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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.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

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

How To Pop A Pimple FAQs

Should I remove dead skin cells with salicylic acid before I try and pop a pimple?

It's a good idea to exfoliate with salicylic acid to help remove dead skin cells that can clog pores and contribute to acne.

However, make sure to avoid over-exfoliating or using abrasive scrubs that can irritate the skin and make the pimple worse.

Can only a dermatologist do responsible pimple popping?

While it's always best to seek professional help for serious or recurring acne issues, some pimples can be safely popped at home with the right tools and techniques. Just make sure to follow proper hygiene practices and only pop pimples that are ready to be popped.

Should I apply a warm compress first with a warm washcloth before trying to pop a pimple?

Applying a warm compress to the pimple can help soften the skin and make it easier to pop. However, be careful not to overheat the skin, which can cause irritation and inflammation.

What is a comedone extractor?

A comedone extractor is a specialized tool used to extract blackheads and whiteheads.

Comedone extractor

It's a small metal instrument with a round loop or spoon on the end that's designed to apply even pressure around the pimple to safely and cleanly extract the contents.

Should I see a professional pimple popper at clinic?

If you have persistent acne or scarring, it's always best to see a dermatologist or skincare professional for treatment. They can provide a thorough evaluation of your skin and recommend the best course of action.

Can popping cause skin damage to the surrounding tissue?

Popping a pimple can cause damage to the surrounding skin, leading to inflammation, scarring, and even infection. That's why it's important to only pop pimples that are ready to be popped and to do it as gently and cleanly as possible.

Can a cortisone shot reduce a pimple?

A cortisone shot is a quick and effective way to reduce the inflammation and swelling of a large, painful pimple. It's typically administered by a dermatologist and can provide rapid relief for severe acne.

Cortisone injection in pimple.

What is the best spot treatment for a pimple?

There are many effective spot treatments available for acne, including benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and tea tree oil. Look for products that are designed to target acne and use them as directed.

What is the white pus inside a pimple?

The white pus inside a pimple is a mixture of dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil that has become trapped inside the pore.

Pimple with white pus

When the pore is opened, the pus is released, and the pimple begins to heal.

Can pimple popping cause serious infection?

Pimple popping can cause serious infection if proper hygiene practices are not followed. That's why it's essential to always wash your hands and tools before popping a pimple and to avoid popping if the pimple is not ready.

Should I apply an ice pack after popping a pimple?

Applying an ice pack can help reduce inflammation and redness after popping a pimple. Wrap the ice pack in a towel and apply it to the affected area for 10-15 minutes at a time.

How do I avoid scarring from popping a pimple?

To avoid scarring from popping a pimple, make sure to only pop pimples that are ready to be popped, use clean tools, and apply an acne-fighting treatment to the affected area after popping.

Avoid picking or squeezing the pimple, which can cause further damage to the skin.