How to squeeze your spots, according to Dr Pimple Popper

Because if you're going to do it, you need to do it right

We all know dermatologists and skin experts say not to pop pimples. But how many of us actually adhere to their advice? If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that there’s been more than one occasion where you’ve popped a pimple at home. Thing is, there are a few things you should know before you pinch your fingers over that blemish. Which is why we sat down with the infamous Dr Pimple Popper to find out exactly how to pop a pimple at home, safely.

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Got a few pimple questions that need answering? Read on…

What’s the golden rule to popping pimples at home?

‘Let me start off by saying, that I don’t recommend that you pop your own pimples. However, I know that most of you won’t follow this recommendation. So I instead insist, “Know when to POP, and know when to STOP”.

If you really MUST, you shouldn’t pop anything on your face unless it has come to a white/yellow “head”’, she went on. ‘If the pimple has a head, at that point it is the easiest to extract, with the least risk of scarring because the bump is very superficial to the surface of the skin.’

What is the gunk? And why does it manifest?

‘Pus is composed of skin cells, bacteria, and inflammatory cells which are sent there by your immune system to fight off this localised bacterial infection in the skin. It’s also a protein-rich fluid called liquor puris that is usually whitish-yellow, yellow, or sometimes a little yellow brown in colour.’

Ok, but what are you meant to do once you’ve squeezed it? Should you dab with tissue? Leave to dry?

‘Clean the area with alcohol and leave the area alone, don’t keep squeezing it. You may want to apply a cool compress to help minimise the redness and irritation or use an over the counter topical steroid to minimise redness and inflammation.  Usually you know that a pimple has been completely drained if no more pus can be expressed, so if you see a little blood, stop squeezing!

Once a pimple has been popped, be sure to keep the area clean and let it heal properly to avoid scarring. It will sting a little, but you can disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol after popping.’

Why does clear fluid come out if you squeeze a pimple too much?

Clear fluid is just edema, fluid that accumulates in the area due to redness and swelling of the area. It is not pus, it’s not infection.

Is there anything we should be aware of while popping pimples?

‘If you have a red pimple that hurts to touch, and is deep under the skin, it’s pretty impossible to pop it at that point. Usually if the pimple doesn’t have a head yet and is still under the skin, trying to extract it can not only be very painful, but you can cause irritation and even infection that will make it harder for the pimple to heal. Worse yet, if you really traumatize the skin, you risk scarring and that is likely permanent.’

How can I tell the difference between a cyst and a pimple?

‘Depends on what type of cyst we’re talking about. There is the cystic form of acne, which is a more severe form of acne vulgaris, and this type of acne created deeper, larger, more painful pimples under the skin that have a higher potential for scarring.

The cysts that you see me remove on my YouTube channel, are more commonly other kinds of cysts, such as epidermoid cysts, pilar cysts, steatocystomas. There are many types of cysts, and these are very different from pimples, and each other.

Cysts in general should not be squeezed because squeezing, won’t resolve them, and in fact, can really cause many problems, like inflammation, infection, scarring.  Cysts should be evaluated by your physician and you may likely need a surgeon to remove them entirely.’

Why do you get clusters of pimples in certain places?

‘Pimples tend to occur in oily areas of the skin, which is why we commonly see breakouts in the “T zone”. Also, hormones can trigger breakouts in certain areas, which is why for example, people with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome who have increased hormone levels (androgens), get more breakouts in the “beard distribution” of the face.’

Why do some pimples return in the same spot?

‘The pimple likely never completely resolved. When we have changes in hormone levels on a monthly basis, an increase in hormones can trigger increased oil production, increased risk of bacterial infection, and re-irritation of that pimple again.

Sometimes these reoccurring pimples are cystic and come back because they never form a head to be extracted. The pore is clogged under the surface of your skin and can enlarge and appear on the surface of your skin when your body is producing more oil.’

What can you do about under the surface pimples? How can you treat them at home? 

‘Pustules and Inflammatory Papules are white bumps with a red base, and they can often be painful to touch. When you have a pustule this means there are purulent contents inside, meaning localised infection… bacteria is involved and has a hand in creating this type of bump.

To treat them at home, always be sure to follow directions on the product or as directed by your dermatologist. It’s important to pay attention to your skin and if you notice drying or irritation, reduce how often you are using the product. You can use acne products to treat current breakouts AND prevent future breakouts so it’s usually ok to continue using them even after a breakout has improved and some people may opt for a spot treatment if they have specific areas that they are more prone to acne and breakouts.’

Dr Pimple Popper’s 6 step guide on how to pop a pimple

  1. Sterilize the area and be sure to have clean tools, hands, and environment.
  2. You’ll want to make sure you wash your face before with warm water, or better yet, take a steamy shower, to really open up the pores.
  3. Use your fingers or a comedone extractor as I most often use in my videos, to place pressure on the skin immediately surrounding the whitehead, to push the contents out. If using fingers, increase traction by wrapping clean tissue paper around the fingers applying pressure.
  4. A whitehead should come out pretty easily if it is ready, but if the pimple is not popping, there’s definitely a time to give up because forcing it and continually pushing and squeezing will only irritate your skin cause increased swelling, redness, and pain, and certainly increase your risk for local infection and scarring.
  5. See a dermatologist or skincare professional to help you get these extracted. In short, Know When To POP and Know When To Stop!
  6. To finish I would recommend applying a topical corticosteroid and /or a topical acne spot treatment that likely contains benzoyl peroxide or an antibiotic, cool compresses if desired, or just try to leave the area alone.

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