It’s probably safe to say that there isn’t a single human being on the planet that enjoys getting pimples. Whether you’re a preteen dealing with consistent pop-ups during puberty or an adult struggling to keep those unwanted visitors at bay, pimples and our complexions are just not friends. No matter if they come alone or in a cluster, pimples can be a headache. We talked to Dr. Pimple Popper herself (aka dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee, MD) to get the lowdown on how to treat and exterminate those unwanted bumps without causing irritation or infection. Here are her dos and don’ts for getting rid of zits.
You’ve heard it time and time again that picking a zit can cause infection, which will only worsen the problem. Cleaning the infected area and any tools used is an important step in decreasing your chance of infection. “If the pimple has come to a white/yellow ‘head’ and you must extract, the area and your tools need to be sterilized,” Lee says. “Wash your face with warm water to open up the pores and this should make extraction much easier.” In other words, picking your pimple in a gym bathroom or in the car is likely not the best choice to avoid infection.
Don’t Pop Prematurely
There are stages to every breakout. You can feel it growing, it breaks the surface and then the waiting game begins. It can take days for the pimple to turn into a white or yellow head (aka superficial) and this is often the time we become most impatient. “Popping pimples is not always a bad thing, but it can be if the bump is not superficial to the surface,” Lee says. “If the pimple doesn’t have a head yet and is still under the skin, trying to extract it can not only be very painful but can cause irritation, infection and leave scarring that is likely permanent.” Lee also notes that forcing a pimple to pop before its time can also cause it to grow two to three times the size. “In short, know when to pop and know when to stop,” she warns.
If your zit is ready to be popped and you’ve sterilized the area and any tools, now it’s time to get that unwanted pimple out of there. Once you begin squeezing the area to release the pus it can seem tempting to squeeze until that sucker has life no longer, but over-squeezing is a big no-no. “Usually a pimple has been completely drained if no more pus can be expressed, so if you see a little blood, stop squeezing,” says Lee. “Once the pimple has been popped be sure to keep the area clean and let it heal properly to avoid scarring.”
Do Visit a Dermatologist
If you have a breakout but you’re not sure it’s ready to be popped or you don’t feel confident doing it yourself, visiting a dermatologist is an option for professional care. Dermatologists have expert tools and techniques that can extract and treat breakouts without causing infection or scarring, which makes this the best bet when trying to get rid of unwanted zits. If you attempt an extraction but end up with an inflamed wound or scar, visit a skin care expert to help treat and repair any damage done to your skin.
Do Finish With a Spot Treatment
Spot treatments are full of powerhouse ingredients to treat and rid skin of pesky breakouts. If you find that your pimple is red and inflamed, spot treatments can kill bacteria and prevent future breakouts before they become visible.