Does Putting Ice on Pimples Help?

Ice cubes cool inflamed pimple-infected skin.

Photo: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

When you first spot that rapidly swelling pimple reddening your face (most likely hours before a hot date or a night out with the girls), take a deep breath and resist the urge to scream. Then reach for the nearest ice cube. Though they might seem like nothing more than an ingredient for cold drinks, ice cubes can play a key role in helping you keep unsightly pimples from taking over your gorgeous face.


Capable of filling any diva with horror, pimples are acne lesions that have reddened bases and are filled with pus. Like other types of acne lesions, pimples develop when excessive skin oil and dead skin cells build up and clog your pores. Minimize pimple outbreaks by using oil-free skincare and cosmetic products. Avoid washing your face more than one or two times each day, since doing so could cause your body to start producing even more oil, which could worsen the severity of your acne.


Ice cubes are cold and wet, two features that work together to make them a potentially successful, readily available tool in your pimple-fighting arsenal. The coldness of the ice often causes freshly formed pimples to beat a hasty retreat by minimizing both zit-caused swelling and redness, points out Dr. Richard Fried, practicing dermatologist and author of “Healing Adult Acne.” Similarly, the wetness of an ice cube helps open your pores, which allows follow-up topical pimple medication to penetrate more deeply into the affected pore.


Ice might help improve the appearance of some of those icky-looking zits, but only if you use it the proper way. Watch your skin closely for early signs of a pimple, which typically include sudden soreness, swelling, heat or redness at the location of a pore. As soon as you notice symptoms of a zit, wrap an ice cube in a clean, damp wash cloth and rest it directly on the zit-affected skin for two to five minutes several times each day. Follow up the icing procedure once each day with an application of an over-the-counter zit-fighting antibiotic cream or one that contains benzoyl peroxide.


Although ice cubes are potential partners in your fight against up-and-coming pimples, don’t expect them to be able to battle a full-fledged fleet of swollen pimples. In most cases, once a pimple breaks through the surface of your skin and becomes filled with pus, ice becomes less effective as a treatment aid. Typically, this means that you’ll need to try a topical anti-inflammatory cream, such as one that contains salicylic acid, to dry the pimple up and shorten its lifespan.

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