Everything You Want To Know About Pimple Popping (But Were Too Afraid To Ask)

by Clint Edwards
Getty / DragonImages

When I was 11, I started getting acne. Around 15, things got real, and I had to go on medication because my face was starting to scar. I can still remember doing a regimen of prescription creams and pills just to manage my pimples. And during all of this, I dreamed of a day when it would go away. When I’d grow out of this phase in life.

Yet here I am, 35 years old, and still getting acne. It not as bad as before, naturally, but it’s almost a daily occurrence for me to be leaning into the mirror popping a handful of those greasy suckers, and wondering if I’m still going through puberty.

I know a lot of adults in my same situation, and I know the normal reaction when you see a pimple is to just dive in with two fingers and go after that sucker. However, popping pimples incorrectly can cause more pimples or even result in scarring. So here’s a few tips to help make popping those nasty little suckers better for your skin.

Wash your hands.

I know. I know, this is pretty basic, and yet no one does it. Take a quick look around you next time you’re stopped at a light and you will see at least one, if not more, drivers leaning into the mirror to handle a pimple. Did they wash their hands? I think not. This is one of the most basic, and most doctor-recommended ways to prevent more acne.

Don’t pop it too early.

Washington, D.C.-based dermatologist Dr. Melda Isaac told Huffington Post that if the sucker doesn’t have a white head, then “the inflammation is too deep. Even though people have the best intentions of getting the stuff out, the inflammation and debris and pus can spill underneath the skin. That’s what leads to further inflammation, infection and even scarring.”

One of the best ways to get a pimple to surface is to treat the area with a warm compress.

If you are breaking out, use extra sunblock.

Dermatologist Jeremy Fenton told Allure that those dark spot scars that often form because of acne “are created by the same pigment cells that darken your skin with a tan, called melanocytes. Therefore, using sunscreen regularly can help prevent these cells from becoming more active and can reduce the risk of this type of scarring.”

Don’t poke unless you know what you are doing.

It can be pretty tempting to stab those suckers with a pin so that you can get the crud out, but ultimately those sorts of moves should be left to a professional dermatologist. However, if you insist on being a do it yourselfer, WebMD give these directions to make sure you are doing it safely.

“Sterilize a straight pin with a match or lighter. Let the pin cool, then wipe it down with rubbing alcohol. Swab the zit with alcohol and pour some on your fingers, too. Dry your fingers and wrap them with a clean tissue. Position your pin. Hold it parallel to the surface of your skin, and gently pierce the very tip of the zit’s white center. Using your fingers, or a cotton swab, softly squeeze the pimple. Press around (not on) the white tip of the zit. If the pus doesn’t come out easily, the pimple isn’t ready to be popped. Stop!”

Know when to stop.

I read through several articles on the subject of popping pimples safely, most of them while sitting at a coffee shop. I imagine people assumed I was studying to be a dermatologist — or that I have pimple lust. Let’s hope for the former.

Anyway, one thing that was consistent was that people don’t know when to stop. I’m with you, I’ve been faced with one of those really stubborn pimples that cause you to get all red-faced trying to pop, and once you are done it feels like you pushed it into your brain rather than out of your face.

Forcing a pimple can be very damaging to your skin. Laura Palmisano, certified physician assistants at Schweiger Dermatology Group, told the Huffington Post, “When you actually pop your pimple, you want to just gently compress the area. You don’t want to squeeze too aggressively.”

Seriously, people, resist the urge. Resist!

One thing to keep in mind with all of this is that any single pimple is temporary, lasting only 3 to 5 days, so if you really want to take care of your skin one of the best things to do is just wait. And I know, that can be difficult when you have a massive nasty irritating pimple on your face, but allowing the body to handle it on it’s own timeline is, unfortunately, one of the best ways to prevent scarring.