Not popping a pimple is one of those cardinal beauty rules that is often broken, but there are things you can do to lessen the damage if you do choose to squeeze. Your best bet is to leave your extractions to the pros. But if you can't resist the urge, take some advice from celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. "If you are going to squeeze a zit or blemish, make sure you aren't making it worse and creating further damage to the skin," she says. "The issue isn't just the blemish itself, but the red, dark, or purple mark left over from picking can linger for months. So the goal is to get the infection out of the skin in the least invasive way." Learn how to do that when you follow these steps.
1. Assess the blemish: Before you pop, determine what type breakout you have and if it's something that needs extracting. "Cystic acne, the hard, sore blemishes that develop deep within the skin and can linger for weeks, should never be squeezed," Rouleau warns. "Cystic blemishes will rarely ever come up to the surface. Rather, they develop deep within the skin and they heal deep within the skin."
2. Know when it's ready to pop: A blemish that has just appeared is another one you should leave alone. "If you do not see the whitehead on the very surface of the skin, do not touch it whatsoever as you can damage the surrounding tissue and make the infection worse than it already is," Rouleau explains. "Do not proceed until you see a visible whitehead on the very surface of the skin."
3. Extract the right way: If you have a whitehead that's at the surface, wrap tissues around each of your forefingers — these fingers offer the best control when putting pressure on the skin. "The key to squeezing is that you want to get under the blemish; don't squeeze on the top," Rouleau says. Keep your fingers a bit outside the blemish, and not too close together, so that you create a very mild pressure that removes the infection from underneath, allowing it to pop out. Once something has come out, reposition your fingers at a different angle and repeat. "If nothing came out, it meant that it was not ready and the blemish should have never been touched in the first place." To help soften the skin before you extract, apply a warm towel over the whitehead.
4. Apply a spot treatment: "If and only if the pus did come out, you should now apply a spot treatment to help dry up and draw out any remaining infection," she explains. The Renée Rouleau Night Time Spot Lotion ($29) has a blend of ingredients, including camphor, zinc and sulfur, which all help to remove any impurities that lead to breakouts. Make sure you only apply a spot treatment after the infection has been removed.