How to Handle a Pre-Wedding Breakout

Don't let an unexpected pimple ruin your special day.

woman staring at her skin in a mirror


While there's never a good time to see a big, red zit on your face, spotting one in the days leading up to your wedding tends to be a cause for alarm. While a major breakout a few days before the big day can seem like a total disaster, it's important to remember that blemishes around a big event are pretty common. Stress often serves as a trigger for acne, and since wedding planning is typically a stressful time, many engaged people tend to experience an unwanted visitor or two around the big day.

What's the best way to handle a pre-wedding breakout? According to the experts, the answer will depend on how much time you have before you walk down the aisle, but the number one rule is to never pick at or try to pop the pimple yourself. To ensure you have all the information you need should a blemish try to crash your wedding, we asked two dermatologists to share their best advice on handling pre-wedding breakouts ten, five, and two days before the wedding as well as on the big day itself.

Meet the Expert

  • Joel Schlessinger, MD is a board-certified dermatologist with over 20 years of experience treating various skin conditions.
  • Michele Green, MD is a cosmetic dermatologist in NYC and has received numerous awards for her work.

How to Handle a Breakout 10 Days Before the Wedding

If you spot a pimple on your face 10 days before the celebration, don't panic! There are a few ways to treat your skin and ensure glowy, acne-free wedding photos.

Don't touch your face.

"First of all, it's incredibly important to establish a hands-off policy," says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. "You might think you're doing your skin a favor by popping a pimple, but you can force bacteria deeper into your skin and actually prolong the healing process from a few days to a few weeks." He also recommends making sure you wash off your makeup each night, and to start using an exfoliator to treat the area.

Get expert advice.

According to Michele Green, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist, "If you get a breakout 10 days before your wedding, you should go see a board-certified dermatologist. You can be prescribed oral antibiotics and topical cream to help reduce the breakout." Not only that, but professional advice is also helpful in diagnosing the blemish altogether. While the classic white head is easy enough to identify and treat at home, ingrown hairs, deep cysts, sores, or certain types of skin cancer can be visually misleading and even have a poor reaction to acne treatments.

Apply heat.

Before diving into the skincare spiral that is acne remediation, start with the basics. As it turns out, pimples can't stand the heat so get ready to head to the kitchen. Apply warm (not hot!) compresses at regular intervals throughout the day, in order to help open up your pores and bring the blemish to a head (which means to draw the pimple closer to the skin's surface). Once at a head, resist the urge to pop it and spot-treat the area instead.

How to Handle a Breakout 5 Days Before the Wedding

With less than a week before you walk down the aisle, we know that finding a blemish is less than ideal. Though you may not be able to get rid of your pimple immediately, there are ways to help mitigate the situation and keep it from getting worse.

Streamline product usage.

Avoid adding new products to your skincare routine since there isn't enough time for your skin to adjust. Instead, Schlessinger suggests changing a few items you know won't cause a reaction. "Replace your favorite makeup products for brand-new compacts since makeup can often become contaminated, leading to breakouts. Also, cut out dairy products since the hormones found in dairy products are known to make acne worse." And believe it or not, he says the same goes for protein supplements.

Exfoliate the skin.

Green recommends microdermabrasion as a helpful procedure to combat a last-minute acne appearance. "It exfoliates and removes the superficial layer of dry, dead skin cells (that can clog your pores) and entails no discomfort, downtime, or recovery," she says. You can also exfoliate at home with physical or chemical exfoliants to achieve similar results.

Physical exfoliants include scrubs and brushes that buff and polish the skin. Chemical exfoliants include alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like lactic or glycolic acids that remove the layers of dead skin on top of the dermis and leave a radiant glow. However, side effects of exfoliation in any form include skin irritation like dryness, flaking, or redness, so it's recommended that you only take this step if absolutely necessary.

Look for gentle scrubs with round exfoliating particles that won't damage the skin. Harsh scrubs with irregularly shaped particles, such as pits or shells, can cause micro-tears to the epidermis and increase inflammation.

How to Handle a Breakout 2 Days Before the Wedding

Though you may be panicking, finding a breakout two days before your wedding isn't entirely horrible. How? Well, according to the experts, there are two last-minute treatment options that you can consider.

Consider cortisone.

Once again, go see your derm. "A cortisone shot helps reduce inflammation and flattens out those big blemishes, sometimes within a matter of hours," Green says. But be sure to ask your doctor about possible side effects, like allergic reactions or visible marks, and weigh those consequences before committing to the procedure.

Spot treat.

If cortisone isn't an option, at-home spot treatments are available. Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), like salicylic acid, are pore-cleaning powerhouses that can penetrate deeply into the skin and clear out any buildup that's causing the clog. They also fight bacteria to ensure any surface pollution won't get into the pore. Alternately, hydrocolloid bandages (or pimple patches) are Band-Aid-like stickers that act as a vacuum, sucking out any excess oil or bacteria within the pore. They also cover the blemish to hide it from view and keep you from touching it—a triple threat if we ever heard one.

Use pimple patches with active ingredients like BHAs for an ultimate clean machine that won't give acne a fighting chance.

How to Handle a Breakout on the Day of the Wedding

If you happen to wake up with an unexpected breakout the morning of your wedding, be kind to yourself. Don't let your pimple ruin your special day, and find ways to focus on the positive, like marrying the love of your life.

Care for and conceal.

"The day of, conceal the blemish with makeup," Schlessinger says. "Don't forget—your photographer can edit out any imperfections." Plus, your makeup artist knows all the tricks for hiding any blemishes. Whether getting a professional application or doing it yourself, use full-coverage comedogenic concealers with acne-fighting ingredients for a double-duty product that masks, treats, and prevents future breakouts. Long-wearing formulas with SPF will ensure minimal touch-ups are needed and protect the sensitive area from hyper-pigmentation.


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