We’ve all been there: You wake up, roll out of bed, and stroll to the bathroom only to see an unexpected breakout staring back at you in the mirror. While it’s definitely not the way you want to start (or end) your day, the last thing you want to do is get hands-on with the situation—which can be tough given how tempting it is to squeeze the sucker out of sight. The problem is, when you start picking and prodding at your skin, you’re more likely to increase redness, develop an infection, and even cause scarring. But, since we know that simply telling you the basics likely won’t inspire you to keep your hands off, we chatted with a couple of dermatologists for the 4-1-1 on all things blemishes. Ahead, you’ll discover—once and for all—whether it’s really that bad to pop a pimple.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Vermén M. Verallo-Rowell is a board-certified dermatologist and the author of Skin in the Tropics.
Dr. Michele Green is a board-certified, cosmetic dermatologist based in New York City.
Is it Safe to Pop a Pimple?
We know what you’re thinking: If it has a white head, it can’t be too difficult to pop; or, if it’s a noticeable blackhead, it’s extractable. But, according to Dr. Verallo-Rowell, you should never, ever pop a pimple.
“Popping irritates and causes more inflammation of the pimple, so it remains red and lasts longer,” she explains. “Once the inflammation subsides, the pimple can leave behind marks that bother people as much as the acne itself.” The marks themselves can be anything from a fade reddish dot or a dark scar to a depressed pockmark or thick hypertrophic or keloid scar. “Worse, is that our hands touch body parts and objects that may have microbes,” she adds. “Unfortunately, many microbes have now become resistant to topical and oral antimicrobials. Some names you may hear are MRSA, MRStrep, resistant fungi, and viruses.” As a result, when you pop a pimple, you open up the skin and make it susceptible to microbes, which can lead to a number of infections.
While there’s never a great time to pop a pimple, the one exception is when you head to an in-office appointment to get the extraction done. This can be done at a dermatologist or esthetician’s office, by skilled professionals who use sanitized fingers and tools, as well as light, precise pressure to cause the least amount of damage possible.