The Ultimate Crowdsourced Guide to Popping a Pimple–and Dealing with the Aftermath

After popping, before finding the cure.

After popping, before finding the cure.

I’m not going to tell you to not pop. Even the most skincare-savvy among us (including, ahem, me) can’t resist the urge to pick and prod at a pimple from time to time. But I will tell you how to pop–or how not to pop, rather–based on my recent experience with a big, bad, bursting whitehead.


If you follow ILLUUM on Instagram, you may have seen video footage of the aforementioned pimple when I took to Instagram Stories to lament my failed attempt at popping the shit out of it. (You can still watch in my Story Highlights under “Real Talk” but be warned: this pimple may cause nightmares.) While embarrassing, sharing my skincare faux pas prompted quick-fix pimple tips from so many wonderful women; one of which helped me get swelling down by 90% within a day. So without further ado, I’m passing on the wisdom. Consider this your ultimate crowdsourced guide to how to pop, how not to pop, and what to do when you try to pop and make it worse.

What I Did

As a seasoned pimple popper, I have a system in place for whitehead emergencies. I use a facial steamer for about 10 minutes (or head to the Korean Spa) to open up my pores and bring the gunk to the surface. Then, I wrap my fingers in tissue and gently squeeze the pimple from either side. After the puss is out, I wash my face and then run an ice cube over the area to seal the pores. Done!

There’s one important caveat to this protocol, though: If you push on the pimple and nothing comes out, YOU. MUST. STOP. At that point, you’re only pushing the bacteria further into your skin and creating more inflammation. This is where I went wrong the other night; even though nothing was coming out, I continued to push and made my situation way worse than it was when I started. That's when I had to ask for advice.

What Others Suggested


@raichuminati: WARM compress then cold after you pop it...I mean, don’t pop ‘em [but] hard to resist.”

@paganwanderess: Maybe try a hot compress or the oil cleansing method?

@madelinehvu: One thing I learned from my facialist — if you have a deep/stubborn pimple it’s actually better to massage your face with warm massager for about 15 minutes to increase blood flow to the area which helps your skin heal faster. This also helps to push the pimple to the surface. You will notice a difference in the morning. It will be less inflamed and your pimple will be smaller. Here is a link to the hot massager I use. I fill it with hot water so it’s warm to the touch (should be comfortable) and massage the affected area of face for about 15 minutes. I use it with Josh Rosebrook’s moisturizing mask. Or you can use it with any face oil. Shouldn’t use it on open scabs. But rather works great for areas with deep pimples below the surface.


@fleetwoodblacq: I find chilled cucumber is really good for reducing redness–also a fan of the toothpaste method.

@crystal_g_13: You gotta lance it to open the pore then gently scoop out. Use tissue wrapped around your finger.


@ertth1iruh_: I had the same thing recently and used tea tree oil which really helped! I have super sensitive skin too but applying in that specific area didn't have me going red, worth a try.

@ashley_heinrichs: If you have Dead Sea salt on hand you can mix it with some water and wet a cloth or cotton with it and hold it on the will help take the inflammation down.


@skincareinkorea: If the pimple is really painful or if i get big ones like that sometimes I crush up some aspirin and water and make a paste and put it on overnight for the swelling. It takes some of the pain away!

@rootangslang: Aspirin mask, helps with inflammation!


@wecangohomeagain: So the one thing I’ve found that helps are the hydro-colloidal patches that I think are a K beauty thing. If you have at least little break in the surface of the blemish (just somewhere for the gunk to come out) you put the patch on and while you sleep, it draws the gross stuff out of the pimple. You can see it on the patch when you wake up and then the skin is much less red and raised in the morning. It’s the one thing that has helped me leave my face alone when I get one of these and then there’s no mark or scarring.

@interiorcreature: Renee Rouleau’s Anti-Cyst treatment. Not green beauty BUT has literally dissolved deep pimples like that overnight. Pricey but worth every penny.

What Worked


The day after my failed popping attempt, I stopped into my local Urban Outfitters on a whim and found these hydrocolloid CosRX Acne Pimple Master Patches in the skincare section for $4. (You can get 4 sheets here on Amazon for $12.) Remembering @wecancomehomeagain’s advice, I grabbed a sheet–and thank the good Lord I did. Within a few hours of placing this patch on my pimple, the swelling was down about 90%. NINETY PERCENT!!! By Day 2 with these patches, my pimple was completely deflated. This is truly a miracle product.

Here’s how it works: Hydrocolloid dressings are water-resistant and suck the fluid out of pimples. The water/fluid doesn’t evaporate, though, since the gel-like dressing is on top, so the pimple doesn’t dry out and the new skin that’s formed is hydrated instead of dry and cracked. The pimple then heals faster, and the dressing keeps you from picking at it. 

Pro tip: These will only work if your pimple has a break in the skin (like where you tried to pop it) for the fluid to come out of. If the pimple hasn’t been broken, these patches won’t do shit.

They also won’t do much to help the redness of a pimple, so you’ll have to turn elsewhere for that. But I highly recommend grabbing a pack from Amazon to have on hand just in case of popping emergencies. Because let’s be honest–we all have them.