I am all but completely convinced that skin is not only sentient, it’s also spiteful. How else to explain the fact that I seem to always get a painful, deep, under-the-surface superlump the day before any event for which I would want to look my best or make a good impression — a date, a job interview, a performance (I’m a singer), etc.
It happened just this past weekend. I felt a bruise-like pain on the right side of my chin when I yawned on Saturday morning. A quick poke with my finger confirmed that a pretty major pimple had risen from the depths of hell to sabotage my face 36 hours before a date. I looked in the mirror to find a visibly raised and red cyst near the point of popping and clearly determined to be the third wheel.
Although I have a number of spot treatments lying around my apartment, I had recently stumbled upon Murad’s Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment, which makes quite a claim on the packaging: “Reduces blemish size and redness within 4 hours.”
I had my doubts. Although it contains the maximum over-the-counter amount of salicylic acid (2%), so do any number of other acne treatments; it’s the gold-standard ingredient when it comes to clearing pores and exfoliating away breakouts. What about this particular formula could possibly make it work so quickly?
I applied a tiny amount of the clear, lightweight gel and was pleased to see how quickly it became invisible on my skin. The matte, non-flaking finish would have made it ideal for layering concealer on top, but I didn’t apply any. For one, I was just at home doing laundry but also: I wanted to keep an eye on what was supposed to be the rapid demise of my zit.
At the four-hour mark, I noticed that it was much less painful than it had been earlier in the day. When I looked in the mirror, I saw that the inflammation had subsided, the redness was less obvious and the bump had gone from the size of a grapefruit to that of a significantly smaller and less noticeable fruit.
Although it wasn’t gone, the cyst had, in fact, shrunk in four hours, just as the box promised.
The next morning, I was pleased to see it had marched closer to its death, transforming into the perfect little ready-to-go whitehead that I couldn’t resist popping. (I know, I know — I’m a beauty editor and I should know better, but old habits, yadda yadda…) I put a little more of the product on the area, covered it with concealer and went out into the world confident that a glaring orb on my chin wouldn’t be the first thing my date saw when he looked at me.
By Monday, there was no trace of my sebum saboteur.
Even though I failed chemistry in high school, the science that goes into cosmetic formulas intrigues me to no end, so I reached out to Murad to find out what, exactly, allows Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment to work so well. It turns out that, in addition to the potent salicylic acid, it contains monoterpenes and avenathramides.
Don’t worry — I had no idea what those were either, so I did a little research. The monoterpenes are organic compounds usually found in botanical extracts like that of pine and thyme. They have antimicrobial properties that fight the bacteria behind the breakout. As for avenathramides, they’re compounds found in oats, and they’re proven to sooth skin and bring down redness.
I still don’t quite understand chemistry. But I sure do appreciate it, especially when it means zapping a zit in under a day.