To pop or not to pop pimples?

woman squeezing pimple

We all get pimples from time to time, and the temptation to pop them can be very strong.

It might be tempting to squeeze pimples to get rid of them, however this approach is strongly discouraged by dermatologists. This is because if you pop a pimple in the wrong way the chances of scarring and infections are much higher.

Pimple Types

The majority of pimples develop because the skin cells surrounding the hair follicles become stuck together, creating a plug which clogs the pores.

There are a number of things which can cause this to happen including allergic reactions, natural skin oils, bacteria and hormones. As a result, the pores become clogged with sebum, oil or pus, causing the skin to be bumpy and inflamed.

There are three commonly seen blemishes:

  • Blemishes – these are open pores which become clogged by dead cells and oil. These go black when they’re exposed to the air and this gives blackheads a black appearance.
  • Whiteheads – similar to blackheads, whiteheads are covered with skin.
  • Pustules – these are deep acne blemishes which are difficult to extract and which are inflamed and red.

If a pimple begins to form under the skin or a pore is clogged, the hair follicles start to fill with sebum or pus. The hair follicle will eventually burst, causing the clog to come free from the pore, starting the process of healing. 

This is the way in which your body naturally deals with acne and clogged pores. If you pop the pimples yourself, the healing process may be triggered, but there are some risks involved.

Why Not Pop?

Dermatologists recommend that nobody pops pimples themselves. This is because breaking the skin barrier could cause permanent acne scars.

When a pimple contains pus that is infected, popping the pimple spreads the bacteria to the hair follicles and other pores, creating an even bigger outbreak of acne. 

Not only that, but popping pimples also delays the natural process of healing, so the blemish will last longer. 

When you try popping a pimple and find that you can’t, its contents get pushed even further under the skin’s layers. This clogs the pores even more, making acne even more noticeable and triggering inflammation under the skin.

How To Care For Pimples Properly

Since picking and popping pimples spreads infection, worsening the breakout, it makes sense to avoid poking at your skin. There are better ways to care for your pimples. These include:

  • Spot treatmentsover the counter acne treatments can be dabbed onto pimples, drying them out for a shorter healing time.
  • Safe extraction of blemishes – if you really need to squeeze the pimple, do it safely. Never use a hard object or your fingernails, and if the pimple doesn’t have a yellow or white head, it isn’t ready for squeezing.

The Safest Techniques

The right technique to pop a pimple varies depending on the blemish type.

pimple types


  • Blackheads – you can apply an over the counter spot treatment like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to loosen the clog in the pore before trying to pop the blackhead. Make sure you’ve thoroughly washed your hands then put pressure on each side of the pore with your fingertips. The blackhead will pop out with a small amount of pressure.
  • Whiteheads – use alcohol to sterilize a needle then prick the skin gently where the pore has been blocked. Apply pressure, just like with a blackhead, and extract the whitehead using the same technique, again making sure your hands are thoroughly washed.
  • Pustules – these are deep below your skin’s layers and are hard to extract. Use a warm compress to open the pores and encourage the clog to come closer to the surface of the skin. It isn’t advised to pop pustules on your own due to the risk of spreading the infection.

Other Options

Apart from using over the counter spot treatments, there are some other options available to you when it comes to getting rid of blemishes and pimples:

  • Cold compresses – these relieve swelling and pain from pustules, nodules and cysts
  • Warm compresses – these loosen bacteria and dirt, speeding up the healing of your clogged pores
  • Diluted alcohol or tea tree oil – these are natural clarifiers which work as astringents to dry and remove the clogs that are caused by the skin’s natural oils

Should I Pop My Pimples?

Although it’s tempting to pop your pimples, it really is something that you should avoid if you don’t want to run the risk of infection or scarring. 

There are better options when it comes to clearing up blemishes on your skin including using over the counter skin treatments, compresses and using natural clarifiers like tea tree oil or diluted alcohol. 

If you are suffering from a large number of pimples it’s always best to go and see a dermatologist for professional treatment rather than trying to handle your skin problem alone.

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