After popping a pimple, clean the area and apply an antibacterial ointment to reduce the risk of infection. Avoid touching the area to let it heal and minimize scarring.

The urge to pop a pimple is difficult to overcome: It’s staring you in the face and you just know that all you have to do is squeeze.

Whether you’re here because you’re thinking about popping a pimple or because the damage is already done, help is here.

Keep reading to find out what to do if you’ve popped a pimple so you can keep the potential aftereffects — like scarring or a pimple that looks even worse — at bay.

OK, you popped your pimple. You’re only human.

Now it’s time to do some damage control. You should be concerned with preventing further infection and scarring, so the treatments will be dedicated to these goals.

Here are some steps you can follow to treat your pimple:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap.
  2. Apply an antibiotic ointment, such as Bacitracin, with clean hands or a clean cotton swab. Wash your hands after applying the ointment, too.
  3. Apply an antibacterial spot treatment moving forward, such as tea tree oil. This will help to fight bacteria while ideally reducing inflammation. If the pimple is open or very irritated in appearance, continue applying ointment instead.
  4. Continue your healthy skin practices, such as washing your face daily and applying treatments as needed such as those to fight pimples or those to moisturize the skin.

Pimple patches

An alternative to tea tree oil is purchasing pimple patches, which are small, clear patches that you can place over pimples.

Pimple patches are medicated to fight acne and reduce inflammation, and also help to keep you from picking at the pimple again. Ingredients found in pimple patches include hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, salicylic acid, or tea tree oil.

The effects of popping can be immediate and long-term, which is why most dermatologists caution against popping. Some of the potential pitfalls from squeezing a pimple can include:

  • Acne scarring. The pressure from popping the pimple can damage the skin underneath and lead to scarring.
  • Hyperpigmentation. It’s possible that popping a blemish can lead to inflammation that causes hyperpigmentation or discoloration compared to your surrounding skin.
  • Infection. Popping a pimple can make the area more vulnerable to an invasion of bacteria. This leads to a pimple that’s red, hot to the touch, and sometimes leaks pus.
  • Worsening blemish. Sometimes, a popped pimple can come back with a vengeance. It will appear angrier, redder, and more noticeable than before — which definitely isn’t the goal.

Professional precautions

Yes, we realize that dermatologists do pop pimples in their office. In the event you aren’t a dermatologist, it’s important to keep in mind some of the ways a dermatologist may take a decidedly different approach than you do at home.

  • Dermatologists use sterile techniques. They wear gloves and use sterile instruments to avoid introducing bacteria into your skin that can worsen a pimple.
  • Dermatologists know how much pressure to use. They’ve trained extensively to know how much pressure is likely to increase the risks of scarring. They also know when a pimple is not pop-able and when to quit trying.
  • Dermatologists may use medical-grade medications. Often, they may inject an especially large or painful pimple with a corticosteroid to promote healing after popping.
  • Dermatologists know what pimples need popping — and which don’t. Sometimes, you may have a pimple that’s annoying, yet highly treatable without giving it a squeeze. Your dermatologist can tell you if the pimple would go away on its own or if it needs a little TLC at a doctor’s office.

The next time you’re tempted, keep these thoughts in mind. They’ll likely help you see healthier skin.

The best alternatives to popping a pimple involve caring for it instead. It may require some patience on your part, but it will pay off. Here are some approaches you can take:

  • Don’t touch your face. In terms of causing harm to your skin, touching a pimple repeatedly is a close second to popping it. Refrain from touching the pimple and always wash your hands before touching your face.
  • Apply ice. Applying a clean, cloth-covered ice pack over a pimple can help reduce redness and inflammation from an acne blemish.
  • Apply spot treatment products. Putting on spot treatment products such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or tea tree oil can help to reduce acne blemishes. They take time and repeated application (about 4 to 6 weeks). Don’t give up — just keep applying.
  • Continue your skin care routine. Consistency is key. Washing your face twice daily, applying acne treatment products, and exfoliating as necessary can keep pimples at bay and keep your pimple from worsening.

Through these steps, you can treat your pimple and see clear skin.

If you apply over-the-counter topical treatments to your pimple and you don’t see improvement, it may be time to see a dermatologist. This is especially true when your acne is very painful.

A dermatologist may prescribe stronger medications to treat your acne. Antibiotics can also help kill the bacteria that cause acne. Examples of these medications include:

If your acne is related to hormones, a doctor may prescribe different medications. These include oral contraceptives, anti-androgens, or spironolactone.

Popping a pimple can be harmful to your skin.

If you do decide to pop, applying antibacterial ointments or spot treatments can help to minimize the damage.

If the pimple persists or you’re having trouble controlling them with over-the-counter treatments, see a dermatologist. They can help determine which pimples (if any) need popping and prescribe medications that might help.

Although acne treatments can take time to prove effective, consistent applications can mean results without having to resort to popping and its potential damage.