Zit zapping: Here's how

Zoë Foster

Do I apply my zit zapper product before or after my face cream? – Holly.

Hol, even if I had somehow taken ownership of a wishing well, several magic lamps and a small, powerful gypsy, I could not have wished for a better question.

It seems insignificant, but is actually quite important because as with sunscreen, the order of application means the difference between your prodz being able to do their job properly and effectively, and them wandering around aimlessly, out of work, kicking tyres and hustling for cigarette money.

The short answer: Apply them before.

The long answer: There are several types of blemish zappers one can use on one’s spots, which I might just go over quickly, because it’s so fun.

You might choose…

– A benzoyl peroxide product, which will work to clear out the bacteria and dry up the spot. Try: Danné Montague-King’s 5% Benzoyl Peroxide Lotion or Dermalogica’s special clearing booster. Note: Benzoyl peroxide can be drying and irritate-y for sensitive skinned dames. Go easy. Another note: Benzoyl peroxide is particularly good for blind pimples, although you shouldn’t really be giving your pimples beer in the first place, in my opinion.

– A drawing paste, which uses gentle ingredients like clay, sulfur and zinc oxide to draw out the whitehead, purify the skin and reduce redness. They are best to use at night so that in the morning the whitehead will (“should”) show on the surface and you can hygienically extract it with a tissue, not your paws. I love Payot’s Pate Grise for this. So much. And it lasts for years.

– A salicylic acid-based anti-spot gel, which you apply directly to spots with an applicator or cotton tip (never fingers!) and which calms the spot down and helps with redness and inflammation.  Try: Clinique Acne Solutions Spot Healing Gel Salicylic Acid Acne Medication or Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Pimple Cream.


Or one that does everything in one, like my beloved Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion (a small bottle of magic with a calamine and salicylic acid lotion to soothe and calm the skin down while purifying it, and a pink “clay” made of zinc oxide and sulfur at the bottom to draw the whiteheads out.) One thing to note with this guy is that you do NOT shake him – just dip a cotton tip through to the bottom of bottle so you get some pink clay on the tip, then dab on to spots so you’re getting both the liquid and clay on there at once.

Whichever of these you are using, you should be using it on clean, freshly washed skin so the ingredients can penetrate properly and do their thing.

Allow the spot(s) to dry for a few minutes and then apply your face cream.

And do apply face cream, peaches! Just because you have some spots, does not mean your skin suddenly doesn’t need moisture. In fact, as most spot-treatment lotions dry your skin out, in order to kill the blemish, you must keep them all VERY TARGETED on the actual spot, (otherwise you’ll end up with a really cute, big flaky, dry patch, like I always do) and keep up the moisturiser as per usual. If you happen to have one that is non-scented and non-irritating, even better.

Following this is makeup. Your usual foundation is fine, (mineral is optimal, if possible, as it’s not only not going to piss your spots off, it will calm and help heal them) but I keep a dedicated blemish concealer for specific spot coverage. The pen-style ones are good, as you’re not dipping back in and spreading bacteria around. (There are pleeeenty of these out there: The Body Shop does one with tea tree oil, Glo minerals does a great one and Almay does too.) Set with powder so that shining great whitehead don’t pop through.

Finally, I would like to state for the jury here that it’s best to REALLY treat spots at night; the less cream and makeup on top of these prodz, the better. Especially if you’re using the pastes, which look gross and are not really meant to for the eyes of your adoring fans (“the public.”) The salicylic spot treatments are good for day under makeup, though. (And even on top of makeup, if things are getting a bit angry mid-way through the day and need calming.)

The wrong answer: Persimmons.

Zoe is an author, columnist and porridge fan. She was beauty director of Cosmopolitan, Harper’s BAZAAR and PRIMPED and then collated all the best tips and tricks from her time in these roles for the beauty bible, Amazing Face. She is currently the dating columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine, although her best advice in this arena can probably be found in the dating and relationship guide, Textbook Romance , which she co-wrote with Hamish Blake. Zoe has published three novels, Air Kisses, Playing The Field and The Younger Man, and she rates them among the best novels ever written in the history of the written word. Find more info on her here, or supervise on her daily procrastination here and here.

Please understand that Zoë cannot respond to ALL your questions – but never fear, there are readers that are bound to know the answers, so don’t be afraid to ask – and answer!

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