Should You Pop Pimples, or Leave Them Alone?

Once again, the best things in life are bad for you.


Never, ever pop a pimple yourself. We repeat: Never, ever pop a pimple yourself, no matter how tempting. Doing so is an open invitation for red, splotchy skin and infection, according to dermatologist Rajani Katta. Three words you never want used in conjunction with your face? Red, splotchy and infected.

Of course, this doesn’t leave you with many options to immediately deal with that ready-to-pop whitehead. If you’re desperate, you could cover it up with makeup until it resolves itself (pimples typically go away within a week or so). Alternatively, you could apply a topical ointment to speed up that process (which we’ll touch on momentarily). But if the temptation to squeeze proves too strong—we’ve all been there—enlist a professional.

Estheticians commonly perform “extractions,” the polite way to say zit popping. The big difference from your own “extraction” is that estheticians do it in a much more sterile environment—i.e., NOT over your bathroom sink, where bacteria is more likely to hang out, and NOT with your grimy, fecal-matter infested hands (sorry, but it’s true). When bacteria and pimples meet, it’s not pretty. Best-case scenario? More pimples. Worst-case scenario? The aforementioned infected face.

Even still, estheticians can only do so much—and c’mon, there’s no way you’re going to pay them a visit every time you get a zit. Your skin is always shedding dead cells, and those dead cells are always clogging your pores, which is how pimples form. That leaves prevention as your best bet. “Retinoids and salicylic acid keep the skin cells from sticking together, which keeps the pores open,” says Shani Francis, a dermatology professor at the University of Chicago. These sound more clinical than they are; numerous cleansers, lotions and topical ointments list them as ingredients.

Put simply, wash your face—once in the morning, and make sure you also do it once before bed. And if that doesn’t work for you, Katta recommends applying a topical ointment that contains two percent salicylic acid, which will dry out the pimple and encourage it to pop on its own.

If, even after all the preventative face scrubbing, dermatologist-approved products and professional extractions, you’re still craving the sick satisfaction that can only come from watching some pores squeezed to oblivion, YouTube has just the remedy you need.