You've probably been told that the number one rule of getting rid of a pimple is not to pick it. In reality, a zit rarely just disappears on its own.
The scab you get from popping a blemish is the worst step in its life cycle. It's impossible to cover with concealer and seemingly takes forever to heal. It turns out that treating post-pimple scabs isn't that different from what you should do when you first notice the pimple: don't touch it. "Do not touch or pick scabs," says dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara, an associate clinical professor at Yale University's Department of Dermatology. "It's best to keep it well lubricated because it gives the skin a chance to heal."
It's important to keep scabs hydrated, but Dr. Gohara says to avoid using alcohol-based toners and harsh astringents on the area because these products can cause further irritation. Wearing sunscreen daily and adding a retinol to your skincare routine can help prevent scabs from leaving scars or dark marks, plus minimize future breakouts. We recommend The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane ($19; adorebeauty.com.au), an anti-aging formula that'll also target acne. It's formulated with nourishing ingredients to minimize the potential irritating effects of retinol.
As for what types of blemishes are more prone to scabbing, Dr. Gohara says that deep, cystic, painful, or hard ones most often cause inflammation, which can lead to itching, irritation, and the urge to pick. The best course of action is to treat the blemish right away with an antibiotic cream, or better yet, an in-office cortisone injection.
This article originally appeared on InStyle U.S.