I once worked with a beauty editor who was always rushing out of the office and straight to her dermatologist anytime a big pimple would pop up, hoping to have him inject it and “make it disappear.” At the time, I had assumed it was a treatment reserved for A-listers (and top beauty editors who have access to the pros), but as I quickly learned, these injections were commonly performed on people from all walks of life. Then, we stopped hearing about them for a while. So, is the quick-fix injection for pimples still a thing? We find out.
What is a pimple injection?
“The injection consists of a very dilute solution of a very specific concentration of a particular corticosteroid, like triamcinolone (Kenalog),” explains Bloomfield Hills, MI dermatologist Linda C. Honet, MD. “It is precisely placed right into the center of the acne cyst, or intralesionally.” New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD adds that the steroid solution decreases inflammation, helping the pimple to heal quicker than it would otherwise.
Does it work on all pimples?
No. “Cystic pimples are the ones that benefit most from injections,” says Dr. Levine, noting that many patients have these types of pimples injected regularly. Dr. Honet adds that the pimple has to be relatively sizable (bigger than a pinhead), not flat, and relatively new in onset. “Old pimples are not good candidates,” she explains. “I do acne cyst injections in the office almost every day because not only are they quick and well-tolerated, but they’re also amazingly effective. You can imagine how popular of a procedure it is because nearly anyone, at any age, may get a pimple that needs, and is ideal for, injection.”
In Miami dermatologist Anna Chacon, MD‘s office, she typically only injects pimples that are painful, swollen acne nodules or cysts that aren’t improving with standard acne treatments.
How fast does it work?
“It’s the pimple quick-fix and can literally reduce the pimple to half its size or better overnight,” says Dr. Honet. “Some of my patients swear that the pimple will improve within just a few hours of the injection, so it’s often a great treatment for those who have a social event the same evening or next day. The procedure is quick, highly effective and quite gratifying for the patient. I even inject my own acne cysts before I go to bed because my pimple will be nearly gone by morning. In fact, my staff will have a syringe in hand at the end of a workday to have me inject their acne cyst.”
“A pimple that would otherwise take more than a week to heal will decrease in size by the next day and often go away entirely in two to three days,” Dr. Levine adds. In some cases, patients are prone to acne cysts that can take weeks to clear up on their own. “A few days after receiving a steroid injection, the discomfort, redness and swelling can be reduced,” Dr. Chacon notes.
Is it safe?
Yes. Although the injection seems relatively simple and straightforward, Dr. Honet says it should be done by someone quite experienced and knowledgable about the procedure and about skin anatomy. “An acne cyst injection is a medical procedure, so it is found in a dermatology office setting and not usually available in a medispa,” she explains. “Complications can occur where dermal atrophy and/or lipoatrophy can occur at the injection site if done by inexperienced hands. This means there can be a significant, persistent, unsightly dimpling of the skin after the pimple heals, and it may not be apparent right away. If the injection is done by an expert, like a board-certified dermatologist, this side effect is a very rare occurrence.”