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How to Pop a Pimple Responsibly

Many sources claim that you should never, ever pop a pimple, but it doesn't have to be the beauty sin some make it out to be.

By cleansing your skin, hands, and tools properly and only attempting to pop a pimple when it's appropriate to do so, sometimes you can safely remove blemishes without causing scarring. However, it's usually best to avoid popping a pimple, as there's often some chance of irritating your skin or creating inflammation.

So, what kind of pimple can be popped: a blackhead, a whitehead, a pustule? What’s the best way to pop your pimple without leaving a scar? In this article, we answer these questions and give advice on popping pimples responsibly at home.

A woman squeezes a pimple on her cheek

Is It Better to Leave a Pimple or Pop It?

The wisdom of popping pimples versus leaving them alone can depend heavily on what's going on beneath the surface.

Not all acne is the same in its formation; some blemishes are certainly best left alone, while others are much easier to handle. So when is it okay to pop a pimple?

Different Strategies for Different Pimples

Never try to pop a blackhead because the irritation could cause the pore to close completely, which could turn the blackhead into a bigger problem. Resist the urge to pop a blackhead, and consider a product with pore-clearing ingredients, such as the Exposed Clearing Tonic.

We advise against popping whiteheads because they typically require you to break the skin significantly, which can lead to a myriad of issues and infections.

If you can resist popping your whiteheads, a product like the Exposed Acne Treatment Serum that kills bacteria can impact existing breakouts as well as future ones to decrease that temptation.

You should never try to pop cysts at home. Cysts are large, raised lesions that can be hard to the touch, or sometimes softer, almost like a blister. Popping cysts almost always leads to significant scarring and can make the zit worse.

Papules might have a slight white or yellowish color that looks tempting to pop, but papules should not be popped, as the resulting irritation can actually exacerbate the problem.

Pustules are the only kind of acne that we recommend popping because if left unpopped, many pustules will pop themselves anyway. Pustules are the classic “pimple,” raised bumps with a defined white or yellowish head.

With care and patience, you can likely get rid of pustules without leaving a scar. Natural ingredients such as licorice root extract can improve the appearance of existing blemishes and scars when combined with chemical ingredients like salicylic acid to prevent future breakouts.

A woman looks at her face in the mirror

How to Pop a Pimple Properly

Wash and Sterilize Your Hands, Face, and Tools

Before you open your skin, make sure you first wash your hands with warm water to avoid the risk of contamination.

It’s also important to wash your face because you don’t want to risk reintroducing any bacteria on the surface of your skin into the pore. Our acne-fighting Facial Cleanser is a great choice.

Once your hands and face are clean, you’ll need a sterilized needle. A thin sewing needle usually works well, and you can sterilize it by wiping it with a cotton swab that has been soaked in rubbing alcohol.

Gently Pierce the Pimple

Carefully use the sharp point of your sterilized needle to gently press into the head of the pimple and break the skin by making a tiny hole. Once you've pierced the pimple, discard or set aside the needle.

A woman looks at her face in the mirror

Drain the Pimple

Using a gentle tool like a cotton ball, tissue, or clean fingertips, gently press down on the area of the skin surrounding the pimple.

Its contents should come out easily and without pain; if things hurt or you feel like you need to use force, stop! The pimple is not ready to pop, and doing so will likely only increase inflammation and risks pushing more dirt and bacteria into your pores.

Continue popping the pimple while pus is coming out, but when blood or a clear fluid starts to emerge, wipe it away with a cotton swab or tissue (not your fingers!) and move on to the next step.

What to Do After Popping a Pimple

After you've finished popping a pimple, immediately wash your face and hands again to prevent any bacteria on your skin from spreading to other pores.

Once things are clean and dry, treat the pimple; once the skin is opened slightly, acne-fighting ingredients can more easily reach the bacteria inside.

This is the best time to apply your favorite gentle spot treatments or products with ingredients containing benzoyl peroxide or tea tree oil, like our Clear Pore Serum.

Exposed Skincare clear pore serum