worse. Breathe easily, knowing that there are things you can do to clear up your skin in time for all those guests and photos. Your best approach will depend on how much time you have left before the big event. 

What to Do About a Breakout Two Weeks Before Your Wedding 

You’ve survived most of the lead-up to the main event — congratulations! Breaking out now gives you enough time to clear up your skin with little risk of damaging it. Be patient. If these methods don’t do it, you have more aggressive options down the road.

Keep your skin clean.

Acne CleanserIt is important to wash your face on a regular basis. A complexion-friendly option is the Acne Cleanser. It removes impurities and uses medical-grade salicylic acid and glycolic acid to exfoliate, without triggering a rise in sebum production. 

Another important way to minimize bacteria is to avoid touching your face. Sounds easy enough but, in a study in the NIH National Library of Medicine, participants were observed touching their faces an average of 23 times per hour. Hands are teeming with germs and bacteria. Keep them off of your face for happier skin.

Choose your moisturizer wisely.

It may seem counterintuitive to use face cream when you have acne-prone skin. However, if you don’t replenish what cleansing removes, you risk stimulating skin to overproduce oil. Whatever moisturizer you use, make sure it’s “non-comedogenic” so it won’t block your pores. Products containing vitamin A derivatives such as retinol and retinyl palmitate remove dead skin cells and reduce oil production, plus offer anti-aging effects. A lightweight, oil-free lotion with retinyl palmitate, Moisture Dew is also kind to sensitive skin.

Don’t pop your pimples.

It’s so tempting! But despite some momentary pressure relief, popping zits can push bacteria deeper into the pores causing a worse infection, longer healing time and lasting pock marks. It is always best to never pop your pimples.

Acne PadsSpot treat using Acne Pads with 2% BHA salicylic acid and 5% AHA glycolic acid. Also protect the rest of your face against new breakouts by applying a gentler exfoliating product like Acne Treatment Serum with 1.9% salicylic acid, antiseptics witch hazel and tea tree, and soothing ingredients including aloe vera and green tea.

Apply warm compresses.

Morning, evening and a couple times during the day, open up your pores using moist, steamy heat. Drench a clean washcloth in hot water, then hold it against pimples and clogged pores for 10 to 15 minutes. 

See a dermatologist.

Make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist, as they can provide a medical diagnosis and tailor a treatment plan just for you.

What to Do about a Breakout with One Week until Your Wedding 

You’re in the final stretch. Only one week to go! At this point, calming and clearing a breakout in time for your wedding may require taking assertive steps to purify, de-stress and unclog congested, acne prone skin.

Refresh your face products.

Limit the face products you use to ones you know are clean, new and good for sensitive, acne-prone skin. Use only non-comedogenic products without perfumes or other potential irritants. Get rid of anything that could be expired or contaminated. Likely hosts of bacteria are products like pressed powder, blush and creams applied with a reused applicator or the fingers. Make sure you replace them with the same products or very gentle ones to avoid risking an adjustment period.

Exfoliate at home. 

Avoid treating breakouts with physical exfoliants. Particularly if particles have any pointy edges, they can cause microtears and inflammation in the skin. Opt instead for products that gently remove dead skin using chemical ingredients. For instance, the papain in Papaya Enzyme Cleanser is a non-irritating way to dissolve dead skin and debris. If your skin is already used to glycolic acid, Glycolic 10% Treatment Pads are a good, stronger choice. New to glycolic? Spot treat by dabbing pads only directly onto pimples.

Get a professional facial.

A pampering facial can do wonders to relax you and reduce cortisol levels. Add on a clinical-grade glycolic peel to help unblock pores and get rid of pimples, while further freshening the appearance of stress-addled skin. Just make sure to book your aesthetician at least five days before your wedding or any important photoshoots. You may continue sloughing off dead skin for a few days after a peel.

What to Do about a Breakout Two Days before Your Wedding 

It’s probably too late in the game to rid yourself of a breakout entirely, but you can definitely calm swelling. The flatter your pimples, the easier they are to conceal with makeup. 

Get a cortisone shot.

A steroid injection is a great “nuclear option” in a pinch. It gets rid of inflammation to reduce the red color quickly. Cortisone also helps your skin heal itself faster. Make your appointment as soon as possible. Results are rapid, but you should allow at least a couple days for noticeable improvement. 

Use a strong spot treatment.

Acne Defense GelBenzoyl peroxide is a powerful antiseptic. Not recommended for regular use all over the skin, it is great applied directly to a breakout to kill off bacteria and dry up pimples. Acne Defense Gel, with 5% benzoyl peroxide USP, can be used up to three times daily, but pare back or discontinue if you experience sensitivity.

Go for an acne extraction.

Find the closest California Skin Institute location with aesthetician services, and explain the emergency. See if you can be seen for same-day pimple extractions. Your licensed aesthetician will use a highly controlled, sterile process to manually express plugs from your pores, finishing with a deep cleanse and prep. The entire process can take close to half an hour, and your skin may look agitated directly afterwards. By the time your wedding arrives, your skin should be looking smoother, clearer and more serene.  

What to Do about a Breakout on Your Wedding Day

Now, you should be focusing on yourself and preparing to make your grand entrance. Hopefully you got a full night of restorative sleep and you’ve been staying hydrated, with no overindulging at the rehearsal dinner if you had one. But even if you’ve been following all the best advice, today is a big deal. Stress may stick you with some last-minute pimples.

Cover up blemishes.

If you’ve engaged a talented makeup artist, they’ll have a bag of tricks for hiding zits. Otherwise, YouTube should offer just the tutorials for you. Either way, make sure that the only products to touch your skin are gentle and “non-comedogenic,” so not pore clogging.                 

Protect your skin from the sun.

 Unprotected sun exposure will further inflame your breakout, and any exfoliating treatments will have made your skin very vulnerable to sun damage. If you’ll spend any time outside today, wear a long-lasting sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF against both UVA and UVB rays. Both Physical Tinted BB Cream Sunscreen with oil control and Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield Flex SPF 50 can be worn under makeup, doubling as a tinted, color-evening primer. Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-On Shield SPF 50 works as a mattifying finishing powder over makeup.

Edit pimples away.

Remember that photos are easy to edit. Your photographer will be able to remove any and all imperfections. Even your guests should have no trouble using standard smartphone software to give you a perfect complexion. The pimples can be your shared secret.

Relax and Enjoy Your Beautiful Wedding

You may have broken out, but you don’t have to let it blemish the beauty of your life-changing event. There are things you can do to subdue a pimple invasion quickly, and you can see a skin professional for more advanced solutions. In the end, don’t forget that the guests at your wedding will be some of your and your partner’s favorite people in the world. They’re there to support you. It’s your special day, so enjoy it — pimples or no pimples.

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