Ice on pimples: Will it help clear up your skin?

The answer is isn't all that simple.

Written by
Tori Crowther
Medically reviewed by
min read
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Every day, it feels like there are new tricks and hacks to get rid of and reduce acne.

One of the most popular natural remedies out there to help clear spots is using ice — and it’s TikTok’s new favourite hack. You’re probably familiar with using ice cubes themselves, or even things like cold ice globes or a gua sha to help depuff the skin and any blemishes. 

Although these natural remedies are glowing in popularity, there’s a limit to how much they can actually help with skin conditions like acne.

This is everything you need to know about using ice on your pimples and whether it’ll help clear up your skin.

Does ice help clear up pimples?

So, does ice help pimples? The answer is isn't all that simple.

Ice doesn’t necessarily help clear up acne or pimples — particularly if you’re suffering from cystic and nodular acne — but it can help inflammation. This works because acne is an inflammatory condition meaning that it causes flare-ups that contribute to swelling and redness. 

This works due to something called vasoconstriction, which constricts the blood vessels in the area by reducing blood flow [1].

By doing this, it can make the pimple less visible, less red and easier to cover with makeup; should you wish to. It can also help ease some of the pain of the pimple, particularly if it’s cystic and nodular acne. 

Although it can help with inflammation, there have been no studies to suggest that ice works for acne alone. If only it was that simple!

Instead, ice acts as a bit of a fire extinguisher to the spot trying to calm the inflammation. 

Some experts note that it’s more the cold than the ice doing the heavy lifting, which is why holding a cold spoon on your face can be just as effective. 

Does it work for all types of acne?

Since icing pimples only works as an anti-inflammatory, it doesn’t work for non-inflammatory acne. 

Non-inflammatory acne includes things like blackheads and whiteheads where there is limited swelling and redness.

Think of icing as a temporary solution to those tender, painful spots rather than a treatment. It can provide temporary relief and decrease redness but isn't to be used in place of a smart skincare routine or prescription medications.

Applying ice works best for four types of pimples including: 

  • Cysts - Under the skin surface pimples 
  • Nodules - Also under-the-skin pimples but are a lot firmer and tend to be more painful
  • Papules - Any raised spot, typically inflamed 
  • Pustules - A raised, inflamed spot that contains pus

Can ice help prevent acne scars?

Unfortunately, no. Ice cannot help prevent acne scars alone. 

This is because a pimple causes inflammation to occur under the skin, leading to damage and scarring. As much as we wish the answer was as simple as to apply ice, it isn't.

However, just because ice won't directly prevent scarring, it might cause behaviours to change resulting in less inflammation and scarring. If using ice results in less picking and bothering of the spot, for example, then it can. 

If you’re prone to picking, you can ice to get rid of any discomfort and then use the AHA/BHA Pimple Patches to stop picking at your pimples and, as a result, help to eliminate bacteria. 

How to ice your pimples

Step 1: Cleanse your face using Software’s Salicylic Foaming Wash

Step 2: Get a small ice cube, wrap it in a clean towel or kitchen towel and lightly press it directly onto your spot. You don’t need to sit and do this for hours. Never apply it directly on your skin; we want to prevent frostbite here!

Step 3: Apply your wrapped ice cube for a maximum of 30-second intervals; don’t leave the ice on for too long. 

Step 4: Apply your Software’s acne treatment, which contains clinical grade. acne-fighting ingredients as an effective treatment.

If you don't have ice cubes, you can use any frozen materials like cold packs or frozen peas.

Many people like to do this in the morning with either ice or a cold spoon to reduce swelling before applying makeup.

Risks for icing pimples

Generally, icing your pimples is safe. However, potential dangers occur when you leave the ice on for too long, which can cause ice burns. This isn’t going to help your blemish heal faster so keep icing to a minimum. 

It’s also not a treatment for acne so it won’t prevent them from happening or completely get rid of them, rather it can help reduce swelling. 

If you notice any discomfort, pain, blistering or numbness, stop putting ice or cold compresses on your skin immediately.

Note, as well, that if you have a skin condition like rosacea, instead of working to reduce redness, it can actually increase redness.

Proven ways to treat acne

Although icing your pimples can’t treat acne, there are plenty of other treatments you can do alongside it to help improve acne and breakouts.

Correct diagnosis 

The first and most important thing in your acne journey is getting a correct diagnosis from a dermatologist because there are so many types of acne and the treatment for each can differ. 

Consistent routine 

Getting on track with a consistent routine is incredibly helpful in controlling sebum products and reducing acne-causing bacteria. Consistency with skin conditions is key. 

Keep your hands off your skin

If you want to reduce acne then stop touching your face. Picking spots, even after putting ice cubes on them to reduce swelling, won't make them go away, it'll only make them worse.

Wear your pimple patches to avoid temptation until it starts gradually reducing and you're no longer tempted.

The right skincare 

If you’re unsure where to start with good skincare, the Acne Kit takes the guesswork out of an effective routine. 

Active ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids are great at unclogging pores, ridding dead skin cells, controlling sebum production and speeding up cell renewal.

These also need to be paired with calming and skin barrier-repairing ingredients like ceramides, glycerin and squalane. 

Although putting an ice cube on certain areas of the skin can be great for reducing swelling and inflammation for certain types of pimples, it’s not a treatment.

It’s also not something that’s recommended to do too often as this can lead to ice burns and cause the pimple to actually get worse. 

Does ice help pimples? Undoubtedly yes, applying an ice pack makes the blood vessels constrict to reduce inflammation and pain.

But again, icing pimples isn’t an acne treatment. A consistent skincare routine and seeing a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis are key to getting any skin condition, including acne, under control. 

Image credit: Sora Shimazaki / Pexels

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