Reducing redness: Tips and tricks for soothing and calming pimple-prone skin

How to reduce redness from acne in the moment.

Written by
Sophie Overett
Medically reviewed by
min read
twitter iconpinterest iconfacebook icon
Table of contents

While acne affects almost 80% of people at some point in their lives, it can still have a drastic impact on your self-confidence and your sense of self.

After all, knowing something is common doesn't necessarily change the way you feel when you see those inflamed pimples staring back at you in the mirror.

What's worse, acne lasting longer than expected or following you into adulthood as adult acne can sometimes result in scarring and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, leaving you feeling the impact long after you get rid of redness [1].

So how do you reduce redness from acne in the moment? And how do you get rid of pimples as quickly and effectively as possible to ensure they don't leave lasting damage? For starters, let's take a look at the different types of acne lesions and how your affected skin may respond.

Inflammatory vs non-inflammatory acne

Generally speaking, when we talk about breakouts, we're talking about 2 different types of acne. Interestingly, only one causes actual serious inflammation, while the other is more likely to appear as a small, shallow bump.

The latter is non-inflammatory acne and is called a comedone. You may better know them though as whiteheads and blackheads. These form as a result of excess oils in the skin widening your pores and filling your hair follicles.

These can often see dead skin cells, bacteria and sebum clogging up the pore, which is what causes the bump, but they're generally defined as being fairly shallow and responding well to spot treatment [2].

Inflammatory acne, on the other hand, is quite different. It's a much deeper opening in the skin's surface, and results in the formation of a papule, pustule or nodule.

In these cases, the bacteria cause an infection in the skin, filling the lesion with pus and causing an immune response. That immune response is what makes for skin redness, swelling and often also pain [1].

So acne redness is caused by an immune response?

Basically, yes! Severe acne is generally characterised by inflamed skin, and acne redness as well as the redness of the surrounding skin.

That said, recent studies have also shown that inflammation appears not just at the later stages of acne lesions as the body responds to the infected angry pimple, but also at the earliest stages of formation.

One study believes this type of inflammation at the early stages is a response to the pus breaking through skin cells and rupturing the follicle wall, making for an early inflammatory event and causing its own period of skin redness [1].

How long does it take for acne redness to go away?

Unfortunately, there's no easy answer for how long it might take acne redness to go away. This will depend on your skin type, particularly if you have sensitive skin or acne-prone skin, your genetics, environment and circumstances. In other words, it depends on how long it takes for your acne to heal in your particular body.

Generally speaking though, you're looking at anything between a few days and 12 weeks, depending on the extent of the acne-like breakouts [3].

How to get rid of pimple redness in 5 minutes

While you can't get rid of a pimple in 5 minutes, you can certainly reduce redness by using a few easy tricks:

  • Try cooling down the skin and soothing inflammation by using an ice cube or ice pack. Just as the cold can work to reduce swelling after an injury, so can it work as an anti-inflammatory for a deep or painful pimple. If you don't have an ice pack handy, try using a cold compress.
  • Look for acne products that contain anti-inflammatory properties such as vitamin C, tea tree oil, ceramides and niacinamide. In particular, look for products that help with soothing redness, and healing and strengthening the skin barrier and skin cells [4].
  • If you're in a hurry, use a colour corrector or water-based make-up concealer. Just make sure you wash it off with a gentle cleanser at the end of the day, especially if you have acne-prone skin.

What causes acne scarring?

How we reduce acne redness is one thing, but finding a way to reduce acne scarring is another entirely. After all, it's much easier to reduce inflammation than it is to heal scars.

Acne scars occur when acne breakouts are unable to fully heal. When we get deep pimples, they can penetrate so far that they damage the skin and the tissue underneath.

While your body can often repair this damage, it requires you to have the right amount of collagen to do so. If your body doesn't produce enough, you can get a depression in your skin's surface, and if you have too much, it can cause a raised scar [5].

While there are treatment options for these 2 types of acne scars, talking to a board-certified dermatologist as you discuss acne treatment is the best preventative measure.

How to reduce pimple redness, treat acne and stop it from returning

While it's great to focus on reducing redness from acne, all acne treatments should be focused primarily on bringing down the severity and risk of recurrence to keep your skin tone even and healthy.

In the case of acne treatment, you should first identify if you have mild, moderate or severe acne. If you're unsure, speaking to a medical professional can help.

Mild acne

Mild acne is typically comedonal pimples with perhaps a few papular or pustular pimples. In other words, it's usually a mix of whiteheads, blackheads and deeper pimples. In these cases, medical journals recommend a topical retinoid or a topical microbial with benzoyl peroxide.

Recent studies have also found that salicylic acid has a positive impact on acne and acne redness [3]. A cleanser or face wash which contains this ingredient, such as Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash, can be a great way to reduce acne redness and prevent acne recurrence.

If you have a few particularly angry pimples, pairing these treatments with Software's AHA/BHA Pimple Patches can also offer a targeted treatment that reduces redness and minimises skin trauma, lessening the chance of scarring and helping to nip the zit in the bud.

Moderate acne

Moderate acne is typically a mix of papular and pustule pimples, as well as nodular pimples. These are best treated by oral antibiotics, oral isotretinoin, a topical retinoid and benzoyl peroxide [3].

With the risk of acne scarring higher with moderate acne, we recommend pairing these treatments alongside Software's Vitamin C + Ferulic Serum, which helps to fight dullness, dark spots and discolouration. This helps to stimulate collagen, reducing fine lines and the risk of acne scarring.

Severe acne

For severe acne, talking to a medical professional is important. They'll be able to recommend you a treatment that is personalised to your skin concerns.

Software brings medical-grade skincare to your door, with tailored formulas that are more effective than anything off the shelf. Depending on your skin, our formulas contain ingredients like retinoids, azelaic acid, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid.

Simply complete our online consult and a local Software health practitioner will create a customised formula for your individual skin goals, which is then compounded by our partner pharmacy and delivered straight to you.

You can track your skin results with Software and check in with a practitioner at any time.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Your clinical-grade acne-fighting formula
$54 per month for your custom formula
Create my formula
No items found.
No items found.

Real people, incredible transformations

woman with acnewoman without acne
woman with acne
5 rating stars
Wish I bought this sooner
So I’m currently one month into this skincare and it has made such a difference. My acne has reduced significantly as well as my pigmentation. The instructions are clear to use and their other skincare products work great with the custom made solution.
5 rating stars
Only thing that’s worked!
I have tried everything under the sun to fix my skin, noticed a difference straight away with software and was able to get off the medication I was given by my GP, super grateful!!
fine lines
woman with acnewoman without acne
5 rating stars
Life changing!!! Not exaggerating.
I had horrible pigmentation all over my face and after 4 weeks it had reduced so much, and I’m only half way through the treatment! I can finally look in the mirror without disgust. It has made me feel so much better about myself!

The initial process of Software was so easy and straight forward. Got exactly what I wanted. And I LOVE that you can upload photos of your progress. I recommend software to my friends with pigmentation (melasma) too :)
5 rating stars
Saved my skin
Helped improve texture and pigmentation!! Gone from being too scared to leave the house without makeup, to not even thinking about how my skin looks! Couldn’t be happier.
Loved by patients,
backed by dermatologists
91% of patients see improvements in skin texture & brightness*
* Software lifestyle survey of 116 patients who were using
Software for ageing concerns, June 2022
Create my formula
* Software lifestyle survey of 116 patients who were using
Software for ageing concerns, June 2022