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Stop Before You Pop!

Updated: Jul 14

All my recent posts about acne have prompted several of you (you know who you are) to reach out and ask how to pop pimples properly at home. Now, I know you've all been told not to pick your own zits, but I suppose in our current situation, we need to make an exception. So here we go.



Start by identifying the type of pimple you are intending to pop. It could be a blackhead, pustule, closed comedone, papule, nodule, or cyst. I will tell you right now if it’s anything other than a blackhead or pustule, you shouldn’t mess with it. Papules, nodules and cysts are typically painful to the touch, red, and very inflamed. They should never be picked because they have a core of dead skin cells and sebum that is not superficial enough to extract. Picking at one of these blemishes can push bacteria further into the pore potentially rupturing tissue and spreading bacteria. You would likely cause more harm than good, and it will become even more inflamed and unsightly.Closed comedones are also not good to mess with. They are the small white bumps that can be clearly seen when the skin is stretched. You may have felt them long before you were ever able to see them. They should not be removed without lancing or creating an opening in the skin covering them, which can lead to further infection. Using a sulfur product like ZO Skin Health Inc. Sulfur Masque on these types of blemishes is a much safer way to speed their healing.


Blackheads and pustules can be extracted at home with proper instruction and the right tools. A blackhead is most commonly found in the “T-Zone” (forehead, nose, and chin), but can appear anywhere on the body. Blackheads are pores that are clogged with a combination of sebum (oil), dead skin cells, and other debris. They are characterized by their dark brown or black appearance which is caused by oxidation since no skin or membrane covers its surface. Blackheads are typically easiest to remove immediately after a steamy shower when they are soft and malleable. Using cotton swabs or fingers wrapped in tissues press directly downward on either side of the blackhead. Do not squeeze! and the plugged pore should pop out easily. If you have trouble, do not continue pushing with more force, or you may find yourself with broken blood vessels or some petechia (small bruising). Instead, try to soften the clogged pores a little more. One way to do that is mixing equal parts of baking soda and water (distilled is preferable) to create a homemade disincrustation or scaling fluid. This Alkaline solution softens dried up sebum and loosens debris. Soak some cotton in your mixture and lay it over the clogged area for 10 minutes. If that still doesn’t do it, and you need to call in the big guns, you can check out my post “Missing Me” to learn how to make a steam towel and lay that over top of the soaked cotton to dilate or open up the pore. Still won't budge? Wait until you can see a professional.


Whiteheads, or pustules, require a very different technique. The white stuff inside is pus. Pus accumulates when there is an infection, and infections can spread, so take extreme care to follow instructions carefully on this one. You will need a sterile lancet for this type of extraction. They are easily found in the diabetic section of any pharmacy and can be added to home delivery orders from the grocery store. DO NOT USE A SAFETY PIN THAT YOU HELD OVER A FLAME OR DOUSED WITH RUBBING ALCOHOL. Wait until you have a sterile lancet available. With clean or gloved hands start by making a small opening in the thin membrane covering the whitehead. You only need to pierce the membrane so don't poke too aggressively. The opening should be on the side of the whitehead where the base of it meets the skin. Try to make the opening on the underside of the pimple allowing gravity to help you. Once you have an opening at the bottom of the whitehead perpendicular to the skin's surface, you will see it begin oozing. Gently wipe away any visible pus with a tissue or cotton swab. Then, using light pressure and starting 2 mm away from the whitehead on either side pull the skin away from the blemish with fingers wrapped in tissues. More pus should drain and be wiped away. Once you've cleared the pus, you need to then extract the core. Scoop up under the blemish with cotton swabs, to gently work the core up and out. You may need to make several attempts, but you should never force it. You will know that you have completely cleared the pore when you see “clear blood.“ This is small amounts of blood and clear serous fluid. Once you have gotten to that point, cleanse your face, apply a small dab of antibiotic ointment, and leave it alone to heal!


While I'm not really a fan of home extractions, I do understand that unprecedented circumstances call for unique solutions. I'm not sure when we will have the opportunity to see one another again, but I hope you feel empowered to care of your skin properly in the meantime. Know that I am always just a quick message away and that I'm committed lto being available for individual consultations should you need one. You can reach me here via chat, or direct by email erin.cooper@bealsmd.com. Stay safe and be well!

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