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How Bad Is It to Pop a Pimple, Really?

It’s tempting to squeeze away those big breakouts, but it’s not risk-free. In this video, learn how popping pimples will make your skin look worse, not better.

Lauren Smith, MAAlexandra Schwarz, MD
Written by Lauren Smith, MA | Reviewed by Alexandra Schwarz, MD
Updated on January 28, 2022

Your mom’s been telling you for decades that you’re not supposed to pop pimples—and yet, you still do it anyway. Is this not-so-great habit really a big deal?

To put it simply, popping pimples is just counterproductive. You might chase away that one zit for now, but the process of touching, poking, squeezing, and scratching the pimple may lead to yet another breakout.

When you squeeze a pimple with your fingers, you run the risk of forcing the pus and bacteria deeper into your pores. This could increase inflammation, making your pimple redder, bigger, and harder to get rid of.

Once the pimple pops, the pus and bacteria could get into the surrounding pores, which could lead to next week’s acne flareup. Combined with your fingers’ oil and germs, this bacteria can cause chaos for skin. If you’re truly eager to make that unfortunate pimple vanish, pimple popping could actually do just the opposite.

And then there’s scarring. If you’ve ever popped a pimple, then you know that some zits pop a little more easily than others. Some breakouts may be huge and painful, yet they refuse to burst. Then it’s oh-so-tempting to keep digging, pushing, and prodding, but all that aggression on the skin could leave acne scars behind. While the short-term relief of getting rid of that zit is satisfying, try to remember the long-term benefit of smooth, scar-free skin.

To avoid pimples in the first place, you know the drill: eat healthily, use non-toxic cleansers, wash your face twice a day, and—to the best of your abilities—keep your hands away from your face. Find more tips for preventing acne and treating acne here.

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