Can You Pop a Pustule?

Pimples are the bane of many of our lives—they crop up at the most inconvenient times, they ooze and burn, and they can lead to a whole host of scarring. Thankfully, most of the time they clear up on their own in about 3 to 7 days. However, if you want to pop them (as dermatologists and well-trained estheticians do), it’s important to know how to do so safely in order to avoid painful and damaging repercussions like lingering scars.

A common myth is that all pimples are ready to be popped right away, but this isn’t always true. It’s better to wait until a pimple has developed a white or yellow head, according to Dr. Pimple Popper Sandra Lee. This is because pimples with a head are closer to the surface of the skin, making them easier to extract, Green says. Papules, on the other hand, don’t have heads and can be quite deep under the skin’s surface, so it isn’t safe to squeeze them.

When it comes to pustules, the most common type of pimple, it’s fine to pop them if they have a white or yellow head and are visible on the skin’s surface. However, you should only do this if the blemish is not inflamed or painful and if you use clean tools to prevent infections and further skin damage.

If you do decide to pop a pustule, start by washing your hands and face with antibacterial soap to prevent spreading bacteria from one blemish to another. Then, carefully lance a blemish with a sterile needle so that you do not pierce the skin underneath. Once the tip of the pimple is exposed, apply pressure to both sides of the clogged pore with cotton swabs until it bursts. After the pus is released, clean the area with an antibacterial cleanser or a gentle acne treatment.

Then, you’re ready to apply your favorite spot treatments. You can also use products with acne-fighting ingredients, such as salicylic acid or tea tree oil, to help prevent future breakouts.

Despite the fact that popping a pimple is not recommended by dermatologists or skincare professionals, it’s still pretty tempting for those of us who suffer from acne to do so. This can be especially true for those who love to watch the popular YouTube videos of dermatologists popping cysts, nodules, and other large blemishes on their patients. However, popping a pimple can actually worsen the condition, causing inflammation, pain, and even permanent skin scarring.

So if you really can’t resist the temptation, leave it to the pros! The best way to get rid of a pimple fast is by leaving it alone, which usually results in it disappearing in about 3 to 7 days. If you absolutely must pop a pimple, make sure it is a pustule, only use clean tools, and never squeeze a nodule or cyst. These types of blemishes are deeper under the skin’s layers and can be more difficult to extract, and they can lead to infection, bleeding, and worsening scarring.