We should all know better by now than to think that popping a zit is the solution to our blemish woes, but things happen, and pimples get popped. If you’ve fallen victim to the great temptation, pause here. Follow these five steps for what to do before, during and after your pimple-popping journey.
Do it right.
We would never actually recommend that you pop, pick or otherwise attack a zit, but if you feel like you absolutely must (we’ve all been there), there are a few things you can do to make the damage minimal. Run a towel or cloth under hot water, wring it out, and hold it on the blemish, repeating a few times until the surface feels “soft” and the pimple has come to a head. Never use your fingers to pop—either wrap them in tissue or use two Q-tips.
Any popping action, no matter how successful, is going to result in immediate inflammation and redness. Nip swelling in the bud by holding an ice cube (in a plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel) to the area for 10-15 minutes, or as long as you can stand.
Disinfect it, or apply an antibiotic.
Witch hazel has numerous uses, but it makes an especially great alcohol-free astringent for disinfecting skin without over-drying or irritating. Once you’ve popped a zit, you’re no longer just treating a blemish but an open wound, so disinfecting is critical. Use a cotton ball saturated in witch hazel to gently clean the area. If you’re prescribed a topical antibiotic for your acne, like clindamycin, now would be the time to apply a thin layer.
Applying a drying blemish-fighting formula with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide will only work to irritate the wound further, which is why it’s best to treat the area with a protective coating just as you would a cut or scrape. Neosporin First Aid Antibiotic Ointment ($5.99, drugstore.com) is the gold standard for covering all the bases post-pop: It protects and heals the skin with cocoa butter, olive oil and vitamin E while fighting infection with a trifecta of antibiotic ingredients. Dab a layer on to the blemish, and if you’re headed to bed, go the extra mile by putting a band-aid on it. You’ll look like Nelly for a while, but it’ll heal faster than it would exposed to air.
Leave it alone.
If you’re the type of person who can’t help but pop a zit, chances are you’re also the type of person who just can’t leave it alone. Believe us when we say that leaving the damn thing alone post-popping is the only way it’ll heal. Picking scabs results in scarring, and touching it too much can lead to infection, so you really can’t win. Sit on your hands if you need to, but whatever you do, don’t touch it. If you keep up with treatment and don’t cause further irritation, it’ll be healed before you know it.
Read more: How to Get Rid of Acne Overnight