If you answered yes, then this article contains 12 scientifically-based methods for reducing acne in 3 minutes to 48 hours. The internet, as you’ll surely know, is awash with miracle cures that claim to transform your body overnight, and the acne industry is no exception.
Take the 3-day apple cure. This is one of the classics; maybe you’ve tried it. This diet does exactly what it says on the tin – you eat nothing but apples for three days and your pimples magically evaporate.
But does it work? Well, the diet can be beneficial, simply because you eliminate a variety of acne-causing menaces such as sugar, wheat, trans-fats, and vegetable oils. But it’s still a scam; the diet is monotonous and unsustainable, the paleo and raw food diets eliminate the same villains, and your body would slowly collapse. Lemon juice detoxes and kale-only diets are just as dodgy.
Therefore, to keep the scammers at bay, and to give yourself a set of strategies that you really can use to eradicate pimples at emergency-level speed, read the twelve diet and lifestyle tricks below.
One – say no to sugar
How often have you noticed an explosion of acne after eating a banquet of chocolate and cake? Wheat is a major acne villain, but its effects are digestive related and thus more insidious; fresh acne takes far longer to appear. Sugar, meanwhile, causes pimples principally by increasing your bodily inflammation levels. Two cans of soda daily can increase pro-inflammatory chemicals by 105%, the same chemicals that redden and inflame pimples in the first place.
Added sugar also a high GI (glycaemic index) of 68/100, meaning that the resulting increase of blood glucose is relatively fast. The result? The glucose-shuttling hormone insulin also spikes relatively fast, meaning that your sebaceous glands are stimulated and your skin pumps out more oil.
In fact, the next time you’re eating cake, chocolate, candy, or any other sugary food, conduct an experiment and observe your skin over just one or two hours afterwards. It will transform into an oil slick in no time.
But my main theory about sugar is that its mysteriously fast powers are almost certainly due to the advanced-end glycation products. AGEs are compounds formed when blood glucose reacts with blood proteins, causing the proteins become oxidised, useless, and prone to free radical attack. Limited quantities of AGEs are always being created, but eating sugar elevates the formation in the bloodstream to calamitous levels.
The connection to acne? Your capillaries, which are useful for sending vitamins and antioxidants to your skin cells, will then backfire and funnel these inflammatory agents of acne directly to your pimples. The result is instant reddening and swelling.
If I actually wanted to get acne, maybe for a well-paid role in a film as a pimple-covered teenager, then I would simply feast on the sugariest milk chocolate I could find, and lots of it.
Luckily the reverse is true; restricting your sugar intake to only natural sources like fruits and vegetables can clear your skin rapidly. From my experience, by about 50% if you’re extra lucky.
Never forget that sugar is hiding everywhere. Roughly 74% of all processed foods contain added sugar, under more than 60 different names.
Speed – 6 to 24 hours.
Two – apply raw honey
For that purpose, there’s nothing better than a big tub of raw organic honey. I’ve applied raw honey to individual pimples in the past; without fail, they end up less inflamed and significantly smaller. Apply a globule of raw honey using expert precision and your acne will not stand a chance.
That’s not to say raw honey is the ultimate topical treatment, although it does come close. It’s simply faster than many others; green tea can lower total acne lesions by 57%, but only after 8 weeks. Grapeseed oil slashes acne levels by 25% by feeding the skin vitamin E, but only after 4 weeks.
Then there’s honey; as the main food of all the worker bee drones in the world, it’s full to the brim with antibacterial compounds designed to protect their all-important food from spoilage. Raw honey contains methylglyoxal, bee-defensin 1, hydrogen peroxide, trace vitamins and minerals, and many more substances not yet identified.
The results are rapid, because when you wipe out p.acnes bacteria there is no point of the immune system launching an inflammatory response. Green tea acts through reducing sebum production and takes far longer.
Just look at honey’s countless historical usages; it was used by Ancient Egyptians for embalming and calming wounds. Given all the savage battles they fought against civilisations like the Romans, there’s no chance the military would use honey if it took weeks to cleanse the inflammation.
Another fast acting option is aloe vera, another strongly anti-inflammatory treatment, with countless compounds like gibberellin. In fact, the general rule is this – any topical treatment which functions primarily by lowering inflammation will tackle acne far faster.
Leave green tea and grapeseed oil for the long term; for emergencies give the bee kingdom a call.
Speed – 8 hours (leave overnight).
Three – flood your body with vitamin C
Consider the classic study on stress. The subjects were 120 German participants about to perform speeches. The tested substance was a big bottle of 1000mg pure ascorbic acid, AKA the main component of vitamin C. The experiment was to determine whether a massive dose of vitamin C would lower stress and improve the lucidity and performance of the people about to deliver a speech…
…and the results found that 1000mg of vitamin C did just that, by lowering circulating blood levels of the main stress hormone cortisol. How is that relevant for us acne patients, you might ask?
Because the vitamin C was administered just hours before the participants spoke. Vitamin C works its magic very rapidly. Minerals such as magnesium and zinc are excellent tools for acne, and you shouldn’t ignore them, but you have to be patient; they take weeks to build up in the bloodstream.
With vitamin C there’s no such delay. Vitamin C increases almost instantly because the human body doesn’t store it. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which unlike fat-soluble vitamins, the human body never stores (with the exception of vitamin B12). We are designed to have a consistent daily flow of it, from the sources of tropical fruits and starchy root tubers like potatoes.
Simply taking 500mg (the allowance is 60mg) will flood your body with nutritional goodness and as for acne, the effects are numerous. One, the reduction in stress hormones will improve your acne substantially. Two, a fresh supply of antioxidants will defend your pimples against free radical mayhem. Down the road you’ll enjoy newly formed collagen proteins and consequently stronger skin…
…but for the first two reasons alone, vitamin C is the greatest nutrient around for clearing acne at blisteringly fast speeds.
How will this manifest itself on your face where it counts? Most likely in delayed formation of new pimples, especially the hundreds of tiny spots which are always annoying, and a reduction in the redness of all existing pimples.
Speed – 24 to 48 hours.
Four – dunk your head in cold water
That’s no hype, it has happened to me and it can happen to you. To get the benefits consistently, you can take cold showers, the greatness of which I outlined in this article. Take a daily cold shower and ensure it is cold, not cool, and your skin tone will be so bright that it’s almost glow in the dark. Your acne will clear up superbly and the pimples remaining will be a shadow of their former selves.
But to get the benefits above extra fast, you can take cold water contact to the next level. You can fill a sink full of cold water and hold your face underneath it for 3 separate intervals each with a length of forty seconds.
Not only does this concentrate the cold water directly onto your face rather than your entire body, but it allows you to perform the trick whenever you want throughout the day. If you’re going to a party at 19:00 you can submerge your face in cold water when you wake up, after lunch, at 16:00 and finally, just before you head out, for the ultimate emergency protocol.
Cold water won’t kill your pimples if you apply it just for one day, but what you can bet it will do is suck the life out of them, massively reducing their redness and overall “angriness”. Try it and you won’t be disappointed.
Speed – 3 minutes to 12 hours.
Five – expose your face to the sun (risky)
Next we come to the daredevil option – exposing your face and acne to sunlight for a decent period of time. UV radiation can either be a nightmare or a blessing and it depends entirely on your skin’s state of well-being.
If your skin is packed with antioxidant defences, with compounds as varied as vitamin A, vitamin E and resveratrol all forming a thick armour against free radicals, then sunlight will enrich your skin.
Sunlight almost instantly triggers the release of a gas called nitric oxide which has powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties when active on the surface of your skin. Nitric oxide is also a vasodilator and increases blood flow around the skin. Sunlight is of course the trigger for the creation of all vitamin D (which is actually a steroidal hormone, not a vitamin).
But on the other hand, you might eat a diet low in antioxidants, and the supplies necessary to make your own antioxidants. Your skin might be compromised due to regular usage of harsh moisturisers, make-up, or air pollution. In that case, UV radiation will spread free radicals throughout your skin like wildfire. They will inflame your existing acne like nothing else.
As for the speed factor, maybe you’ve had wildly varying experiences with trips to the beach or a waterpark. Before I corrected my diet and lifestyle, a day in the sun nearly always reddened my acne like crazy. But there was one day where I spent the whole day building the mother of all sandcastles at the beach, and somehow, when I arrived home in the evening, my skin quality had surged and looked better than in years. The effect lasted for several days.
Therefore, if from your experiences you believe that you can tolerate sunlight well, deliberately exposing your face is a great strategy to follow (just don’t go crazy and get sunburn or cancer).
It works particularly well for the radiance and glow factor. That’ll make existing acne look more pleasant even if the pimple count doesn’t actually decrease.
Speed – if you’re lucky, 2 hours.
Six – sleep properly
Getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night every night is one of the most overlooked acne strategies. Sleep is needed to maintain virtually every function in your body, and affects a wide variety of the indirect conditions behind acne.
But there’s little point in explaining the mechanisms here. If you’re an early morning worker, a party maniac, or someone who just has plain old insomnia, you’ll certainly know already what sleep deprivation does to your skin.
Lack of sleep gives you round panda rings around your eyes. Lack of sleep drains the colour and life from your skin, making you look like you smoke ten cigarettes a minute. Lastly, sleep deprivation can cause the birth of new acne and redden the existing acne.
Here’s just one of the scientific mechanisms – studies on humans have proven that sleeping less than six hours per night significantly elevates blood levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals include acne villains like interleukin-6, TNF-a, and neutrophils.
Sleep deprivation even powers up the master molecular switch behind inflammation, called NF-KappaB.
Scientists have not pinpointed the reason yet, but they theorise that the body essentially gets “scared” that its nightly repairs haven’t been carried out properly. It foresees that your body is weaker than it should be, activates an automatic defence mechanism, and massively overpowers your immune system to compensate.
Regardless of the science, it is just common sense – sleep well the night before you need clear skin. There’s a full chapter on sleep and acne in my eBook.
Speed – 8 hours.
Seven – temporarily abandon all make-up
Why? You may know the answer already – most make-up contains a whole science lab full of chemical stabilisers, preservatives, penetration enhancers, and so on. It’s been estimated that women put an average of 168 chemicals on their bodies daily. Almost 13,000 different chemicals are used in cosmetics, but only 10 percent have been fully evaluated for safety.
Parabens are used as preservatives in make-up; parabens are linked to glutathione depletion and oxidative stress. Phthalates are used to prevent stiffness; phthalates are linked to direct inflammation upon contact with the skin.
What’s the answer? You don’t have to go full hippy and use no make-up. Follow the instructions in this article to either 1) buy chemical-free products, or 2) make homemade versions. Of course, one other factor to consider is that if you implement all the advice on this website related to diet and lifestyle, your skin will look so clear and vibrant naturally that you won’t even need make-up; in fact you might look better without it.
Regardless, if you’re at home for the day before a party in the evening, go make-up free for a few hours. I can’t speak from experience, but in all likelihood, your existing pimples will calm down massively.
Speed – 2 hours.
Eight – temporarily abandon all moisturisers
Commercial moisturisers are virtually identical to make-up in that they’re a soup of chemicals. For some reason, moisturisers are particularly potent at inflaming red and inflamed acne compared to sunscreen or cleansers, for example.
Big pharmaceutical companies and their advertising firms have achieved great success in convincing the world that their products are irreplaceable. They tell people the following – “look at these 80-year old farmers from underdeveloped countries in Africa and South America! They can’t buy moisturisers because their villages are so remote, and look how weathered their skin is! Buy now or the same will happen to you! Or else!”
This is the exact type of marketing the companies rely on, but don’t fall for it. The fact is that spending all your life in an equatorial country where the sun beats down on you mercilessly, and where you do spend all your life in agriculture and living off the land, is a guaranteed recipe to get weathered and crinkled skin. Here in the West we simply don’t need moisturisers, although natural ones can certainly help (like grapeseed oil and jojoba oil).
By far the biggest factor in your skin smoothness is your diet, specifically factors that affect collagen production. Read more about that here. For now, follow the same principles as with make-up – reject commercial moisturisers for 24 hours before your clear-skin reckoning day, and enjoy calmer acne.
Speed – a matter of hours, depending on hour often you apply moisturisers.
Nine – exercise intensely
Intense exercise has a wide variety of rapid acne benefits. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins and anandamide, chemicals which increase happiness and lower stress. Exercise directly increases your insulin sensitivity, allowing blood insulin levels and thus oily skin to decrease. Regular exercise has been shown to lower levels C – reactive protein, interleukin-6, interlekin-8 and a variety of other inflammatory chemicals.
Most importantly for our skin, there’s one of the most basic physical processes in existence – intense exercise gets your heart pumping and floods your skin with blood, giving it the radiant effect.
This has more benefits than you may realise, because the big rush of blood also delivers a big rush of nutrients. Then there’s the sweat – sweat contains an antibacterial peptide called Dermcidin which is more effective at killing p.acnes bacteria than antibiotics.
Intense exercise is very similar to sunlight in that it can reduce acne, but works particularly well at giving you a glowing skin tone. The effects can take place immediately after a hard weightlifting session, uphill cycling or even uphill walking.
One thing to avoid however, is extremely prolonged, extremely intense exercise, which is a recipe for ill health, elevated stress hormones and dodgy skin in the long run. Prolonged moderate intensive, or short bursts of high intensity are optimal.
Primal and paleo people are commonly obsessed with persistent low level movement, with their idea being mimicking a caveman wandering around, picking berries, spying on enemies, stalking deer, etc. This fits their ideology of doing every single thing a cavemen once did. As stupid as it can sound, and as much as they make it sound like you’re shuffling aimlessly around like a zombie, it’s a beneficial strategy for your skin overall (being sedentary is a killer). Nevertheless, intense exercise is the ultimate in rapid acne elimination.
Speed – 30 minutes to 12 hours.
Ten – go alcohol free temporarily
Almost all alcohol passes through the liver for breakdown. The first step is the breakdown of the alcohol into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. The problem for acne is that one of the main metabolising agents used is the master antioxidant glutathione, a substance acne patients have 20% less of than average.
Have you ever wondered why your skin looks so dull and lifeless after a night of drinking? Have you ever wondered why new, painful pimples have a tendency to appear? Glutathione depletion is a big reason why.
What’s important is that those effects show up rapidly; alcohol and more specifically acetaldehyde are so toxic that the liver can afford no delays in metabolising them. Acetaldehyde itself is another factor; with insufficient glutathione stocks in our liver this toxin goes on a rampage through your bloodstream, inflaming cells at random.
Therefore, to strengthen your skin before an important date, go booze free for 48 hours.
Note: alcohol is a negative for acne overall, but with a little knowledge and brainpower, keeping it skin-friendly is a piece of cake. Find out how to strengthen your acne against alcohol here.
Speed – 12 to 24 hours.
Eleven – avoid cigarettes as much as possible
Most doctors and national health agencies warn about the consequences of ingesting cigarette smoke. They warn about the blackened lungs, stomach cancer, tongue cancer, and numerous respiratory disorders. But what about the smoke wafting around while you puff on the cigarette for five minutes?
Cigarette smoke is one of the most concentrated sources of free radicals in the modern world; with a single puff on a cigarette that’s been lit for two minutes you can inhale 100 trillion. With your head fully submerged for up to an hour per day they have a prime chance to inflame your acne and clog your pores.
Cigarette smoke is also known to warp collagen proteins, which strengthen the structure of your skin’s epidermis. Over 600 chemicals and heavy metals are known to inhabit cigarettes, because manufacturers don’t care about the purity of a product already known as death sticks. The likes of benzene, tobacco specific nitrosamines, arsenic, and the tobacco pesticides can all mutate in the smoke and wreak havoc when they touch your face.
…but if you lack the willpower to quit at this very moment, then smoking less cigarettes for one day will still have an effect. The fast improvements will mainly come from the freedom from topical exposure that you’ll temporarily enjoy. You could also switch to e-cigarettes for a full day, since they don’t have as many free radicals; hence you can see for yourself the damage regular smoke does
Speed – a few hours.
Twelve – eliminate all food sensitivities
They are known to trigger digestive problems and subsequently a rash of inflammatory acne in certain groups of people. A fresh outbreak of pimples is a classic sign of a food sensitivity. No matter the food or compound involved, the speed at which these reactions cause acne can be astonishing.
Eliminating all food sensitivities temporarily is thus the number two rapid deployment dietary strategy, behind wiping out sugar. Only you know what foods your skin is sensitive to, from your personal experiences. It could be potatoes thanks to the solanine. It could even be watermelon, thanks to the FODMAPs.
Whatever your foe, eliminate it 18 hours prior to the pivotal moment and watch your skin improve. Many food allergies can actually be significantly alleviated, using probiotics and a gut healing protocol, particularly allergies to fruits like apples and grapes which are rich in FODMAPs (more here).
But that’s beside the point; in an emergency, stick to the foods you can tolerate.
Speed – 12 to 24 hours.
Here we reach the end of our lightning-fast acne elimination list. If you’re getting the urge to stop playing games and instead wipe out a bunch of acne in one fell swoop, the strategies above are the greatest way to do it.
But while we’re here, never forget the long term strategies either. If your goal is clear skin and skin that’s clear permanently then a consistently clean diet and lifestyle cannot be overlooked.
Take the nutrient selenium, for example. It’s a vital mineral for manufacturing glutathione and other bodily antioxidant reserves, and was shown to reduce acne significantly in this study. But there’s a catch – the decrease took 8 weeks of daily supplementation. After two weeks the reduction was far more minor.
Do you want to never worry about waking up to fresh pimples ever again (it’s completely possible, don’t let benzoyl peroxide Inc. fool you) and give your acne no room to run and no place to hide? Then combine both long term and short term strategies. Follow that formula and your dreams of clear skin may come true.
Thanks for reading!