Uh-oh! What's that on your face? Could it be... the outward sign of a small infection under the surface of your skin... that is, a pimple? A ZIT? The horror!
If you are like me, in your early 30s, you have had way more blemishes in the last decade than you ever did as a teenager. The best non-prescription pimple-targeted remedies all have benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid in them; which one you should use depends on your skin (the effectiveness of each is up for debate, but in general, benzoyl peroxide can be too harsh for some people's skin). Since you may not actually be expecting your skin to go crazy, you may not have an over-the-counter acne medication sitting around the house... let alone something pricey like Proactiv Solution or the Zeno Acne Treatment Device.
Do not despair! You'll find some at-home blemish remedies using common household substances right after the break. These solutions really work, though most don't work quite as well as actual acne medication.
From now on, we're going to assume that you've washed your face: keep your little "friend" clean.
We're also going to assume that if you're applying something gooey and sticky to your problem area, you're going to cover it with one of those circular or square adhesive bandages, about an inch wide, that are made just to cover things like paper cuts, bee stings, and zits. That way, whatever you put on your face won't get into your hair and all over your pillow at night.
Finally, don't use any of these suggestions around your eyes or on mucous membranes (but you shouldn't be using regular acne cream there, either). And remember that these suggestions will help the occasional pimple: if you have full-scale cystic acne or a mystery rash on your face, please see a doctor.
A lot of prescription acne creams include an antibiotic and a cortisone. I'm not going to claim that my cheat will be as effective as a prescription cream, but the fact is, you probably have both of these things sitting in your medicine cabinet, in the form of an antibiotic cream like Neosporin (I like the kind with pain-relieving lidocaine in it), and the form of a hydrocortisone anti-itch cream (not an antihistamine anti-itch cream like Benadryl: look for hydrocortisone on the label).
Get a cotton swab, and dab your trouble spot with a little bit of each. This is probably the best thing you can do for your face... in fact, it's a good idea to do this on blemishes every so often even if you do have an over-the-counter acne remedy. If you only have one of the two creams, use what you have.
You don't have those things? Well, OK. How about some aspirin? Aspirin and salicylic acid are very chemically similar; they're both derived from willow bark. Salicylic acid works on acne by giving your skin a mild chemical peel, bringing new skin to the surface. You can crush up an aspirin -- unbuffered is probably better -- and make a thick paste with a drop or three of water. Use a cotton swab to apply to your blemish.
No aspirin, either? (What do you keep in that medicine cabinet, anyway?) Do you have honey around the house? Honey has amazing antiseptic properties. Pour out a little bit of honey onto something clean. Get your trusty cotton swab (you do have those, right?) and use it to dab some honey onto your blemish. You'll need to leave the honey for a few hours, or overnight.
But what if you have no antibiotic cream, no hydrocortisone cream, no aspirin, and no honey? You can try toothpaste. It has to be paste, not gel or a swirl: you're looking for something like plain original Colgate. Use it exactly as you would use the honey: dab it onto a blemish, cover, leave overnight.
You can't do any of that? Really? Well, try keeping your face as clean as you can (don't over-wash or stop moisturizing, but do make sure you wash at least twice a day and keep your hands away from your face). Also, you can tone down the redness of any blemish by covering it with an ice cube for a few minutes. The cold will reduce inflammation.
If all of this stuff is out of your reach, get your car keys or your walking shoes. The best thing to do for yourself would be to head out to the store and buy a tube of over-the-counter acne medication... or some antibiotic cream, hydrocortisone cream, aspirin, honey, and toothpaste.