Question: What should I do after popping a pimple?


You know you shouldn't pop any pimples on your face, but you couldn't resist and did it anyway. Now the zit you just squeezed looks really red and nasty. What should you do after popping it?

Follow the below tips to help your popped pimple look better and heal faster:

  1. Get all the gunk out. If you must pop a pimple, at least do it the right way. Make sure you extract as much of the white, hardened clog as possible. If you pop a pimple and some of the white stuff (that almost looks like plaque on your teeth) is still left in your pore, the pimple will come back the next day. If gently pressing on the popped zit makes it feel tender, you probably haven't gotten it all out. Keep in mind that this kind of tenderness is a soreness that feels deep inside your skin. It's not really the kind of surface pain you got from pressing on an open wound, like from a scratch or something.

  2. Don't over-squeeze. Sometimes getting the entire clog out of your pore means squeezing until you see blood and/or lymph (the clear fluid). However, if you pop a pimple that is not yet ready to be popped or if the pimple is one that happens to be deeper on your skin, you might not be able to get the entire clog out even if you squeeze it to death. If after the second or third squeezing attempt, you still feel like there is some clogged sebum left in your skin, it's time to give up. Squeezing beyond this point will only cause more damage than you have already caused and make it take longer for the pimple to go away. You can't force something out of your skin when it's not ready to come out.

    Note: Popping and picking at pimples is not advised. You run the risk of getting acne scars and and more breakouts in the future. It's better to keep your hands away from your face at all times!

  3. Help your skin heal. A lot of times, people will tell you to put an acne treatment on top of a popped pimple. But a popped pimple is just like an open injury on your skin. If you cut your finger, would you put some benzoyl peroxide or toothpaste on it to help it heal faster? Of course not. Acne treatments are usually drying and irritating and putting them on top of an already irritated popped pimple will only make things worse.

    Because the skin on a popped pimple is already broken, you should be helping your skin heal instead of using drying and exfoliating treatments. To do this, put a small dab of neosporin, polysporin (if you are allergic to neosporin), or even petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) on top of the popped pimple. You really just want something emollient to help form a protective seal over the wound. Then, cover it all up with a small band-aid (or piece of synthetic skin dressing) for as long as you can, switching to a new one when the old one gets soggy. This moist and covered wound environment will help the skin from your popped pimple recover much faster.
    Piece of synthetic skin dressing on popped pimple

    Piece of synthetic skin dressing on a popped pimple on my forehead

    Note: I tend to avoid disinfecting popped pimples with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. In my experience, this doesn't really prevent a pimple from coming back or spreading to other areas of your face. It just dries out the popped pimple and makes it even redder and harder to heal. If, however, you have a topical antibiotic, you can apply a thin layer of it to the popped pimple before covering it with an emollient.

  4. Leave your skin alone. After popping a pimple, it might look bigger, redder, and way worse. That's because you just tried to squeeze the living daylights out of your skin! It's normal for it to look like a swollen, red welt. However, if you leave the popped pimple alone for a few hours and do nothing to it, the swelling should come down on its own. It's also normal for popped pimples to ooze and crust over. If it does this, don't pick off any of the dried blood or yellow-colored crystals. This is a sign that your skin trying to heal itself and you should do everything you can to encourage this healing instead of re-damaging your skin by picking these things off. After a few days of being gentle to your skin (i.e. keeping it moisturized, covered, and not picking at it), you should see a drastic improvement in how your popped pimple looks. If your popped pimple ends up scabbing, don't pick off the scab either! Let it fall off on its own or you risk damaging your skin.

Popping your pimples is generally not a good idea, but if you have popped a pimple, at least take care of your skin the right way. Don't use harsh treatments on a pimple you just squeezed. With a popped pimple, you are no longer treating a pimple but rather a skin wound. So, help your skin out by using an emollient product and keeping it covered. This will make the pimple heal faster, be less red, and be less prone to scarring. You've already been harsh by squeezing the pimple, so to treat a popped pimple, being gentle is the best remedy.

Last updated: September 17, 2012

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