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The ZIIT Method (Acne Spot Treatment)

Z (zinc) + I (ibuprofen) + I (ice) + T (treat)

By: Dan Kern, Acne.org Founder & CSO
Last updated: December 21, 2019

The Essential Information

This is a method of preventing an emerging zit from forming by employing all possible methods to hit it from all sides. Keep this method in your back pocket if you sense a zit emerging the day before prom, or right as your wedding approaches--things like that.

Z = Zinc: 30mg of Zinc Gluconate once per day.

I = Ibuprofen: 1-2 Ibuprofen pills every 4-6 hours.

I = Ice: This is the most important step. Put an ice cube in a Ziploc®-type bag and ice the lesion for 5 minutes at least twice a day (at least 2 hours apart).

T = Treat: Treat topically with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide followed by 10% Glycolic Acid no more than twice per day.

The Science

This is a method you can use if you want to do everything you possibly can to prevent a zit from forming. It is important that you catch the pimple early, in its initial stages. Once a pimple is full-blown, this method may help it heal a bit faster, but there will not be much you can do at that point.

Zinc

Zinc helps heal wounds, and acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.1-2 It has been shown in several studies to help heal acne.3-5 Be sure to check the label of your zinc bottle to be certain the zinc you are taking is zinc gluconate. While evidence is still not concrete, zinc gluconate may be superior to other varieties of zinc.

Dosage - Do not exceed:

Take a 30-50mg pill once per day with food. Zinc can cause nausea when taken on an empty stomach. Don't take more than 50mg because zinc can become toxic if you take too much.

Zinc Gluconate

Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory). Other NSAIDs you can use are Naproxen (AKA Naproxen Sodium) or aspirin. NSAIDs reduce swelling and have the added benefit of reducing any pain the zit is producing. NSAIDs are designed for occasional use. Do not take NSAIDs every day on an ongoing basis for acne.

Dosage - Do not exceed:

  1. Ibuprofen, e.g. Advil®. Adult dosage is two pills (400mg) every 4-6 hours. Do not exceed 3200mg/day.
  2. Naproxen, e.g. Aleve®. Adult dosage is one pill every 8 to 12 hours. For the first dose, you may take 2 pills within the first hour. Do not exceed 2 pills in any 8- to 12-hour period and do not exceed 3 pills in a 24-hour period.
  3. Aspirin, e.g. Bayer®. Adult dosage is 1-2 regular strength or extra strength pills (325-500mg) every 4 hours. Do not exceed 4000mg/day.

NOTE: NSAIDs are not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before taking NSAIDs.

Ibuprofen

Ice

Ice is a powerful anti-inflammatory that you can use to directly target inflammation. Put an ice cube in a Ziploc® bag for an easy and mess proof way of applying ice. Very gently hold the ice over the site of the zit until the area goes numb. Since the skin of the face is so thin, you only need to apply ice for 5 minutes. Be absolutely certain not to press too hard. Anything which rubs against the skin can cause irritation, and irritation can make the zit worse, so just sit the ice gently on the skin.

How often:

Applying ice twice per day will help quite a bit. However, you may apply ice up to once per hour.

Ice

Treat

The combination of 2.5% benzoyl peroxide and 10% glycolic acid can often halt a zit in its tracks all on its own. When combined with the above steps, it is even more effective. Benzoyl peroxide reduces inflammation, dries and peels, and kills acne bacteria. Glycolic acid exfoliates and signals the skin below to quicken cell turnover which can help a pimple heal more quickly. Very gently apply a small amount of 2.5% benzoyl peroxide to the zit until it is more-or-less absorbed. Wait 5 minutes for it to dry completely and then apply a small amount of 10% glycolic acid in the same manner - very gently until it is more-or-less absorbed.

How often:

Apply 2.5% benzoyl peroxide + 10% glycolic acid no more than twice per day unless you have particularly tough skin. Most people will experience too much dryness and irritation if applying 3 or more times per day.

Treat: Benzoyl Peroxide and Glycolic Acid

References:

  1. Bae Y, Hill, N. D., Bibi, Y., Dreiher, J. & Cohen, A. D. Innovative uses for zinc in dermatology. Dermatol. Clin. 23(3), 587-597 (2010). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20510767
  2. King J, Shames D, Woodhouse L. Zinc homeostasis in humans. J. Nutr. 130, 1360S-1366S (2000). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10801944
  3. Bowe W, Joshi S, Shalita A. Diet and acne. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 63, 121-141 (2010). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20338665
  4. Amer M, Bahgat, M. R., Tosson, Z., Abdel Mowla, M. Y. & Amer, K. Serum zinc in acne vulgaris. Int. J. Dermatol. 21, 481-484 (1982). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6217164
  5. Michaelsson G, Vahlquist A, Juhlin L. Serum zinc and retinoil-binding protein in acne. Br. J. Dermatol. 96, 283-286 (1977). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/139912

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