Pimples are perhaps one of the skin conditions top of mind for almost everyone. No one wants them, they’re hard to get rid of and once you pop them, you just can’t stop.
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But did you know you shouldn’t pop your pimples at all? That’s especially true for blind pimples that don’t have a whitehead or blackhead and cause a lot of pain.
Dermatology nurse practitioner Madeline June, CNP, explains why you shouldn’t pop blind pimples and better ways you can get rid of them.
What causes a blind pimple?
Blind pimples (also known as cystic pimples or cystic acne) are pimples that are so deep beneath the surface of your skin that they don’t have a whitehead or blackhead. The exact cause of blind pimples varies based on multiple factors, including genetics, hormonal changes, medications, stress and even sweat. But all blind pimples essentially develop from pores that are blocked by bacteria, dead skin, hair and sebum (oil that protects your skin).
“You may see a red area that feels like a bump under the skin or like a little pea or marble,” says June. “Blind pimples can appear on your face or other parts of your body, and they can be very tender and painful.”
How to bring a pimple to a head
Just because you see a pimple doesn’t mean you should pop it.
“Touching these pimples and attempting to pop them can cause irritation to the area and also introduce bacteria,” says June. “It will not only make it worse, but it will cause more inflammation, which could lead to scarring.”
That’s also true for the pimples you don’t see that lump up underneath the surface of your skin.
“Massaging or squeezing blind pimples can also cause more inflammation,” she adds. “The more inflammation you have, the longer it will stick around.”
Instead of trying to physically push your pimples to the surface, try one of these methods instead:
You don’t want to leave your blind pimple alone because the longer it sits there, the longer it can fester and grow more painful. Instead, make a warm compress by taking a washcloth and wetting it with warm or mildly hot water. Place the wet washcloth over your blind pimple for five to 10 minutes. This helps drain the puss from the pimple.
“We recommend using a warm compress for five to 10 minutes multiple times a day for the best results,” says June. “Doing that, you’ll notice your pimple getting smaller and less painful.”
Pimple patches, acne stickers and acne patches are really helpful, specifically for blind pimples. You’ll find unmedicated and medicated versions. Medicated patches, like ones that use benzoyl peroxide, help kill off unnecessary bacteria. But hydrocolloid patches are perhaps the most beneficial.
“Hydrocolloid helps pull the gunk out of the pimple and it’s great for people with sensitive skin,” notes June. “These patches can also help you avoid picking at the area.”
Patches with benzoyl peroxide help kill off bacteria, but they could cause irritation for people with more sensitive skin. If you have sensitive skin, you might want to try using unmedicated patches instead.
Tea tree oil
Some people choose to try natural remedies like tea tree oil for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
“Tea tree oil is not as well studied for treating acne as other, more popular over-the-counter treatments,” states June. “But if you do use tea tree oil, use it with caution, as it can cause allergic reactions in some people.”
If you have a blind pimple that covers a larger area, or other treatments prove ineffective, you may want to schedule an appointment with a dermatology provider to discuss if a cortisone injection is right for you.
“We inject a steroid into the cyst or blind pimple to help decrease the inflammation,” explains June. “A steroid injection can decrease the swelling and pain in a matter of a few days. This can be beneficial if you’re in a lot of pain or have an important event coming up.”
What to do if you popped your pimple
So, you tried popping your blind pimple and you’re in a lot of pain … or you were able to pop it despite the pain and now you’re wondering what you should do. We all cave in sometimes, but the important thing is to make sure you reduce the swelling and keep the affected area clean.
“If you popped it, you want to clean the area with mild soap and water and leave the area alone,” advises June. “If you didn’t pop it and you’re having a lot of pain or swelling, try using a warm compress and try not to cause further irritation.”
When to see a dermatology provider for acne medication
“There’s really no wrong answer on when you can come in and see a dermatologist,” says June.
If you have questions about starting a skin care routine, need tips for improving your skin health or you’re getting multiple pimples a week and can’t figure out what’s causing them, a dermatology provider can help.
“Prevention is key when it comes to blind pimples,” says June. “Keeping your face clean and using the right skin care products can help. We recommend cleaning your face with a gentle cleanser one to two times daily, along with using products that are non-comedogenic (meaning they won’t clog your pores).”
And in the meantime, try not to pop.