Sorry pimple-poppers and perennial pickers — you've been popping pimples wrong. According to dermatologist Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, if you pop your pimple the right way, "you could eliminate that spot in 72 hours," but if you break the rules and keep up with your terrible pimple-popping habits, "you could turn a minor blemish into a full-blown pimple crisis." Uh oh.
On his blog, Benabio frames his pimple-popping advice with the caveat that the real advice is "Do not attempt to pop your pimples," but Benabio knows we're just going to do it anyway. His first piece of pimple-popping wisdom is to have patience and "pick only pimples that are ready to be popped. ... If it does not have a white head, then squeezing, mashing, poking or prodding will only make it worse."
Once you've selected a pimple that is primed for popping (i.e. it has a fully-formed white head on top), you should really WASH YOUR HANDS before going at it.
Dr. Benabio suggests sterilizing a needle by passing it over a flame, and then wiping the needle with a cotton ball soaked with rubbing alcohol. Then, he says, "With the needle nearly parallel to your skin, impale the head of the pimple. ... then pull up, opening the top of the pimple."
Here's the real test of your self control: If nothing comes out after you poke the needle through the top of the pimple, LEAVE IT ALONE! It's not ready yet!
If poking the pimple with the needle works, then gently press down on the skin around the pimple. Resist the urge to squeeze! According to Benabio, "squeezing can cause the pustule to rupture backwards, deeper into your skin, creating further inflammation and turning a little pimple into a big, red nodule."
Once you've expressed the pimple by pressing down on the skin around it, Benabio recommends wiping the area clean with alcohol and then a toner like witch hazel. As a final step, Benabio says, you can apply an acne spot treatment to the area.
Basically, don't squeeze your pimples, and be patient. The more you poke and press before a pimple is ready, the worse it is. Now you know!