Pimples can be challenging to get rid of, and they’re even more tempting to pop. You already know that popping is a complete no-no. Still, you may also be turned off by conventional treatment methods that might be harsh on your skin.

Natural skin care remedies are growing in popularity, including those used in the alternative treatment of acne. Ice is one such touted treatment. There are potential benefits to ice on pimples, but the question is whether this method is effective enough to fully clear up your breakout for good.

How it works

The idea of using home remedies for acne treatment is to help get rid of pimples without leftover side effects from chemicals. While salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are widely available on the market, overusing such products can make your acne worse. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends staying away from alcohol-based products altogether. These include astringents, toners, exfoliants, and more.

Icing pimples can work by reducing swelling in inflammatory forms of acne. These include:

Ice is unlikely to work for noninflammatory types — these are also known as blackheads. By reducing the inflammation of your pimples, you’re directly reducing the size. In theory, gradually reducing the size of your pimple with ice can eventually make it go away entirely.

When used on inflammatory acne, ice also has the potential to decrease redness, thereby making your pimples less noticeable. It can also treat pain that occurs with cystic and nodular acne. This is due to the short-term numbing effect ice creates.

Despite such benefits, there’s no research available to indicate that ice alone is an effective treatment for pimples. Ice may be considered as a part of a smart skin care routine that includes:

  • regular cleanses
  • a moisturizer designed for your skin type
  • noncomedogenic makeup

How to use it

Icing your pimples seems like a straightforward process, but there are some specifics to keep in mind before applying it to your skin. First, you’ll want to make sure you cleanse your skin, just as you would do before applying any other type of treatment.

Before placing the ice against your skin, wrap it in a thin cloth or thick paper towel. You can also use a cool compress instead, if you don’t want to mess with the aftermath of melted ice.

Apply the ice to your pimples in one-minute increments only. You can try this for one minute after your morning and evening face cleanses. If your pimple is extremely inflamed, you can follow up with multiple increments — just make sure you leave about five minutes in between each minute. This helps to prevent skin damage.

Sometimes ice can also work well to treat pimples when used in conjunction with warm treatments, such as compresses or steamed towels. By using warm treatments first, you can help remove any debris that’s trapped in your pores. After applying warmth for 5 to 10 minutes, you can then follow up with ice for one minute to decrease inflammation and swelling. You can repeat this process daily as needed until the pimple clears up.

However, you should never follow up ice treatments with hot compresses, as this can damage your skin.

What to know before you try this method

Icing your pimples over time can encourage debris to rise to the surface of your skin. As tempting as it might be, you should never pop the gunk out of your pores. Picking at your pimples at any stage can make them spread. What’s worse, the popping and prodding process can also lead to scarring.

It’s easy to get caught up in working at a pimple with ice and forget the potential dangers of applying frozen materials to your skin. To prevent frostbite, it’s important to only apply ice in short intervals. While frostbite is more commonly associated with being outside in extreme temperatures for too long, it can also occur when using cold packs, ice, or other frozen items against your skin for long periods of time.

Stop using ice immediately and call your doctor if you notice:

  • extensive redness
  • blistering
  • long-term numbness
  • changes in your skin color

When to see a dermatologist

Ice has the potential to treat pimples without the side effects that are sometimes seen in conventional acne treatments. Still, there’s no proof that ice is more effective. Many natural remedies can also take longer to work, so it’s important to be patient as your pimple gradually disappears. Avoid picking or scratching the area, as this will make any redness and inflammation worse. In the meantime, consider mineral makeup to conceal the area, as desired.

If your pimples fail to resolve with ice or other treatments within a few weeks, it may be time to see your doctor. A dermatologist can help you drain the pimple without side effects. Talk to your doctor about your preference for natural remedies — they can recommend specific products and lifestyle habits that may help prevent future breakouts. As a rule of thumb, the AAD recommends giving any new treatment measure at least four to six weeks to work before following up with your dermatologist.