How to pop a spot?
Dr. Aysha Butt is the Medical Director of FROM MARS, and is a GP Partner at Woodcote NHS Medical Practice.
There are few things quite as satisfying as popping a good spot. There’s something deeply pleasing about getting all that gunk out of your skin.
But is there a right and a wrong way to pop a spot? Or maybe you shouldn’t be popping your spots at all? Here we’ll tell you all you need to know about popping spots.
Spots to pop
First things first. Let’s get clear on what kind of spot we’re talking about here, as spots and acne come in a wonderful range of varieties. When we’re talking about popping pimples, we’re talking about two types of spot:
Blackheads look like small, dark spots on your skin, that often form on and around your nose. You get them when the pores in your skin become blocked by dead skin cells and sebum – this is the natural oil produced by your skin. With blackheads, the pore remains open, so the plugs of oil and skin cells react with the air and turn black.
When you squeeze blackheads, the plugs of sebum and dead skin pop out. Sometimes you can get multiple blackheads to erupt at the same time, which is even more rewarding.
Pustules start off as blocked pores too. The difference is that the pore gets infected by bacteria that are attracted to the skin cells and oil. The spot becomes inflamed as your immune system fights the infection, and pus is produced (pus is mostly dead bacteria and white blood cells).
As the pus builds up, pustules form off-white to yellow tips. These are your typical poppable spots that burst and release the pus as you pop them. Beautiful.
Should you pop your spots or is it bad to squeeze a spot?
To put it simply, no you shouldn’t squeeze or try and pop any spots. We’ve all heard it at one time from parents or friends when you’re in front of the mirror about to get your pop on, but it is actually true.
This probably wasn’t the answer you were looking for, we know, but here’s why:
- When you squeeze a spot, some of the gunk insides might come out, but some of it will be forced deeper into your skin. This can spread the gunk and any infection into lower layers (your dermis) making it harder to treat.
- Squeezing a spot can break the walls of the pore, which can spread the infection into surrounding pores.
- The gunk that comes out of the spot and onto your face can also spread the infection to other pores. Bacteria on your fingers can also cause infections.
- When you damage pores and push the infection deeper, you also risk your chances of causing permanent scars in your skin.
Is it better to pop a spot or leave it?
So as fun as it is to squeeze and pop your spots, it can spread the infection and cause damage that can lead to scarring. That doesn’t mean that you simply have to leave your spots and do nothing about them, however.
A better way to tackle spots and acne is to start a daily skincare routine and use acne medication. We’ll tell you more about this below.
How do you safely pop a spot?
OK. We know you’re only human.
You shouldn’t squeeze or pop your spots, we’ve made that clear, but we know how hard it can be to resist sometimes. Especially if you’ve got a large, angry, pus-filled zit in the middle of your face.
If you absolutely must squeeze your blackheads and pop your pustules, you’ll want to know how to pop a spot safely. Do it like this:
How to squeeze blackheads
It’s best to tackle blackheads after you’ve had a shower or a bath. Warm water can open your pores up and soften the plugs of gunk inside. When you’re ready, follow these steps:
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap, dry them, then cover your fingers with clean tissue paper.
- Gently squeeze either side of the blackheads.
- Use a rocking or massaging motion to ease the plugs out, don’t squeeze hard or dig your fingers into your face.
- If you can’t remove a plug, don’t squeeze harder and harder, as you’ll increase your chances of causing damage. Leave stubborn blackheads as they are, you can try again a day or two later (although best to leave them alone).
- Wash your face with soap or facial wash. Apply an astringent or toner if you have one.
How to pop a pustule
Only try this with pustules with an obvious pus-filled tip that looks ready to blow:
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap.
- Pick up a thin, sharp needle or pin.
- Clean it with rubbing alcohol to make sure it’s sterile.
- Gently prick the top of the spot. Come in at an angle, rather than straight on, and don’t push too deep. Just do enough to rupture the very top of the spot.
- Cover your fingers with clean tissue paper and place them either side of the spot.
- Draw your fingers back to open the spot up, rather than squeezing. This should be enough to drain the spot.
- If some pus is left, you can gently squeeze the skin either side of the spot using cotton pads rather than your fingers, as this lowers the risk of causing damage.
- Gently rock your fingers around the spot to get all the pus out.
- Wash your face with soap or facial wash. Apply an astringent or a toner if you have one.
What spots should you definitely not pop?
You shouldn’t pop any spot, but if you have to, stick to blackheads and pustules. Don’t try and pop any of these:
- Papules and nodules
Whiteheads are like blackheads. They’re a clogged pore, but they’re covered by a thin layer of skin. This is why they usually have raised white tips, rather than forming blackheads.
Squeezing whiteheads is a bad idea. You may be able to get some of the gunk out, but as the affected pore has skin over it, you’ll likely press a lot of it deeper.
Papules and nodules are larger spots, like pustules, but they don’t have a pus-filled tip. They probably have pus inside them, you can likely feel it, but don’t be tempted. You’d have to work hard to get anything out of them, which can risk causing damage to your skin that might result in scars.
Cysts are a more severe form of pustules and are common with more serious acne. They happen when the bacterial infection in a pustule gets worse. The walls of the pore break down and the bacterial infection spreads further and deeper, creating a bigger, angrier, more inflamed, more pus-filled spot.
Although cysts can feel tight and ready to burst, the pus inside is usually too deep to safely push it to the surface. You’ll likely press most of it deeper into your skin.
What’s a better way to deal with spots?
If you can’t pop your spots, how can you get rid of them?
One option is to go to a professional. A dermatologist can treat your skin for you, they can extract blackheads and drain pustules without causing damage or spreading the infection.
A more cost-effective option, and one that can help over the long term, is to start a daily cleansing routine. This can be a great way to keep your face clear of the oil and dead skin that cause spots. There are loads of products available to suit your skincare needs.
If you include a prescription treatment into your skincare routine, like treclin, you can make your routine even more effective. Treclin combines an antibiotic and a retinoic acid into one treatment. It’s medically proven to reduce inflammation, kill bacteria in your spots, clear them up faster, and improve the general quality of your skin.
Treclin is a prescription treatment, but you can order it FROM MARS. Our doctors can assess your situation and are licensed to make prescriptions. Having completed your online consultation and once approved, you’ll receive a treatment plan from our doctors within two hours. Your treclin will be shipped for free to your door the next day.