Should You Pop a Pimple or Leave It Alone?

Is it ever advisable to be your own facialist? Even further, should you pop a pimple once it forms? Here’s a professional’s verdict, plus tips for clear skin. These days, many of us have to take self-care matters into our own hands. (Self-care matters that we’d typically leave to a paid professional, that is.) As a result, we’re becoming more adept and self-sufficient, but not without some serious blunders. Think discolored highlights, less-than-successful hair removal, and, of course, popped pimples. I get it. It’s difficult to sit back and do nothing when breakout takes up residence on your precious face. But more often than not, poking around when you have a breakout makes things worse. Stacy Sitko, an esthetician at Yarrow Skincare Collective, is an expert on the subject. Here’s her take on pimple popping and caring for acne-prone skin.

Should You Pop a Pimple?

Stacy is adamant in her stance on popping pimples: When in doubt, don’t touch it, let alone pop it. “Leave extractions to the professionals. It’s easy to cause scarring if extractions aren’t done right. Often when you try to squeeze something out [on your own], it can cause a scab to form,” Stacy advises. But luckily, she says that “most congestion will go away with a spot treatment in just a few days if left alone.” Many of us have been there. We see redness and inflammation crop up, and immediately want to nip it in the bud for the shortest lifespan possible. However, DIY extractions actually make the area darker, angrier, and scabbed over from picking. “Even worse, you can spread [bacteria] to the surrounding area causing new pimples to form, or making the infected area bigger, deeper, and more swollen,” Stacy cautions. Woman applying a clay mask, one of the best tips for clear skin and treating blackheads

How to Clear Breakouts

Instead of sharing the best ways to pop a pimple, here’s a quick guide on how to help clear breakouts safely and reduce the severity of different kinds.


“If you have a large whitehead, try applying a warm compress to the pustule only with a clean washcloth,” Stacy shares. “After a few minutes, wipe it off very gently. If the whitehead wipes away with a gentle swipe, great! Otherwise, spot treat.”


If you have blackheads, Stacy suggests using a charcoal or clay mask. Leave it on long enough to draw out impurities (about 10 to 20 minutes depending on the mask, but not longer). Don’t wait for it to give you that tight, almost itchy feel. Doing so can dry out your skin, and your sebum production will kick in to overdrive to compensate.

Deeper Breakouts

Stacy suggests that if you have a deep, throbbing breakout, ice it down. You can even alternate between icing and a hot compress. Ice will reduce the redness and inflammation, making your breakout easier to minimize and cover up. The heat will boost circulation and bring blood and nutrients to the surface of the skin in that area, thus promoting healing. Man moisturizing his skin in the mirror to prevent breakouts and promote clear skin

Tips for Clear Skin

Of course, to prevent the inclination to pop pimples in the first place, be sure to upgrade your current anti-breakout regimen from the inside out. Here are a few simple, esthetician-approved tips for clear skin.

Enrich Your Diet with Essential Fatty Acids

Stacy mentions that a balanced essential fatty acid supplement will help keep breakouts at bay “by keeping sebum (natural oils in the skin) soft and fluid. When our diet doesn’t have the right balance of omega fatty acids, our natural oils can become stiff and waxy. It makes it harder for them to expel out of our pores.” You can find essential fatty acids in fish like mackerel and salmon, as well as in avocados and nuts. Additionally, you can supplement with omegas to make sure you’re meeting your daily needs.

Moisturize Sufficiently

Next, Stacy reminds us not to be afraid to moisturize. “Our skin’s natural immune system relies on langerhans cells to mitigate pathogens in the dermis and epidermis. These cells can go dormant when the skin is dehydrated,” she shares. Simply put, drink plenty of water and apply moisturizer daily.

Consider LED Light Therapy

Luckily, there are at-home LED light devices that can help clear breakouts. While they won’t replace a tailored topical skincare regimen, LED light treatments can further support your journey towards clear skin. Stacy is a big fan of blue light therapy devices, and recommends them to her clients with ongoing pustular breakouts.

Find Healthy Ways to Control Stress

Stress is another common culprit behind breakouts. We all encounter some form of stress in our daily lives—it’s totally normal and sometimes even healthy. However, too much stress puts excessive pressure on various parts of our body, ultimately including your skin. Stacy notes that when our stress levels rise, oil production does too. For both beauty and mind, it’s important to practice healthy rituals for stress relief, such as breathwork or exercise. Lastly, she notes that for a lot of us, incessant picking is a coping mechanism for stress. She suggests trying to replace it with something calming and healthy for the skin and body, like meditation.

Final Thoughts

In sum, if you’re wondering if you should pop a pimple, the simple answer is no. Instead, lean on these tips to reduce breakouts and promote clear skin in between facial appointments. If regular facials don’t fit your current budget, Stacy provides a helpful alternative. She suggests asking an esthetician if you can pay to come in just for extractions, as they can often accommodate these shorter appointments. All said, be kind to your skin and keep your hands off your face as best you can. The future you will be grateful for gentler care.
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