Got a Giant Pimple? Here's What to Do In a Pinch

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I’ve had acne for most of my life. It started in the fifth grade, when I was in my gelled hair phase (which was as unfortunate as it sounds). Every morning before school, I’d shellac my frizz down using gobs of aquamarine-tinted gel, and while this certainly kept my flyaways in check, it also caused me to breakout around my hairline to the point where my best friend told me that I had an entire game of “Connect the Dots” on my face. Clearly this had no effect on me at all, seeing as how I’m bringing it up 20 years later...

Anyway, short of Accutane, I pretty much tried everything: the three-step lineup from Proactiv, the pink Mario Badescu drying lotion that Britney Spears touted in some article I probably read in Teen People, the entire Clean & Clear line, Neutrogena on-the-spot treatment. If a product said it would clear up my skin, I readily forked over the limited funds I had in hopes that it would do the job.

Many dollars later I learned that there is no such thing as a quick fix with acne. Especially if your breakouts are deep and cystic like mine usually were/still are. Most treatments require a multi-pronged approach and play the long game, except for one magical wonder: cortisone shots.

A cortisone shot is a diluted form of steroid that’s injected directly into an acne nodule or cyst—or as I like to call them, angry honkers. I’ve seen many a mountainous zit turn into tiny molehills overnight after getting a cortisone shot, and because of this, the temptation to get them regularly is high. However, cortisone shots are meant to be used sparingly and only on qualifying spots (see angry honkers), and not superficial whiteheads, juicy as they look.

Unsurprisingly, injecting any form of steroid into your skin doesn’t come without risk. Though the chances are low, it can cause scarring or hypopigmentation in some cases. Also, they’re not free. Cortisone shots can cost anywhere between $50 to $100 a pop, which can add up quickly.

So, when exactly should you get a cortisone shot? When you have a big event coming up and an even bigger zit shows up, say, a day before a friend’s wedding or a family reunion where your judge-y relative will almost certainly comment on your looks (and life choices). That, my friends, is when you call your nearest derm’s office for a cortisone shot.

As I write this, I have a new spot on my neck that could have its own area code but I will leave it alone and wish it a speedy recovery. Ah, the joys of being 35-going-on-13.

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