Acne Concern

Will Popping a Pimple Make It Go Away Faster?

By Dr. Kristie

Uh-oh! You look in the mirror and there's a big, ugly pimple staring back at you. Yuck! Of course, you want it to go away fast, and you've heard a pimple heals up sooner if you pop it. Will popping a pimple really cause it to heal more quickly?

What Causes Pimples?

Pimples are a product of overactive sebaceous glands. Sebaceous glands produce a sticky substance called sebum. As your skin sheds its old cells, sometimes the cells get stuck in the sticky sebum and the pore becomes blocked. When this happens, bacteria feed off the sebum replicate and produce chemicals that block the pore and trigger an inflammatory response. This leads to redness, swelling and the typical symptoms of a pimple. Sometimes pimples can become so large and inflamed that they're more like cysts, a condition known as cystic acne.

Will Popping a Pimple Make It Go Away Faster?

Contrary to popular belief, popping pimples won't cause them to go away faster. The pimple may look less obvious right after you pop them, but they may stick around longer if you squeeze or pop them. Popping pimples pushes the sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells deeper into the skin. This worsens the inflammation and keeps the pimple around for a longer period of time. Not what you want, right?

Other Risks of Popping Pimples

When you inflame and aggravate a pimple by squeezing or popping it, pigment-producing cells called melanocytes become active, particularly in people with dark skin. Melanocytes deposit dark pigment into the injured area. This creates a problem dermatologists refer to as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. These dark pigment spots can stick around for months to years - a lingering reminder that it's not a good idea to pop a pimple. Popping pimples can also cause permanent scarring.

Alternatives to Popping a Pimple

The safest treatment for those unsightly pimples is to apply warm compresses to the spot several times a day. The warmth will help the pimple open up and drain. Just don't touch it or pick at it. Over-the-counter acne medications that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid are helpful for preventing new pimples, but they don't work right away.

If you're going out for the evening and want to reduce a pimple's redness, place an ice cube to it to reduce the swelling, and cover it with a non-comedogenic concealer that won't clog pores. A flesh-colored concealer over a green concealer will further hide the redness.

Emergency Pimple Therapy 

Help! You need to look your best for a special occasion but you have an obnoxious-looking pimple! If you have a big event coming up and need a pimple-free face fast, a dermatologist can inject a dilute steroid solution into the pimple if it's large and cystic. This will reduce the inflammation and help it clear up faster.

Popping a Pimple: The Take-Home Message?

Popping pimples can keep them around longer and lead to pigmentation and scarring. The bottom line? Don't do it.


Family Practice News. October 15, 2010. Page 57.

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Disclaimer: Blog Posts not intended to Diagnose, Treat, Cure or Prevent Diseases.