Before you see it, you can feel it -- a little lump under the skin, sometimes painful, that signals a mother of a pimple is on its way. Whether a pimple is visible or hidden under the surface, it consists of a pore filled with blocked oil and bacteria. Treat breakouts before they surface by keeping the area clean and bacteria-free. Gentle spot-treatment will help break up oil and bacteria before it surfaces. If it surfaces anyway -- sometimes you just can't keep a pesky pimple down -- follow a few key steps to make sure it disappears as quickly as possible.

Step 1

Press a warm wet washcloth on the area with the hidden breakout, then pat dry. The warmth will help soothe any pressure or pain associated with the pimple. Avoid squeezing or picking the area. While the temptation may be to force the pimple to the surface so you can pop it and release the oil trapped inside, you risk introducing bacteria from your hands. The end result could be infection, damage to the pore and even scarring.

Step 2

Wash with a mild cleanser twice a day. Scrubbing the skin aggressively to rid it of excess oils will only send your sebum glands into overdrive. In addition, skin that's scrubbed to the point of redness or irritation is more sensitive and open to bacteria. Your cleanser can have mild exfoliating beads, as long as your skin doesn't look red or feel irritated after you use it.

Step 3

Smooth an astringent over your with a cotton ball. Repeat this step after you exercise or sweat to remove bacteria. Skip this step if your skin isn't oily.

Step 4

Pat on an oil-free moisturizer designed for acne-prone skin. Overly dry skin will produce more oil.

Step 5

Apply an over-the-counter cream or gel containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur or retinol in the morning and evening to areas where you feel a breakout coming on. Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria, while salicylic acid and sulfur help break down blocked oil. Retinol helps unblock the pore and may allow the pimple to surface. Some moisturizers and astringents also contain these ingredients.

Step 6

Avoid touching your face with your hands or phone, and choose hairstyles that keep your hair off your face. The oil and bacteria from your hands, hair and other products can make pimples worse.

Step 7

Consider talking to a dermatologist for deep, painful pimples burrowed under the skin. Your dermatologist may suggest a prescription-strength gel or cream, oral medications or an occasional cortisone shot to treat deep pimples that don't respond well to at-home treatment.