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Pimples – What Happens When You Pop?

I’m going to talk to you about a condition that no one wants; unfortunately, no one is immune to it. It happens to show its ugly head at the most inopportune time, like a first date, special occasion or just anytime it decides to flare up. It doesn’t matter what age you are or gender. What’s this condition? Some may call it acne, zits or pimples. No matter what you call it, it just plain sucks.

What is a pimple? 

Basically, a pimple happens when your pore, also known as skin follicle gets a buildup of dead cell and solidified sebum, also known as, oil. These dead cells begin clumping together in the pore. The pore starts to fill up and the dead cells and oil reach the surface of the skin. If the pore is open to the air/ oxygen, oxidation happens, making that stuff in the pores turn black. Creating a black head. If your pore is closed, then no oxidation will occur creating a white head. That is the only difference between a whitehead and a black head.







Did you know,  all skin follicles/pores contain acne bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes or P. acnes)? Sounds bad? Don’t worry, it is  part of the normal bacteria that occur on your skin. So, there is no need to freak out. The bacteria lives in the pores and are constantly making new bacteria; however, here is the good part, they are also constantly being killed by the oxygen that is in the follicle. The Bacteria doesn’t survive in oxygen. Isn’t that good news?

When oxygen is blocked from the pore, the bacteria has a party and multiplies like rabbits. The bacteria multiply by feeding of the oil into simpler fatty acids, which are the primary nutrition source. So, if the pores are congested with dead cells and solidified oil and if there is little  no oxygen getting into the pore due the blockage or due to a small pore opening, such as that of the closed whitehead, this is an ideal environment for pimple.

The acne bacteria grow and continue having fun in your pores, in a short time the pore becomes inflamed and swollen with bacteria, dead cells and solidified oil. When the pore fills up, it causes stress on the pore wall which can cause it to rupture and spread all that stuff into your dermis layer of your skin. Not good. At that point your body is on alert. Hey, we have invaders. It has to fight it off. It does this by sending the blood to the area where it is being attacked. In the blood, the white blood cells are the ones that fight off the acne bacteria. At this point, you start to see the ugly red bump on your skin and it is tender to touch. During the battle of the bacteria, many white cells, as well the bacteria are killed. The dead white blood cells pile up in the pore, along with fluids and other stuff to form a pustule. You can spot that by the white head on that pimple.








At this point, you probably want to pop it. Stop, don’t do it. If you do it improperly you can make it worse.

Here are the reasons why you shouldn’t do it:

  • Popping a pimple can actually scatter the infected material throughout your skin, not only causing the existing    pimple to get worse, but also instigating additional breakouts, too. “When you squeeze a pimple with your fingers, the downward pressure on the contents of the clogged pore is greater than the upward pressure.” NJ, Dermatologist Christopher Sciales, MD. “The pressure put on your skin can cause the contents (oil, bacteria and dead skin cells) of the pore to burst into the deeper layers of skin” When that happens, the bacteria can spread and scarring can result.
  • Most people think that popping a pimple will instantly make it go away. But that’s not always the case. Whatever is lodged within the pore can get pushed down deeper inside. Picking increased the redness and inflammation that comes with breakouts.
  • You can make a small pimple fester into something much bigger.
  • You can rip your skin if you use your nails or a pimple popping tool, then resulting is scars and discoloration of the skin.
  • A scab can form. Pimple or not, anytime anything on your skin is opened up, your body sends a signal to your skin that an injury has occurred sending your skin into healing mode. The same process happens when you try to pop a pimple, which can ultimately lead to a scab, Dr Sciales says that when you pick a pimple that hasn’t come to a head the blemish is likely to bleed and turn into a wound.
  • Your skin can scar. Whenever skin is damaged, a scar can form, picking leads to excessive inflammation, which can cause self-induced scarring and pigment issues that linger long after the pimple have healed.
  • You can cause permanent damage. As if discoloration from a breakout isn’t bad enough, picking at and popping pimples particularly the nodular, cystic type, can damage the collagen in your skin and cause permanent scarring.

Now that you know the reasons why you shouldn’t pop a pimple; however, I know, you can’t resist popping a big red pustule pimple. So, before you go a popping, there are a few steps you must do before the popping starts.

Here is the disclaimer, I don’t recommend you to pop your pimples or try to remove whiteheads and blackheads. If you do it improperly, the damage it caused can be detrimental to your skin long-term. I recommend a licensed esthetician or a dermatologist to do this.



Here are the safe steps to pop a pimple or blackhead:

  • Wash your hands. You don’t want to add anymore bacteria to your face.
  • Prepare the skin. Wash the skin with a gel cleanser or one that contains salicylic acid.
  • Soften the skin area around the pimple, the pimple itself or the blackhead. You can do this by taking a warm damp face cloth or a cotton ball, placing it on the skin. Hold it there for few minutes. For better results, you could steam your face. If you don’t have a personal steamer, you can boil some water. Pour it in a bowl. Lean over the bowl, about 5” from the bowl, with the steaming water in it. Make sure your face isn’t touching the hot water. Your skin will burn if it comes in direct contact of the water. Hold a towel over your head, trapping the steam in. Do this for minimum of 5 minutes.
  • Wrap a tissue or cotton gauze pad around your fingers and position them away from the center of the pimple (more toward the healthy skin). VERY GENTLY, push upward. Don’t force it, or you will damage your skin. Press up no more than three times, each time moving further away from the inflamed pimple. Use a clean tissue, cotton ball or cotton gauze pad to remove the pus and other fluid that comes out.
  •  Wash the skin again, at this point, you can put a clay mask on. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes, no more than 20 minutes. Then put a soothing toner on the skin and finish it with a light moisturizer.
  • If the pimple is still weeping, tear a little piece of tissue off and place it on the weeping area. Leave it there until it stops. It’s the same method you would use if you nicked your face while shaving.

If you want, you can follow up with applying a clay mask.  This will help get rid of the pimple faster.  After that apply a toner and a moisturizer to you face.

That is how you safely pop and remove a blackhead. If you have a whitehead, cystic or nodule pimples, DON’T attempt to do it yourself. By popping them yourself, you will definitely make it worst. Leave that job for the professional.


The Skin Care Answer Book by Mark Lees
Pages: 54 & 55
New Winter/Spring 2016
Title Article; What Really Happens When: You Pop A Pimple
Pages: 81-83

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