How to pop a pimple the right way

Turns out we've been doing it all wrong...

How to pop a pimple
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(Image credit: LaylaBird/Getty Images)

Now that maskne is the new acne, we've been bookmarking 'how to pop a pimple' on Google.

There's no unspoken rule that says you're magically immune to spots over the age of 20. Especially with all that oil and sweat now swishing around under your face covering.

This, in turn, clogs pores with a paste-like mixture of oil, dead cells and leftover make-up.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Bacteria (especially one called Propionibacterium acnes) can then get trapped inside the pores and multiply. This causes swelling and redness, which is the start of a pimple.

While washing your face with a salicylic acid cleanser and wearing a non-comedogenic foundation can all help,  when a black head, white head or any other kind of 'head' arrives like an unwelcome house guest the temptation to pick is *MASSIVE*.

With that in mind follow Dr Sandra Lee, aka The Pimple Popper's advice on how to pop a spot with the lowest risk of infection and scarring.

How to tell if a pimple is ready to pop 

"I will be like every other dermatologist and tell you that you really shouldn't pop any spots yourself. But, I know that many of you can't help yourselves," says Dr Lee.

"If you really MUST, the ideal time to pop a pimple is when it’s the most superficial it can be on the skin - aka it’s closest to the surface of the skin."

If a pimple has a yellow or white head, it's easier to extract and has the lowest risk of infection as the bump is very superficial.

When not to pop

"The deeper you traumatise your skin, the more risk you have of bleeding, infection and permanent scarring. So if it is a bump under the skin, leave it,"  says Lee. 

This is especially true if you have darker skin as you can get post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation, which could leave darker patches.

How to pop a spot by Dr Pimple Popper

  1. Take a steamy shower beforehand as it softens the skin and opens up the pores, so it’s easier to express the content of a pimple. 
  2. Sterilise the area and be sure to have clean tools and hands.
  3. I like to use the Dr. Pimple Popper Comedone Extractor, but if you’re using your fingers, increase traction by wrapping a clean tissue around them. 
  4. Apply even pressure to the skin around the whitehead or blackhead and move in all different directions.
  5. When the puss has come out, clean the area with alcohol or an acne spot treatment containing Salicylic acid  or benzoyl peroxide, which is found in my SLMD BP Spot Treatment.
  6. Leave it alone. If necessary put a band aid on it so you’re reminded not to pick at it anymore. 

Disclaimer: Know when to stop. Sometimes a pimple can't be popped and this is when you need to see a dermatologist. 

Fiona Embleton

Fiona Embleton is a multi-award-winning beauty editor who has tested over 10,000 products in her 10 years +  of writing and shooting beauty stories. For the past four years, she was the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, having previously worked in the role of Beauty Editor at both Stylist and Cosmopolitan. She has recently gone freelance and alongside My Imperfect Life, she has written for titles including ELLE UK, ELLE Canada, Buro 247, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Vogue Scandinavia, and ES Magazine. Beauty journalism allowed her to marry up her first-class degree in English Literature and Language (she’s a stickler for grammar and a self-confessed ingredients geek) with a passion for make-up and skincare, photography, and catwalk trends. She loves jumping on the latest internet-breaking beauty news, dissecting the best red carpet looks, and having the crème de la crème of dermatologists, make-up artists, and hairstylists on speed dial so she can tap them for the best advice. She’s a discerning beauty shopper and knows it can be confusing trying to navigate what’s hype and what really works. So if she really likes something, you can trust that she has reached that opinion by vetting it against everything else she’s ever tried. Her career highs? Interviewing Cate Blanchett and winning a Jasmine Award for the deeply personal feature Cancer Stole My Mother’s Scent.