This Is Gross But…What Happens to the Pus in My Pimple?

March 24, 2023
Témi Adebowale
By: Témi Adebowale | by L'Oréal
"This is Gross!" written on a graphic green background

One of the reasons why popping a pimple is so satisfying is all the pus and gunk that comes out when you do it — but as any dermatologist will tell you, the aftermath of a picked-at pimple (i.e., inflammation and the potential of acne-scarring) is just not worth it. So if you abstain from picking and popping, what happens to all of the liquid that’s in the pimple? Does it just go away? To find out, we consulted with Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a NYC-based board-certified dermatologist about pimple pus.

Why Should You Avoid Popping a Pimple?

“Squeezing or picking a pimple increases the inflammation around it, breaks blood vessels and can cause infection,” says Dr. Nazarian. These signs of trauma can last on skin in the form of discoloration for months, she adds. So if you’re trying to avoid dark spots, hyperpigmentation or acne scars, it’s important to keep your hands off of your blemishes.

What Happens to the Pus in a Pimple if You Don’t Pop It?

“As tempting as it is to pop a pimple, specifically those little whiteheads or pustules, you don’t need to,” says Dr. Nazarian. “In fact, your body is more than equipped to take care of them on its own, but of course, that takes time.” 


She explains that if the whitehead or pustule is superficial, meaning on or close to the surface, the skin will eventually break open to allow the pus to drain out of the pimple. “Skin is constantly renewing itself, and fragile whiteheads will not remain forever,” she says. For deeper pimples, they will also break down and dissolve under the surface of skin with time. 

How Long Does It Take for Pimples to Go Away on Their Own?  

This depends on how deep and inflamed a pimple is. “Simple whiteheads may clear in a week, while deeper, more painful pimples may take three weeks,” says Dr. Nazarian. “Blackheads may last months.”

How Can You Expedite the Pimple Healing Process?

Make sure that you’re using a gentle cleanser daily to keep the area free of bacteria. Dr. Nazarian also recommends applying hydrocortisone 1% to help the spot heal. “Topical ingredients such as vitamins C and E and anti-inflammatory ingredients like green tea extract and aloe are also useful for enhancing healing,” she says. 

Spot treatments are also a great way to treat current breakouts and keep future ones at bay. The Vichy Normaderm S.O.S Acne Rescue Spot Corrector is the first targeted acne spot treatment from the brand, and it’s formulated with sulfur, glycolic acid and niacinamide this sulfur acne treatment to dry up current acne blemishes while also reducing their size and severity.

vichy normaderm spot treatment

One gentle spot treatment we love is the CeraVe Acne Control Gel. It’s formulated with a mix of salicylic acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid to help clear existing breakouts and prevent new blemishes from forming.
CeraVe Acne Control Gel

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