A dermatologist explains the only right way to pop a pimple

They often have horrible timing, growing inflamed and filling with pus at the exact moments that we need to look our best.

When it comes to pimple popping, dermatologists have a general rule for the public: Don't do it at home. 
Popping your own pimples can lead to infection and permanent scarring, and interfering could make them look even worse, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says

But pimples can hurt. They often have horrible timing, growing inflamed and filling with pus at the exact moments that we need to look our best. Plus, Dr. Pimple Popper videos make it look like so much fun. Leaving them alone requires Herculean effort that few can muster. 

So INSIDER asked dermatologist Dr. Allison Arthur if there's a way to pop pimples that minimizes potential risk and damage. Here's what she had to say. 

Some pimples should not be touched.

Don't even try to pop cystic acne.

Let's start with cysts and nodules — the hard, inflamed, painful bumps lodged deep in the skin. 

"Deep nodules and cysts, you should never touch," Arthur said. Trying to pop them can greatly increase the amount of time they take to heal. Instead, it's best to exercise patience. If your budget allows, you can also see a dermatologist for an injection that makes the swelling go down fast. 
Arthur also explained that open and closed comedones — better known as blackheads and whiteheads— are best left to professionals, who can use comedone extractors to gently clear out pores. 

"I do frequently recommend facials with extractions done by an aesthetician for people with comedones," she said. 

She added that milia— tiny white bumps often confused for acne — are best popped by dermatologists or aestheticians. 

Pustules are the one type of pimple that you can pop at home — but only if you do it right.

This is what a pustule looks like.

"The perfect pimple to try to pop at home is called a pustule," Arthur said. 

Pustules are what most people think of as a zit: Red and inflamed with a white head at the center. The stuff you squeeze out of them is pus, which contains dead white blood cells that have rushed to the site of the clogged pore. 
To pop a pustule, Arthur recommended the following steps: 

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly, including under your fingernails.
  2. Swab the pustule with some rubbing alcohol.
  3. Use your fingers to apply gentle pressure on either side of the pustule.
  4. If it doesn't empty out with gentle pressure, stop trying to pop it .

If the pustule's not ready, it's not ready. Don't keep pushing down on the skin, and don't dig into it with your fingernails. "If it doesn't come out immediately," Arthur said, "you're probably going to cause more harm than good." 

Some online popping how-tos say you should stick the head of the pustule with a sterilized pin or needle before popping, but Arthur advised against this tactic. 

"I would never encourage someone to use a needle on their skin at home," she said. 

Then follow these steps for post-popping care.

You can find hydrocortisone cream at the drugstore.

The way you treat the pimple after popping matters, too. Arthur said you should apply some over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, which will help reduce inflammation. After that, a dab of Vaseline will help keep the now-open wound from scabbing over. 
And if you're getting pimple after pimple after pimple, remember that popping is probably one of the least effective ways to deal with the problem. 

"If people have tried over-the-counter acne treatments and aren't seeing improvement, [they should] reach out and see a dermatologist who can put them on a good regimen." That might include prescription creams, oral medicines, or even procedures like peels. Find a dermatologist in your area right here.


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Women's Magazine: A dermatologist explains the only right way to pop a pimple
A dermatologist explains the only right way to pop a pimple
They often have horrible timing, growing inflamed and filling with pus at the exact moments that we need to look our best.
Women's Magazine
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