Some people pop pimples for immediate relief. Others consider zit popping an enjoyable and rewarding activity. Regardless of the reasoning, almost everyone develops pimples, and almost everyone feels the desire to pop zits at some point. Many people believe that popping pimples will make the blemish less noticeable and help them heal more quickly. Popping pimples is not always a good idea and can have serious side effects, yet dermatologists offer procedures involving pimple popping.

How Pimples Form

Many people believe only teenagers or those with poor hygiene can develop pimples. This is a myth, as everyone can get a pimple. The idea that greasy foods play a role in the formation of pimples is also false. Pimples develop when dead skin and bacteria collect and clog a pore. The skin becomes inflamed and sensitive, and pus fills the tip. Some individuals mistake blackheads and whiteheads for pimples. Whiteheads look similar to small pimples, but without the red inflammation. Blackheads are pores with plugs of keratin clogging them, but they do not have inflammation or pus.

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Pimples, Nodules, and Cysts

There are two kinds of pimples: papules and pustules. Papules are firm and have a rough appearance, which causes the skin to look damaged. Pustules are large blemishes with yellow-colored pus. They bear a close resemblance to blisters and are the most recognizable kind of zit. Nodules are large infections that sit deep in the skin. Because of their size and depth, they are painful to touch. Cysts are also large, but much softer because of the large amount of pus within them.

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Why We Pop Pimples

Almost everyone has popped a pimple. Some dermatologists believe people pop pimples for the same reason they pick at their skin or a scab. There is an instinctual feeling that the blemish doesn’t belong on our skin and we must remove it. Other experts believe it is simply a societal expectation. Pimples and blemishes are a flaw and society looks down on those with flaws. Popping a pimple can temporarily resolve the issue, so it is appealing to many people. Additionally, popping a pimple comes with a sense of relief and therefore a sense of pleasure.

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Should We Do It?

Unfortunately, the general consensus among dermatologists is that nobody should be popping their pimples at home, with one exception. Popping a pimple can result in permanent scarring and serious infections. Dermatologists understand the desire to pop them but state that a pustule is the only type of pimple that is safe to pop. Attempting to pop blemishes that sit deep in the skin, such as cysts and nodules, can actually cause them to take longer to heal. Blackheads and whiteheads also lay deep in the skin and require special tools to remove properly.

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Process of Popping

Popping a pimple is a dangerous practice for several reasons. Generally, popping a pimple will remove the pus in the tip. However, the pressure doesn’t only push pus out -- it also pushes dead skin and pus in. This can cause the pore’s wall to burst and the dirty material that was clogging the pore to spread. Skin that has experienced this damage is more likely to develop additional pimples and acne scarring in the future. The dirty material can also lead to infection.

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Acne Infection

Inflammation occurs around pimples due to the body’s immune response to Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. If the bacteria don’t leave the pore, there is no issue. However, popping a pimple can spread the bacteria, eventually leading to serious issues such as staph infections. Not only do staph infections cause boils, but they can also result in extreme fatigue and fevers. Painful blisters and sores develop along the skin and can last for as long as ten days.

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Why Professionals Do it

If popping pimples is bad, it makes logical sense that nobody should perform the popping. However, dermatologists and skin care experts possess the skill and tools to perform the extraction. For example, blackheads and whiteheads require a comedone extractor. This tool gently pierces the outer surface of the skin and pimple naturally pops out without pressure. Even possessing the right tools isn’t enough. All pimples are different and require different removal processes. The medical training that a dermatologist possesses allows them to decide the best method of extraction.

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The Proper Way to Pop

Dermatologists state that pustules are generally safe to pop, but only in a specific manner. The hands and fingers must be clean. The pustule and the area around it require sanitization, preferably with rubbing alcohol. The fingers provide gentle pressure on either side of the blemish, popping the pustule. If the pustule does not immediately and easily pop, that is a sign to end the process. A person who repeatedly pushes or uses their fingernails to dig at the pustule risks causing more harm. After popping, medicinal creams can help prevent scarring and inflammation.

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Even though dermatologists warn against popping a pimple, there are other procedures that everyone can perform at home. Warm water or a warm compress can help remove whiteheads. Despite what many people believe, the pore does not actually open while warm. Instead, the material inside the whitehead loosens and drains naturally. There are also many skincare options that allow a common person to spot-treat their pimples. Although, as with all medications, there are possible side effects such as a burning or itching feeling and dry skin.

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Preventing Pimples

Since treating and removing pimples is a difficult process, preventing them in the first place is the best option. Oily skin being responsible for pimples is a myth. However, excessively oily or dry skin is vulnerable to blemishes. Washing the face too much can cause the skin to dry out, but a gentle wash twice a day can clear out dead skin cells and prevent the pores from becoming clogged. Moisturizers help hydrate the skin, but many products contain oils or chemicals that can irritate the tender skin of the face. Avoiding those products will help prevent pimples. Finally, frequent exposure to the sun can dry out the skin. Sunscreen can protect against dryness and pimples, but only if the product is oil-free.

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