To Pop or Not to Pop...That is the Question

by Raychel Agramon, RN, MPM, June 02, 2020

To Pop or Not to Pop...That is the Question

Seeing a big, red pimple on your face will surely drive you crazy. While it may be tempting to pop it, it’s not recommended. A lot of experts are actually against it, including aesthetician Danuta Mieloch. In her interview with Teen Vogue, she expressed that it can “spread bacteria and cause inflammation.” As such, doing so may result in discoloration (inflammatory hyperpigmentation) and some scarring. 

Why You Shouldn’t Pop It (or Them)!

Dr. Joshua Zeichner had this to say in his Allure interview: “When performed properly, extractions can clear certain types of pimples. However, bad techniques combined with attempts to pick non-pickable pimples can be a recipe for disaster.” 

In other words, unless you are a board-certified dermatologist like the eminent pimple-popper Dr. Sandra Lee, there’s a huge chance that you’ll just mess it up. 

So before you try to prick that big huge zit, you need to consider these:

  • Acne is the body’s way of healing your skin. 

Having pimples does not mean that your body is against you. It means it’s ‘healing itself,’ as it is actively trying to get rid of the bacteria and the other substances that are lodged in your pores. Keeping this in mind may help keep your focus off that huge, red zit.

  • It will leave an open wound.

Popping your pimple won’t make it disappear right away. Chances are, you will just be leaving an open sore on your face. This will make your skin more susceptible to germs and dirt that can trigger a worse infection.

  • It may lead to worse (and more) pimples.

As mentioned, pimple popping can spread bacteria to other parts of your face. For one, your fingers may introduce more germs into the zit. At the same time, the act itself could drive the germs to the lower layers of the skin, which may result in an even larger zit.

  • Pimple-popping can lead to scars.

If the other factors do not deter you, know this: a pricked zit can lead to an ugly scar. Dr. Erin Gilbert, in her Allure interview, had this to say: “These scars are difficult to treat once they’ve occurred.” 

If you don’t want to have a bad complication that entails an expensive derma visit, then you better get your hands off your acne!





What You Can Do

There are many things you could do instead of popping your pimple. Here are some better alternatives that can help you get rid of unsightly zits:

  • Apply a warm compress.

Rather than prick your acne, Dr. Howard Murad recommends trying a warm compress first. In his interview, he explained that “this will loosen and soothe the skin, sometimes causing the pimple to pop by itself.” 

According to Dr. Murad, all you need to do is apply the warm compress on the affected area for 3 to 5 minutes. If the pimple doesn’t pop, chances are it’s not ‘ripe enough’ to give in yet.

  • Use a spot treatment.

If the warm compress doesn’t make the pimple budge, know that it’s not the end of the world. There’s something else you could do, and that is to apply a spot treatment to the zit. Products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide are good options for such breakouts. 

  • Try a pimple patch.

Scientifically known as a hydrocolloid bandage, a pimple patch works by drawing out the ‘material’ from your zit. The effects are usually apparent within 24 hours of use. While a pimple patch is inherently good, it’s not applicable for more severe types of acne such as cysts and nodules. 

But I Really, Really Want to Pop My Pimple...

If there’s no stopping you from doing the inevitable, you need to keep a few things in mind before you get started: 

  • Wash your hands and face.

If you don’t want to worsen your zit – or create more pimples in the process – then you need to properly wash your hands, as well as your face. 

Additionally, it’s ideal that you cut your fingernails as well. A lot of dirt and grime are usually stuck underneath your fingernails, and as such could lead to more severe acne.

  • Use a straight pin.

To avoid contamination, Dr. Sejal Shah recommends using a straight pin for the popping process. You need to ‘sterilize’ it first with the use of a match or a lighter. Yes, since it’s an ‘invasive procedure’, your pin should be as clean as it can be.

After the pin cools, you need to wipe it with alcohol. The same should be done to your pimple and fingers. With the pin parallel to your zit, gently prick your pimple. You only need to breach the surface. 

Remember: only the gunk material should drain. If blood comes out, that means you have gone way too deep. Should this happen, make sure to apply ample pressure on the site. 

With the use of gauze/tissue-wrapped fingers – or cotton swabs – press downward around the sides (NOT the top) of your pimple. The content should drain easily. If it does not come out, then it means that your zit is not ready for popping yet.

As with most procedures, you can expect to have some redness after your self-operation. 

Consequently, you should only use gentle skincare products while your popped zit is healing. Stay away from scrubs, exfoliants, and serums for the meantime. 

Reminder: Not all Pimples can Be Popped

Not all zits are made equal. There are smaller, milder ones, while there are mode deep-seated types. With that being said, Dr. Zeichner reminds wannabe poppers to steer clear of nodules (which are hard and painful marks) or cysts (which are red, tender, and full of pus). 

Pricking these acne types can lead to inflammation, which can make things even worse. To avoid such an event, it’s recommended that you go to your dermatologist for a cortisone shot or an appropriate prescription treatment.

Popping pimples is an impulsive thing that most people do. But before you try this at home, know that it comes with a lot of risks. If done poorly, it can lead to worse acne – and additional pimples! Should you decide to push through with the procedure, remember to follow the doctor-recommended steps that were mentioned above.