Skin Journal
Should you pop a pimple?
25/9/2020
Author:
Kate Iselin
Reviewed by:

We admit it: there’s something extremely satisfying about popping a pimple.


Maybe it’s because seeing that little flood of pus come out is kind of gross, and there’s something really fascinating about things that are kind of gross. Or maybe it’s because popping pimples gives us something immediate and hands-on to do with our acne.

Waiting for an anti-acne cream or serum to have an effect can take weeks, but attacking your pimple in front of the bathroom mirror only takes minutes, and you can often see a difference immediately.


Whatever the reason, people have popped pimples for probably as long as pimples have existed. But should you pop a pimple? 


Unfortunately, the answer is no—you shouldn’t.


We'll explain why, but because we’re all only human and we all get tempted into popping pimples occasionally, we’ll tell you what to do if you have popped a pimple—and what you can do instead of popping next time.

READ MORE: The Dermatologist-approved guide to acne.


Why shouldn’t I pop a pimple?

The first thing you need to know is not every pimple is safe to pop. Larger pimples, such as papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts, should never be popped at home.


These kinds of pimples, sometimes known as ‘blind pimples’, occur deeper under the skin. They don’t always have a clear path for their fluid to exit the body through. If you run your finger over a blind pimple, you’ll feel a swelling under the skin but no opening on top of the skin.


Scratching or picking at these pimples—or worse, using tweezers or another tool to try to pop them—can cause real damage to your face. The pimple itself can become infected, and the skin around it can become cut, inflamed, and even bruised. Popped or scratched pimples can also leave scars, which can take a long time to fade even with prescribed treatments1. Trying to pop one of these pimples can also push all of the oil and bacteria further into the skin, potentially creating more inflammation.


If you absolutely must pop a pimple, comedones—whiteheads and blackheads—are your safest bets. While popping these pimples can still cause stress and damage to your skin, the fluid inside a comedone is more easily able to exit the body, which reduces the chance of infection. 


What can I do instead of popping?

Whether you’re dealing with a cluster of acne or you’re just trying to get rid of that one gnarly red pimple that’s emerged overnight, here are some things you can do.


  • Treat it with ice. Wrap an ice pack, or a few blocks of ice, in a face washer and press it to the pimple for a couple of minutes. The low temperature can help reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain. Don’t freeze yourself though—if you start to feel any pain, take the ice away.
  • Use a hot compress. Run a face washer under warm water, wring it out, and apply it to the affected area (or drape it over your whole face) for a few minutes. The heat can help open your pores and draw any impurities up to the surface, which makes it easier for them to exit the body.


Still want to pop that pimple?

Sometimes ignoring pimples until they heal on their own is easier said than done. You should never pop a blind pimple, but if you really must get at that blackhead or whitehead, here are a few tips to make it easier:


  • Wash your hands! Any dirt or bacteria you have on your hands can be transferred to your face when you touch it. If you’re touching an open lesion like a pimple, this bacteria can get into your skin and cause an infection. Whenever you’re touching your face—even if it’s just to apply some moisturiser or sunscreen—you should wash or sanitise your hands first.
  • Consider cotton buds. Rather than digging your sharp fingernails into your skin, which can cause trauma and bruising, use two cotton buds on either side of the pimple to squeeze and pop it. Cotton buds are also a better choice than tweezers, which can pinch and poke skin, and can carry bacteria.
  • Don’t push too hard. If you’re squeezing and squeezing and the pimple just won’t pop, it’s probably not ready. Apply a hot compress or an ice pack, and come back to it in a day or two. Likewise, if you do pop a pimple and blood starts to come out, don’t keep squeezing. Clean the area gently with a tissue or face washer, and give your skin a chance to heal.
  • Don’t pick at it afterwards. The pimple might develop a scab, which will heal and fall off in its own time. Picking at the scab will only re-open the lesion, and prolong the time it takes for the pimple to heal. This can cause scarring and hyperpigmentation later on.


If you find yourself concerned about your skin, or if acne is affecting your confidence and self-esteem, we highly recommend speaking with a doctor. After all, prevention is the best cure. Acne isn’t something that has to be part of your everyday life—even the most severe cases of acne can be treated with good medical advice and effective, scientifically-proven skincare.


References

Author:
Kate Iselin
Reviewed by:
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