Log in to YouTube and type “pimple-popping” into the search bar; you’ll be absolutely inundated with videos of professionals and amateurs alike squeezing at their clogged pores in an attempt to eliminate stubborn blemishes. You’re also likely to find tons of videos promising to teach you how to pop a pimple safely and easily. But here’s the harsh reality: Unless you’re a trained professional, the only answer to “should you pop pimples” is a resounding, unequivocal no. Your skin is delicate, and pimple-popping—while satisfying in the short term—can leave your skin looking far worse than it was before you started poking around.
Here, we’ll do a deep dive on why you should avoid picking at breakouts. You’ll learn about the potential risks of pimple-popping and what can happen to your skin if done incorrectly. We’ll also introduce you to several Kiehl’s products that you can use to help manage your blemishes for clearer-looking skin, sans unintentional damage. Keep reading to learn more about the right way to care for blemish-prone skin.
Pimple-Popping 101: The Basics
Let’s get this out of the way: If you’re here to learn how to pop a pimple yourself, you’re not going to find an answer—board-certified dermatologists are the only people with the tools and training necessary to pop a blemish safely.
How they do it depends primarily on the type of blemish you have. Blackheads and clogged pores are typically treated with a sterile extraction tool, while inflammatory breakouts (like pimples and pustules) are usually “popped” by applying pressure around the pore to force the contents out. Deep cysts and nodules, meanwhile, can help be addressed with steroid injections. In some cases, your derm will make an incision to remove a stubborn spot in its entirety, but this is only effective if you’re dealing with an individual blemish. These extraction methods are often done as a last resort when gentler and easier at-home treatments fail to provide results.
When done by a trained professional, popping can help your breakout heal faster. However, squeezing, picking, or popping a pimple yourself can lead to a host of unpleasant side effects, which we’ll go over in-depth below. In short: If you want a pimple popped, make an appointment with your dermatologist.
Why Is It Bad To Pop Pimples?
The goal when popping a pimple is to remove the contents from the clogged pore and encourage your skin to heal. However, popping a blemish improperly can have the opposite effect.
The most common side effects that people experience when popping pimples incorrectly include pain, redness, and irritation—all of which are likely to make your original blemish more noticeable. However, there are many other, more serious side effects that you risk when picking at your skin. When you squeeze a blemish, you run the risk of pushing bacteria further into your skin. This can make the spot larger or deeper and is likely to make the blemish last much longer. Popping a pimple without proper training can also damage your skin and cause inflammation, leading to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or even permanent blemish scarring.
In addition to the aforementioned cosmetic concerns, pimple-popping can also have medical implications. For this reason, if you pop a pimple, it’s highly suggested you visit a dermatologist.
What Can You Do About Stubborn Breakouts?
The best (and safest) way to manage breakouts is to follow a non-irritating skincare routine for blemish-prone skin. Keep reading for our top five tips for optimizing your routine and keeping stubborn breakouts at bay.
Use a Gentle Cleanser To Remove Pore-Clogging Impurities
Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser
Cleansing is critical for all skin types, but especially so for those with problem skin. We recommend starting your routine by washing your face with an exfoliating cleanser, try Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser. This Kiehl’s favorite with Amazonian white clay detoxifies and exfoliates your skin while helping to visibly minimize enlarged pores. The unique formula is gentle enough for daily use and ideal for combination and oily skin.
After cleansing with your chosen face wash, use Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion to remove any lingering residue. This iconic facial toner—which first hit Kiehl’s shelves in 1964—helps balance and soothe oily skin. The refreshing formula can also be used as a spot treatment for problem areas.
Address Individual Blemishes With a Spot Treatment
Blue Herbal Spot Treatment
By now, we’re confident we’ve drilled in the importance of not touching your pimples (no matter how poppable they may seem). Instead, target-treat individual blemishes with a spot treatment, like Blue Herbal Spot Treatment. It’s formulated with 1.5% salicylic acid and helps manage problem areas to clear blackheads, whiteheads, and other types of blemishes. Apply a thin layer to clean skin once to twice daily for clearer-looking, more comfortable skin.
If you’re highly sensitive, try Breakout Control Targeted Acne Spot Treatment, which contains 10% mineral sulfur and niacinamide. The gentle formula absorbs quickly and evenly and is clinically-demonstrated to help rapidly reduce the appearance of acne breakouts.* Apply a visible layer to stubborn blemishes one or two times a day for clearer-looking skin with continued use.
*Tested in a dermatologist-controlled clinical study.
Deep-Clean Congested Pores Weekly
As you probably know, most breakouts result from clogged pores. To help keep clogged pores at bay, we recommend incorporating a detoxifying face mask, like Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask, into your weekly skincare routine. This award-winning formula with mineral-rich Amazonian white clay and aloe vera draws out dirt, oil, and other impurities that can lead to congested skin. When used regularly, the gentle yet effective formula also helps reduce skin’s surface oil production and visibly minimize the appearance of enlarged pores.
If you need help figuring out how to use your mask, check out our article How To Apply a Face Mask The Right Way.
Keep Your Skin Well-Hydrated At All Times
It seems counterintuitive, but if you have oily, blemish-prone skin, moisturizer is a must. Blemish treatments, like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, tend to dry out your skin, leading to dehydration. Unfortunately, when your skin is dehydrated, your body will often produce excess sebum to make up for the lack of natural moisture in your skin. This overproduction of oil can lead to greasy-looking skin, clogged pores, and widespread breakouts (and the cycle will continue the longer you continue treating your spots without also moisturizing).
For long-lasting hydration that won’t clog your pores, we recommend reaching for a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizer, like Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream. This weightless moisturizer for oily skin boasts an effective blend of micronized amino acids and glacial glycoprotein, plus hydrating glycerin. It provides long-lasting non-greasy moisture that keeps skin hydrated and shine-free for up to 24 hours. When used regularly, it also helps regulate excess oil production for skin that feels fresh, balanced, and deeply hydrated.
For added moisture—particularly if your skin is also sensitive—layer your moisturizer with a non-comedogenic face oil. We recommend Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate Face Oil, which is made with 100% naturally-derived ingredients, including hemp-derived Cannabis sativa seed oil.* The non-greasy formula hydrates while strengthening your skin’s natural moisture barrier. When used regularly, it also helps diminish visible redness and provides relief from discomfort. You don’t need much to feel its effects: Just pat a few drops of the herbaceous oil onto your face and neck to help promote calmer, more balanced-looking skin.
*We consider ingredients to be naturally derived if they retain more than 50% of their chemical structure after being processed from a natural source.
Keep Dark Spots At Bay With a Brightening Serum
Even if you don’t pick at or pop your pimples (good job!), the fact remains that sometimes, you’ll experience side effects due to blemishes. One of the most common is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, also known as post-blemish marks. These dark spots occur after trauma to the skin (like in the case of a particularly nasty breakout) causes the body to release melanin, creating a discoloration where the original blemish was. While people with darker skin tones are more prone to these spots—especially if they pick at their pimples—post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can affect anyone.
To help correct existing discolorations and prevent new dark spots from forming, we recommend adding a vitamin C serum, like Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Corrector, to your routine. This potent formula with activated C and buffered salicylic acid is clinically-proven to visibly reduce dark spots by 39% and other forms of hyperpigmentation by up to 49%.* It also helps brighten and clarify dull-looking skin to promote a more even, radiant appearance with continued use. The gentle serum is suitable for all skin types and can be used morning and night as a staple part of your daily skincare routine.
*Based on a 12-week clinical study of 17 women with all skin types presented with mild to moderate severity of attributes, including post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.