Should you pop a pimple?

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

Written by
Kate Iselin
Medically reviewed by
min read
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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 pimple popping 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 next time.

Why shouldn't you pop pimples?

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 medical treatments [1]. You may even end up with permanent scarring.

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, which are considered noninflamed acne blemishes — are your safest bets.

While squeezing pimples like these 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 blemishes 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.‍

Try a pimple patch

Software's AHA/BHA Pimple Patches are the perfect spot treatment for pimples that you are tempted to squeeze.

Supercharged with salicylic acid, glycolic acid and more powerful ingredients, these handy patches work to remove dead skin cells and unclog the affected pore, control acne-causing bacteria and dry out excess oil in the zit to reveal visibly clearer skin in just 2 hours.

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 while popping a pimple, 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 acne scars and hyperpigmentation later on.

Treating acne (so you can stop popping pimples)

The best way to stop squeezing pimples is to reduce your acne, and there are plenty of over-the-counter treatments that can help with this.

Software's Acne range features several skincare essentials to target breakouts, including our Salicylic Foaming Wash to eliminate acne-causing bacteria, Ceramide Repair Balm to repair the skin barrier, and Acne Supplement to fight acne from the inside out.

If you don't get the results you were hoping for with OTC products, or if your acne-prone skin is severely affecting your confidence and self-esteem, we recommend speaking with a health practitioner, like Software's health practitioners who can create a personalised formula that is right for your skin.

Complete our online consult and a pharmacist will create your formula. This is compounded and delivered straight to your door and you can access ongoing follow-up support from your practitioner as you use your treatment.

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