To pop that pimple or not to pop that pimple? That is the question.
Celeb dermatologist Harold Lancer confirmed what we know to be true: Taking breakout matters into your own hands is not always the best idea. "In addition to pushing bacteria and dirt deeper into the pore, and potentially making the breakout worse, squeezing and picking at pimples creates scar tissue, which discolors skin and can take anywhere from six weeks to six months to heal," headed the doctor.
Admittedly, even with those somewhat terrifying words of caution, this beauty editor has been known to pop a pimple or two in her day (can you blame me?). What's more is that many a celeb aesthetician has used a needle to help extract stubborn blemishes. However, it's no surprise that when we quizzed Dr. Lancer on employing a needle for the job, he firmly answered with a "never under any circumstances try to use a needle on your own face."
While celeb aesthetician Kate Somerville agreed that "of course, it is a bad idea to pop a pimple," she was realistic about the notion of at-home extractions. "Since people do their own extractions, it's important to know how to do it correctly," shared the pro.
If you're one to let pimples run their course, more power to you. But, if you haven't been scared off by the idea (and dare I say even find some joy in popping your zits), Kate shared her celeb-tested tips for extracting a pimple at home.
Know Your Pimple: "Only extract if the blemish is ready, use the proper supplies, cleanse and steam skin thoroughly and give the blemish a canal," informed the celeb aesthetician. "Generally speaking, I recommend against popping a pimple at home due to bacterial infections; however, blackheads and whiteheads are the best types of pimples to pop because they're 'ripe' and ready to extract," she continued.
If It's Not Quite Ready: If you're taking the no-pop approach, Dr. Lancer recommended applying a warm compress to the area for 10 minutes, twice a day. "This will help the body break down the build-up of pus and sebum and heal the pimple without causing scaring," he said. Alternatively, if you have your heart set on a quicker route, Kate recommended applying a concentrated spot treatment to the pimple the night before. According to the expert, a sulfur-based product, like Murad's Acne Spot Treatment, will help draw impurities to the surface so that the blemish is easier to extract next day.
Sterilize Before You Touch: If you've decided that you have no other option but to prick the dot yourself, it's a good idea to start with clean hands and a clean face. Before you address the affected area, gently cleanse the face and soften the skin around the pimple by steaming it with a warm wash cloth, explained Kate.
Extract With Precision: Once steamed, you'll want to create a canal to funnel the puss out of, and for that reason Kate recommended using a finely-tipped lancet needle. Once you've pierced the head and have created a passage, as Kate put it, use two cotton swabs or a paper towel wrapped around your fingers to gently squeeze out all of the puss from the opening.
Minimize the Risk of Bacterial Infection: We already know that opening the wound yourself increases the risk of bacterial infection, and that's why Dr. Lancer advised you make an appointment with your dermatologist for a sterile extraction. However, if you are in the do-it-yourself camp there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. "It's really important to disinfect the area after, as you don't want to cause more bacteria," cautioned Kate. The pro also advised against reusing lancets. To treat the area, the expert recommended using a toner with an antibacterial ingredient like witch hazel, instead of alcohol-based astringents, which can be too harsh and too drying.
The Road to Recovery: "Broken skin and scar tissue become pigmented quickly when exposed to the sun, and can leave lasting marks if you are not careful," informed Dr. Lancer. Therefore, whether you've gotten your pimple professionally extracted or you've done it yourself, you would be wise to avoid direct sun exposure for the next few weeks. Dr. Lancer also stressed the importance of keeping the area well-moisturized with a heavy dose of SPF, like Dr. Lancer's Sheer Fluid Sun Shield. To speed healing, Kate recommended treating the spot with Neosporin and a daily skin renewal treatment, like Kate Somerville's D-Scar Diminshing Serum, that work to prevent long-lasting acne scars from forming.