Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/27/2021
Nobody Googles “overnight zit treatment” for a good reason. We’re not sure what circumstances brought you to this moment, but whether it’s a big date, a presentation, picture day or dinner with that toxic relative that always judges your skin, you’re probably here looking for a lifeline.
Acne crops up in the worst of times, and it tends to do that as if conscious of its big moment to mess with your complexion and confidence.
Whether you’re dousing yourself in tea tree oil, covering your face in pimple patches or scraping the dead skin cells from your face like Lady Macbeth trying to wash her hands, you can put the desperate act products down.
Acne is not something you can clear up before the break of dawn, and although some women’s magazines might tell you otherwise, acne products on the market today aren’t going to “disappear” your zits overnight.
There are treatments you can use to clear your skin quickly, safely and effectively, but they’re not going to work while you sleep.
One of the biggest reasons that overnight acne treatments aren’t possible is the complex nature of acne itself.
Acne isn’t just clogged pores and sebum production — it’s a complicated imbalance in a microbiome the size of your pore.
Acne is one of the common skin conditions people lament. Zits are the result of a serious breakdown of your skin’s typical dead skin cell shedding process within your hair follicles.
The result of this breakdown is clogged pores, which are usually followed by a bacterial infection caused by dead cells, oil production and bacteria saturating the pore.
Acne is the result of a mixture of oil and dead cells accumulating in that pore and creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which in turn overrun the pore and cause what we know as acne.
Plenty of things can trigger acne, including an imbalance due to poor diet or dehydration. It may even occur as a result of the climate’s toll on your skin, or simply from imbalances in one type of hormone, called androgens.
Androgens drastically increase your skin’s oil output through the sebaceous gland. Oil (also called sebum) is normally produced to lubricate dead cells so they slide out more easily, but it can also act like the perfect incubator for bacteria in the wrong circumstances.
As you can probably tell from the above information, acne is about rebalancing the various elements of skin health — decreasing sebum production, increasing moisture levels, removing lingering dead skin cells and generally turning oily skin and dry skin into healthy skin.
To treat a zit, you must unclog the pore, disinfect the pore and get that pore back to full health.
You may also have to deal with irritated skin and skin inflammation, which aren’t things that are going to go away in a finger snap. Inflamed skin may take time to respond to treatments.
How water compresses, warm water compresses, clay masks, tea tree oil and other natural ingredients may indeed help your skin health, but none of them are going to do that overnight from a single application — if they did, there wouldn’t be so many products on the market.
Topical medications and topical products are really effective for skin issues, but the worst thing that can happen is further damage in the form of a chemical burn or allergic reaction.
If you have sensitive skin or other complicating issues, rebalancing the microbiome in your pores is going to be even more complicated.
No, there’s not a safe overnight option in this list. There are, however, many safe, effective acne treatments out there — they just may take time.
Sorry, but getting rid of pimples overnight is a myth. You can think of a zit as a lot of things: a wound, an infection, a sore or a skin irritation. Know what those things have in common? The healing process takes days or more.
Zits aren’t going to go away immediately, and one of the worst things you can do to your skin is try to force that change.
Scrubbing your face raw, popping the zit at home, squeezing it or otherwise manipulating the skin in the affected area all may seem like ways to make it “go away,” but the momentary improvement from popping and picking at a zit is often quickly replaced by redness, further irritation and the risk of spreading that bacteria to other pores.
This happens because when you improperly pop a pimple, you can let more bacteria in or push the bacteria deeper into your skin, causing more problems.
The otherwise safe and effective treatments, meanwhile, aren’t going to move very fast. The folks at the American Academy of Dermatology get it.
That’s why their first recommendation for people who are trying to deal with stubborn acne is to give the treatment four whole weeks to work.
Even stronger antimicrobials like benzoyl peroxide typically take at least five days to show results.
So what’s the fastest way to prevent acne? Well, to never let them form in the first place. In fact, the prevention methods for acne have a lot in common with the treatment methods.
There’s a reason for that: acne control is about rebalancing your skin’s health, moisture levels and other function factors to make your face and other areas a healthy place for skin cells and an unlivable place for bacteria.
Topical treatments for oil are easy to pick up over the counter. From blotting papers, to astringents like witch hazel or certain masks, skin care products designed to help you wipe away the oil can help you return balance to your skin.
For a stronger treatment, your healthcare provider might also recommend you consider medications like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid if things are more moderate or severe.
Dry skin is nobody’s friend, and while it may not seem as bad as oily skin, dryness can cause just as many problems.
A natural moisturizer with active ingredients like aloe vera could help, as could options that include topical hyaluronic acid: a skin-health compound which has been shown to help your skin and joints with the tough task of moisture retention.
Got a build up of dry, dead cells that won’t leave? It may take more than oil and dryness control to get the old layer scrubbed away to make room for the new cells.
Exfoliation is about more than scrubbing, through — it’s about giving your healthy skin a boost. A chemical exfoliant like a retinoid will help with the dead cell problem, but it can also boost new cell growth for you.
Things particularly bad? Consider a prescription version like tretinoin. Tretinoin has been helping skin since the 1960s, and studies show that when you use it, it can boost collagen production at the same time. You might want to consider hers' Acne Cream if you’re looking for options.
If you think treating zits overnight is a reactionary process, we’ve got bad news for you. Zits need to be fought with a prevention mindset.
That means that if you have acne issues, you might want to look at some things that have been correlated with acne: are you on a high glycemic diet, or do your poor hydration skills fall short, or is general stress invading your life? If so, these things can cause skin issues.
Further down the line, these issues can potentially lead to conditions that go deeper than your skin, diabetes and hypertension.
Besides — even if these things aren’t making your zits crop up, there’s plenty of evidence that better dietary health benefits every organ, and your whole body.
Prevention and treatment methods aside, your first step for clearer skin should be speaking with a healthcare professional about your acne concerns.
If you’re experiencing the occasional pimple, it’s a very different set of circumstances for treatment than if your acne is severe.
A healthcare professional will be able to get you on a treatment plan that will give you control back, so that you’ll be able to spend your time enjoying yourself, rather than googling overnight zit treatments.
Want to learn more in the meantime? You might want to read about Acne Caused by Makeup. If you’re ready to do something about your blemishes, we can help with that, too! Check out the acne treatment options hers has to offer.