How to Safely Pop a Pimple, According to a Dermatologist
We all know the feeling—you wake up and something about your skin feels a little…off. You roll out of bed and head over to your bathroom mirror where you make the horrifying discovery: a pimple has emerged. These pus-filled bumps that plague our skin are far from desirable. Most of us would do near anything to get rid of them, so much so that we’d be willing to commit a skin care sin and pop them.
Dermatologists and skin care experts everywhere can agree that popping your pimples is a terrible idea. More on why that is later, but if you absolutely MUST pop your pimple—well, you might as well do it safely. That’s right, there is a right and wrong way to pop a pimple. To find out how to safely pop a pimple, we tapped board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand.
What Can Happen If You Pop a Pimple?
Before we share how to safely pop a pimple, it’s important for you to know why this isn’t an act you want to commit very often. That’s because the risk of damage far outweighs any temporary benefits. In fact, there are few benefits to popping your pimples especially if you’re trying to mask the appearance of blemishes. Below, Dr. Houshmand breaks down three ways popping your pimples can be damaging.
1. Your Pimple May Heal More Slowly
The idea that popping a pimple is the quickest fix is actually counterintuitive, Dr. Houshmand warns. “Poking at a pimple can push the bacteria even further into the pore, creating a deeper infection,” she says. “You can also introduce new strains of bacteria from dirty fingers or tools, and it can take even longer for your body to get rid of the infection.”
2. Heightened Risk of Subsequent Breakouts
If you believe popping a pimple will contain your blemish to a single area of your skin, know that’s not always the case. “When you rupture the sac of a pimple that holds oil, debris and bacteria, the material could land inside your other pores, increasing the chance of more acne blemishes forming,” explains Dr. Houshmand.
3. Bruising And/Or Long-Term Scarring
The healing process of a popped pimple is far from quick, causing the blemish to plague your skin for far longer than it otherwise may have. “Injuring your skin in any way can not only leave you vulnerable to more bacteria getting in, but also puts you at risk for long-term dark spots and scarring,” says Dr. Houshmand. “Plus, an oozing wet pimple is just about impossible to cover well.”
How to Safely Pop a Pimple
Still want to go through with this? The choice is yours. You shouldn’t pop your pimples, but if you must do it, then do it like this. Ahead, Dr. Houshmand explains how to safely pop a pimple. Spoiler alert: It involves seeing a board-certified dermatologist.
According to Dr. Houshmand, the best way to safely pop a pimple is to take matters out of your hands and place them in those of a trained professional. Dermatologists understand how to remove acne in a safe and effective way that is less likely to compromise your skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, if you’re looking to get rid of whiteheads or blackheads, dermatologists will use the technique known as acne extraction which involves using sterile instruments to eliminate these blemishes. If you’re looking to remove a large pimple or painful acne cyst or nodule, you may opt for a procedure called incision and drainage. This entails using a sterile needle or surgical blade to open the blemish and then removing what’s inside.
Moral of the story? Do not pop a pimple at home. Instead, head to your dermatologist for an extraction.
How to Care for a Popped Pimple
If you went against our advice and succumbed to the urge to pop a pesky pimple at home, you’re going to want to know how to care for your skin afterwards. Below, Dr. Houshmand shares four effective tips for caring for a popped pimple.
Tip #1: Wash Your Hands
While this is always an essential component of our day-to-day lives, washing your hands is especially crucial while caring for a popped pimple. “Dirty hands bring bacteria from the pimple to other parts of your face, causing breakouts to spread,” Dr. Houshmand explains.
Tip #2: Apply an Antibiotic Ointment
“If you pop a pimple, it becomes a small wound, so it’s best to apply a little antibiotic ointment to help speed up healing,” Dr. Houshmand suggests.
Tip #3: Leave It Alone
We understand that this may be the most difficult step. Once you’ve started touching the infected area, it’s difficult to stop. Even if there looks like there’s more to get out, Dr. Houshmand advises against continuing to squeeze the zit. “It’s best not to try to get more out of it because the bump that’s left over is most likely just swelling,” she says. “You’ll also increase the chances of scarring and spreading bacteria.”
Tip #4: Don’t Pick at Scabs
Long-term or permanent scarring is a side effect of pimple popping. One of the best ways to help prevent that from happening is to leave any scabs or marks alone. “That scab is hard at work regenerating skin beneath it, and interrupting the process is the absolute worst thing you can do,” Dr. Houshmand says. “Any scabs that form after that first one is picked off won’t set as well as the original one, and you’re nearly guaranteeing lingering discoloration or a scar.”