What You Need to Know Before Popping a Pimple

March 23, 2022

Young woman popping pimples

Anyone with acne or just the occasional pimple has been tempted to pop their blemishes. While it may seem like the quickest, easiest way to get rid of unsightly pimples, popping can actually make breakouts worse. Dr. Amreen Sitabkhan of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Dallas and Carrollton, Texas, says, “In the past few years, pimple-popping videos on the internet have created a trend around popping pimples at home. Unfortunately, many of these “pimple” popping videos actually show people popping cysts, boils, and other types of blemishes, which can be even more problematic than popping a pimple. Most people don’t pop pimples as a way of getting involved in a trend. Instead, they think of popping pimples as a quick fix for a breakout, but pimple popping can lead to longer-lasting and more painful breakouts. Plus, popping opens patients up to a number of skin health risks.” In this blog, Dr. Sitabkhan will talk through some of the many reasons patients should work with a professional rather than popping pimples at home, so keep reading to learn everything you need to know before popping a pimple.

Is Popping Pimples Bad for Your Skin?

According to Dr. Sitabkhan, “The short answer is yes. While pimples can be painful and leave you feeling self-conscious, popping them opens you up to a variety of potential skin health concerns. Popping pimples at home increases the risk for infection in the short term and scarring in the long term. Additionally, what looks like a large pimple to you may not actually be a pimple. Lumps and bumps on the skin that seem poppable may need to be professionally extracted or removed. For instance, cysts, boils, lipomas, and scar tissue can all look or feel like blemishes. However, popping these types of lumps can be ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. No matter how tempting it is to deal with your pimples at home, it’s always best to leave pimple popping to the professionals.”

Popping pimples can cause some serious concerns related to skin health, including:

  • Popping pimples can make acne breakouts more painful and extend healing time.
  • Pimple popping can cause more skin irritation, leading to redness, swelling, and more noticeable acne breakouts. Once the popped pimples begin to heal, they may scab over.
  • The bacteria that causes acne and pimples can spread over the skin after a pop. This increases the risk for more pimples in surrounding areas as well as skin infections.

What Can I Do Instead of Popping Pimples?

Dr. Sitabkhan says, “It can be hard to fight the temptation to pop a pimple, especially ones that are painful or in noticeable areas. When the urge to pop arises, remember that you might make the pain worse and pimples more noticeable. You can also take some at-home care steps to relieve the pain and frustration of an acne breakout, including those listed below.”

  • Use an ice pack or cold compress – If an acne breakout is painful or there’s a lot of inflammation and redness, a cold compress can help. It reduces inflammation and redness and provides some relief from pain.
  • Try spot treatments – Topical blemish spot treatments can help to dry up the pimple more quickly. They also tend to help with redness, inflammation, and irritation around the blemish. Spot treatments for acne are available over the counter and in prescription-strength formulas.

    Epionce Purifying Spot Gel

  • Find the right skincare products – In addition to spot treatments, it’s essential to develop the best skincare routine to prevent breakouts and minimize the length and severity of breakouts that do occur. You can use over-the-counter skincare products that are non-comedogenic (safe for acne-prone skin). If you’ve tried store-bought products and can’t seem to find the best solution, schedule a visit with your dermatologist to discuss prescription-strength skincare products or for recommendations of over-the-counter products that meet your needs.
  • Be patient – We know it’s frustrating, but even the best acne products take time to work. There are, unfortunately, no overnight fixes for pimples. Some acne medications can take a month or longer to work, so patience is essential when developing an at-home skincare routine for acne.

Shop Acne Treatments online at DermSkincare.com »

Consider Professional Pimple Popping

If you regularly have painful acne or are experiencing an aggressive acne breakout that you’re struggling to clear up, a dermatologist can help. According to Dr. Sitabkhan, “Dermatologists have the training and the sterilized tools that are right for the job of popping pimples. Professional pimple-popping also causes less irritation and inflammation to the skin, so if you really can’t fight the urge to pop a pimple, call your dermatologist.”

Dermatologist-performed pimple-popping typically involves one of three procedures: extractions, corticosteroid injections, and surgical incision and drainage.

  • Acne extraction – This procedure is the most like at-home pimple popping. Using sterilized tools, the dermatologist extracts blackheads and whiteheads. The techniques and tools used by dermatologists minimize inflammation and irritation to the skin. When necessary, the dermatologist can also provide numbing medication to reduce the discomfort of extractions. Following this treatment, your dermatologist will give you aftercare instructions that help skin heal quickly and avoid any potential side effects.
  • Corticosteroid injection – For large cysts and nodules that develop deep within the skin, a dermatologist may recommend corticosteroid injections. In this procedure, a corticosteroid is injected directly into the cyst or nodule to accelerate healing, reduce inflammation, and minimize the risk for scarring after the blemish heals. This treatment can only be used sparingly because of the potential side effects of corticosteroid use, but for those who have one or two very deep, painful pimples, this can be a good option.
  • Surgical incision and draining – For very large cysts and nodules where corticosteroid use is not an option, surgical incision and draining may be a better solution. This procedure involves using a scalpel or needle to make a small incision in the pimple. Then, the pimple is drained.

Ready to Talk to a Professional About Pimple Popping?

If you need help with painful or unsightly pimples, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team has you covered. From finding the right spot treatments and skincare products to providing acne extractions, corticosteroid injections, or surgical incision and drainage, a dermatologist can help you find some much-needed relief for uncomfortable or lengthy breakouts. If that sounds like something that would be beneficial, don’t hesitate to complete our online scheduling request form. Once our local U.S. Dermatology Partners practice hears from you, a team member will be in touch to finalize the details of your visit.

Find a location near me


Find a location

Ready to Get Started?