We've all been warned at some point or another about the dangers of popping our own pimples (scarring! infection! irritation!), but the truth is, we do it anyway. If you're going to pop, you might as well know the right way to go about it.
First up, a word about which pimples are okay to squeeze, and which ones to keep your itchy little paws away from. A good rule of thumb is that you should only pop blemishes that have very distinct, white heads. This sort of blemish is common in cases of mild to moderate acne. Never try to pop something that does not have a white head, no matter how painful, red, or raised it is. Nothing will come out, and you will only make the pain and irritation worse.
Ready to get started? Then
- STEP 1: Be sure to start with a freshly scrubbed face and hands. I thought this one was common sense, until a friend told me about the staph infection she got from popping a pimple in an airport bathroom with unwashed hands. Ew.
- STEP 2: Using a hot compress of some sort (such as a washcloth soaked in hot water), apply heat and pressure to the area of the pimple for at least a minute. This helps soften the skin around the blemish, allowing for an easier extraction.
- STEP 3: Some advocate using Q-Tips, or even needles, to do the actual job. It's hard to get a good grip on the skin with a Q-Tip, and anything with a needle should be left to someone with a medical degree. I prefer toilet paper-wrapped fingertips, myself. It keeps the process sterile, and allows you to get a controlled grip on the skin surrounding the blemish.
- STEP 4: Time to squeeze! The #1 most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to squeeze the contents of the zit upwards. If you don't get underneath the zit, you risk it rupturing downward into your skin, which causes further infection (and possibly, a painful cyst). Grip either side of the blemish and gently apply pressure with your fingertips, not your nails. If it is ready to pop, you shouldn't need more than gentle pressure. If you find yourself pinching the skin too tightly with nothing to show for it, the blemish just wasn't ready. Leave it alone and try again tomorrow. If the blemish pops, you can give it an additional squeeze or two (but that's it!) to get everything out. Once it starts expelling clear liquid or a small amount of blood, it's time to stop.
- STEP 5: After you have finished squeezing, gently dab the area clean with an alcohol-based toner or cleansing pad. Don't put makeup over the blemish while it is still open and oozing! (This is basically the equivalent of stuffing dirt down into the open pore.) For this reason, it's best to save the popping for evenings, rather than before leaving for work in the morning. I prefer to let the pimple dry out a bit, and then apply a mild topical antibiotic such as Neosporin to help kill any infection-causing bacteria. Some people prefer to use an acne spot treatment. Either way, be sure to avoid any pore clogging products, including moisturizers, primers, and the like, until the lesion has dried completely.