This is What Happens to Your Skin When You Pop a Pimple

What do you do when your face is bombarded by a big zit on date night? Most of us squeeze the living daylight out of it, wash our hands, and call it a day. But oftentimes that unwanted visitor keeps coming back to overstay his welcome, and by popping him, you extended the invitation. “The bacteria, oil, and debris that are being contained by the acne papule/pustule/cyst once released can spread and lead to more acne,” says New York dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah. “You can even force the contents deeper into the skin, leading to more inflammation and potentially a larger pimple.” So all that pain was for nothing? Yup.  

But when it’s date night, you’re going to do anything in your power to minimize the appearance of the zit. We’ve all had those moments when we convince ourselves that a zit is “ready” to be popped because we’re feeling tempted and are looking for a quick fix. But in most cases, this just makes it even redder. Dr. Shah knows the drill. “Popping a pimple often makes the problem worse, rather than better,” she says. “As you press on the pimple, you are introducing bacteria and dirt from your finger into the zit. That can cause the pimple to become more red, inflamed, swollen, and infected.” Gross. And the damage to your skin doesn’t stop there. “When you pop a pimple, you are forcefully pushing the contents of the acne bump out. This can be very damaging to the skin as it is basically tearing the skin,” says Dr. Shah. “This also increases inflammation in an already inflamed area of the skin… All these things ultimately increase your risk of scarring, which can be permanent.” Sounds a lot scarier than having a zit on a first date.

Mindy Kaling spot treats pimples just before appearing on the ‘Tonight Show’. (Photo: Instagram)

So, what should you do instead when you have a whopping pimple that a dab of concealer is never going to cover? “I generally don’t advocate taking matters into your hands because even with proper instructions, I find many people are way too aggressive,” Dr. Shah advises. “If you have a pimple that you think needs popping, best to leave it to the pros. Your dermatologist can safely and gently perform an extraction and remove the contents. Alternatively you may benefit from a steroid injection, which is a quick fix to reduce redness and inflammation and makes the bump appear smaller or even disappear.” If you’re already running late for your date and need to act quickly, don’t lose hope. “Ice can also reduce the redness and inflammation. Lastly, there are plenty of ways to treat and prevent pimples. So, if you are breaking out more than occasionally, it’s probably time to talk to your dermatologist about your options.” So clip those thumbnails and step away from the toothpaste. Leave that pimple to the pros.

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