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How to pop a pimple: instructions

How to Properly Pop a Pimple

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.


Glittersniffer Glittersniffer 8 years
Biologist talking, again! Using a sterile (isopropyl) needle is totally safe. All you're doing with the needle is gently pricking the top of the whitehead so that you don't require as much pressure to do the extraction. It's MUCH better for your skin, too. You don't have to press as much to break the outer membrane. Cleaning up afterward is also easy. Alcohol on anything but skin, Dial soap on skin, including the zit and surrounding area. Petroleum jelly is not so good for anything open (you'd just be putting another plug over the area that excludes oxygen...not unlike the membrane you just popped!) Footnote: No Neosporin on new piercings...same reason. It's not meant for open wounds. Save the Neo for scrapes, not pokes.
Theresa-Z Theresa-Z 9 years
I hope this helps someone as these posts are quite a few weeks old.If you ever use a metal extractor/lancet on your self be VERY careful.You need to sterilize the implement in 70% alcohol for 20 minutes before hand.Merely wiping it off will do nothing.Use a hot compress or when you are coming straight out of the shower(while the skin is warm) Definately AFTER you cleanse your hands wrap your index fingers in tissue. Pull the skin taut gently with your other fingers before extracting the blemish.Not doing so will cause damage to the connective tissue. When you damage connective tissue you cause eventual sagging/scarring.You may not see this right away but it will happen. Extractors = Scarring(you may be good with one but on warm/slippery skin? Use caution!! As for the Purell - It is the alcohol in the product that dries it up.I would personally not use Purell on my face. I would prefer a spot treatment.
md12398 md12398 9 years
i always, always clean my stainless steal extractor with alcohol, heat it under hot water, then let 'er rip. it works wonders.
tglynn tglynn 9 years
I've always used a sterilized needle. Every time I try to pop with my fingers, I end up popping it further into my skin and getting an infection. It's quick and easy. Of course, my steady hands probably help a bit. :D
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
I'd say it would be even easier to do this after a shower so your pores are easier to work with.
mlmoreno47 mlmoreno47 9 years
Is it gross that I still remember my first "good one" lmao. Lame milestones! :)
calliope calliope 9 years
Very interesting. Unfortunately I always get clogged pores with no heads on them. They are hard almost impossible to extract.
katybug518 katybug518 9 years
One thing that I try, if a pimple is ready to go, is instead of the initial "squeeze" of the head of the pimple, I "pull it apart" if that makes sense. A lot of times, by spreading the skin around the pimple, a small head will be come larger and bring more of the infection to the surface, and it will open up a lot easier. It's also a lot gentler than squeezing. If you squeeze too hard, you can bruise the area, and increase the scarring. I try to always do extractions in the shower, because of the steam opening your pours, and you definitely need to cleanse again after extracting. Always put some type of acne medicine, or something to expedite the healing process, but ALWAYS moisturize. Even if you have acne, you need to moisturize, it's SO important!!!!!
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Terry so true!!
terryt18 terryt18 9 years
I'm an expert at popping my own zits, despite the occasional overkill. I totally agree with the Neosporin. And second the extractor, tea tree oil, and warm, moist washcloth. Isn't it just so satisfying when you get one really good? Oh, yeah...
mlen mlen 9 years
i use neosporin after i pop a zit- it definitely helps
jopperma jopperma 9 years
I love the "toilet paper wrapped fingertips" line... I totally do that too and always feel like such a weirdo!
MindayH MindayH 9 years
I use Purell on my face all the time, dries up zits like a charm
cherub1175 cherub1175 9 years
Oh if only I had read this a week ago. My face rarely breaks out but I got a really painful cystic pimple on my face last week and Neosporin could have been my answer. It still isn't completely gone so I might need to try that tip out tonight!
bailaoragaditana bailaoragaditana 9 years
I'm a big fan of using tea tree oil, but neosporin does sound quite promising... But these are really good, common-sense tips! Thanks for sharing!
tropicalsiren tropicalsiren 9 years
i put tea tree oil afterwards or better yet i wash the area again after i pop it and then put a spot treatment.
thasugardude thasugardude 9 years
Thanks for the advice girls! Next time I'll try Neosporin (big fan), tea tree oil, or just plain old rubbing alcohol.
hottpink hottpink 9 years
Nickey - I have the same problem...the dry skin around it looks so gross and "flaky" under make-up!!!
Ashlyn-Rose Ashlyn-Rose 9 years
I'm so happy that you mentioned Neosporin Bella. Whenever I tell people that I put that on pimples they think I'm crazy. A small amount of Neosporin shouldn't really clog pores. It's an antiseptic so it'll kill the acne bacteria and make the infected area heal faster. I like using the neosporin with pain reliever on the cystic pimples too.
Nickey Nickey 9 years
And usually when I pop a pimple, I put an alcohol based toner on for the clean up, but it dries the skin around it really bad. What should I do to help with that? I don't want to put a moisturizer right afterwards, so I have no idea what to do about the dry skin (which does look so bad under makeup).
Nickey Nickey 9 years
But wait doesn't neosporin have petroleum jelly in it? Won't that just clog you up even more?
mnp mnp 9 years
I've always popped my pimple because I'm afraid of pockmarks that form when the pimple dries up on it's own. Does anyone know if that's like an old wives tale? Or is it true?
emososays17 emososays17 9 years
The Neosporin/band aid also works really well with cystic pimples too!
emososays17 emososays17 9 years
I like to use either rubbing alcohol or tea tree oil on a Q-tip swab after to dry it up (dies up the blood too). Then I dab on some Neosporin and a band aid and hop into bed. By the next morning I'm me again!
pharm_chick pharm_chick 9 years
yeah, dont put purell!! the best thing to use is either neosporin or witch hazel or some other astringent after popping a pimple. and make sure you cant infect it somehow, long nails+popping pimples= scars! and dirty nails+popping pimples=infections and skin much worse then before lol.
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