Acne nodules are large, solid lumps that develop deep under the surface of your skin. Breakouts tend to occur on the face, neck, and chest, but can show up anywhere on the body. Acne nodules can become inflamed, infected, and very painful.

If you have painful nodular acne, there are a few things you can do on your own to feel better. Your dermatologist can also offer you a variety of safe, effective treatments.

Read on for 10 pain relief tips, including how to find the right dermatologist.

Acne isn’t a personal hygiene problem caused by dirty skin. But keeping your skin clean is important to get your acne under control.

Be sure to wash your skin before applying over-the-counter (OTC) products or prescription medications. Doing so will help you get the most out of your treatment.

Wash your face or affected skin twice a day, but don’t scrub or wash too often. Also, steer clear of harsh soaps or cleansers that may contain perfumes and other skin irritants such as alcohol.

Choose products that are water-based over those that are oily or greasy. Avoid using acne concealer, astringents, or facial scrubs. When shaving, be careful near acne-prone areas.

Picking, squeezing, or popping blemishes can cause an infection and prolong your pain and discomfort. It can also lead to discoloration or permanent scars.

Let blemishes heal on their own. See your dermatologist if they’re not going away despite treatment. Be mindful of cell phones, earbud cords, and straps that can rub against your sensitive skin and cause further irritation.

You can use a cold compress to help ease pain and swelling. Don’t put ice directly on your acne, though.

Wrap some ice in a paper towel or soft, clean wash cloth and hold it on the sore area for 5 to 10 minutes. With 10-minute breaks in between, you can repeat this process twice more to soothe your painful skin.

If you have a new nodule, try applying a warm compress. Soak a fresh washcloth in hot water for a few minutes. Be careful not to get it so hot that you burn your skin.

Wring it out and hold the warm cloth to the pimple for about 10 to 15 minutes. You can repeat this process three to four times a day to help release the pus.

Try an OTC product that contains 2 percent benzoyl peroxide. This product helps destroy acne-causing bacteria. Follow the package instructions carefully. Only use a thin layer to avoid irritating the skin. Benzoyl peroxide can bleach fabric, so be careful not to get it on your clothes.

You may have heard that toothpaste can help heal your acne. This isn’t a good idea.

Ingredients in toothpaste such as baking soda, alcohol, menthol, and hydrogen peroxide can irritate your skin. They can also clog your pores.

Ask your dermatologist before using any OTC astringents, toners, exfoliants, or face masks. They may contain these ingredients as well.

There are many other home remedies and natural therapies for acne. It’s important to keep in mind that these natural treatments can irritate your skin or interact with other products or medications. Always consult with your doctor before using a new product or home remedy.

When you have severe acne, too much sun can be painful. Also, some medications used to treat acne can make you more sensitive to the sun.

Ask your doctor if your medications will make you more sun-sensitive. Try to stay out of direct sunlight whenever possible. If you must be outdoors, cover your skin and always wear sunscreen recommended by your doctor.

If stubborn, severe nodular acne isn’t responding to good skincare habits or OTC products, it’s not your fault.

A qualified dermatologist can help treat your existing outbreak while helping to prevent new ones. They can also help reduce the chances that you’ll be left with permanent scarring.

To find a board-certified dermatologist, ask your doctor for a referral. You can also use the American Academy of Dermatology’s searchable database to find a dermatologist near you.

Let your dermatologist know about treatments you’ve tried so far. Your treatment options may include topical ointments, gels, lotions or creams, and/or oral medications. Some may be used to reduce oil, while others are designed to control bacteria. Examples include:

  • oral antibiotics such as tetracycline or a macrolide
  • prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide
  • topical retinoids
  • salicylic acid or azelaic acid

Be sure to use these medications as instructed and tell your doctor about any new or worsening symptoms.

If you’ve tried the above treatments and they haven’t worked for you, other options for your nodular acne include:

  • combined oral contraceptives (females only)
  • anti-androgen agents (females only)
  • extraction of blackheads and whiteheads
  • steroid injections into the nodule
  • laser therapy
  • chemical peels
  • oral isotretinoin, a powerful treatment that’s typically only prescribed if nothing else has worked

Once you begin a treatment, you may need to wait two to three months before you see improvements in your skin. Together, you and your dermatologist will figure out the best solutions for your nodular acne.

Nodular acne can be a painful, persistent condition. Your dermatologist can help clear up an outbreak in progress and help prevent future painful breakouts.

Work with your doctor to find the right treatment or combination of treatments for your nodular acne pain.

Be aware that what may be working for you now may need to be adjusted or changed in the future should your acne breakouts return.