The Right Way to Pop A Pimple

If you really must, truly can’t not, no-way-to-control yourself pick at your face, there are a few rules you need to follow…

You know you’re not supposed to. Like, you really really know you’re not supposed to. But it’s just so tempting. It’s literally staring you in the face every time you look in the mirror; it’s right there, just asking for it. And come on! It looks like it’s about to go on its own anyway — what harm could a little poking and prodding really cause?!

Turns out, when it’s a pimple you’re talking about, even the best-intentioned poking and prodding can have pretty disastrous side effects. (Inflammation, bleeding, scarring and infection, just to name a few.) But listen, I get it. We’re all human and thus blemish magpies: when we see something even remotely pop-able, it’s hard to help ourselves.

So here’s the deal I’ll make with you: If you really must, truly can’t not, no-way-to-control yourself pick at your face, there are a few rules you need to follow.

1. Be honest.

Before you get your digits anywhere near that sucker, assess the blemish with an unbiased eye. Forget that voice in your head egging you on and instead consider how old the pimple is. If it’s brand new, stay away. It usually takes at least 1-2 days for any blemish to reach the stage where it’s safely pop-able, which is when the whitehead aka the “pus” comes to the surface. If you can’t see the whitehead, it’s not ready. Any squeezing you do before the blemish is ripe can do serious damage to the skin tissue, as well as push the infection even deeper into the skin.

2. Get everything very, very clean.

If you have reasoned through it and decided based on visual evidence that the pimple is, in fact, ready to be popped, the first and most important thing you can do is make sure everything is super clean. Completely remove all makeup and cleanse until things are proverbially “squeaky.” Then wash your hands. (You can also use a VERY GENTLE exfoliant if you promise to do so with a light touch as it’ll help remove any stubborn dead skin that may be sitting on top of the whitehead, making it harder to express.)

Think of this as a surgical procedure: you wouldn’t want a doctor using dirty, unsterilized instruments if you were getting your appendix removed, so why would you do any differently on your precious face?

Side note: The optimal time to attempt a pop is at night, post-shower. Everything will be clean, your skin will be softer and more pliable thanks to the hot water, and it’ll give your skin time to heal overnight.

3. Use the right “tools.”

I know I just instructed you to wash your hands, but don’t actually use your fingers to do this. For a gentle, less-likely-to-scar approach, use two cotton swabs or wrap the tips of your index fingers in tissue. Not only do you not want your fingertips coming in contact with an already-bacteria-ridden blemish, but tissue or cotton will act as a cushion so you’re not accidentally using your nails.

4. Be gentle.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually want to squeeze the crap out of a blemish. Instead, you want to get under the infection to avoid pushing it deeper. So gently press the skin around the pimple down, in and up, almost like a scooping motion. Do this slowly once or twice. If nothing comes out, reposition your fingers a bit and try from a different angle.

5. Know when to stop.

Not every attempt is going to be successful. If you’ve tried the above tactic and repositioned your fingers/cotton swabs three times, STOP. If you start to bleed, STOP. If it hurts a lot, STOP. That pimple is not ready.

6. Treat.

Ok, so you’ve successfully and safely popped your pimple…congrats, but your work is not done. Though the blemish has been drained, you’re now dealing with an open wound on your skin that’s incredibly susceptible to bacteria and scabbing. As soon as you’re done, apply a spot treatment that will minimize bacteria and absorb oil. Tea tree oil will help kill lingering bacteria or a dab of clay mask can calm the skin, reducing redness and swelling.

And please, if you really feel like you can’t live with something on your face but also have the good sense not to push it too far on your own, leave it to the professionals at the dermatologist office.


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Reading this, I feel so grateful my acne/pimple days are behind me!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

6 years ago

great. thanks

6 years ago

Love this! :)

6 years ago

So glad I am way beyond this, now it’s wrinkles and flaking! I guess you can’t have it all…….

6 years ago

This toy list is all you need for a great gifting season

6 years ago

Thanks for the wonderful article. I know how annoying it is to have such ugly spots on our skin. I had pimples on my face when I was young and it was a very bad experience. But after taking the treatment they are gone and everything perfectly fine now. But it will be helpful for everyone who is still suffering from the issue.