How to pop a spot

We all know how to squeeze a pimple. It’s not complicated. However, what we don’t always know is how to properly extract one to speed the healing process and minimize the mark left behind. After many botched attempts over the years, I have now come up with a protocol that I try to follow.

I think there are two sides when it comes to this blemish extracting business: you’re either a popper or you’re not. And when you’re the former, it can sometimes become an obsessive behavior where you’re looking for things that aren’t even visible.

I know that most facialists and dermatologists advise against this, with good reason (the spot can become superinfected, scar and be generally more of a pain in the ass than it already is). However, I can’t bear to let a whitehead hang around my face. There, I said it.

So I’ve come up with a little protocol I try to follow whenever I want to pop a pimple (I say “try” because I sometimes revert to my old “frenetic popper” habits and berate myself afterwards when I’m left with a huge red mark…).

I think that the key thing is to wait for the blemish to be ready and to make sure that there is something to extract. Persisting to pick at red spots is pointless and can make the situation worse.

Here’s what I do when I want to pop a spot.

What type of blemish am I dealing with?

First, I try to assess whether it can be extracted. To help with this, I wrote a detailed article about the different types of blemishes here.

Is it ready to be extracted?

This is the hard part (and where I usually fall back into bad habits, when I want there to be something where there isn’t). I look at the spot in good lighting to determine whether there’s a head at its top (white pus). If it’s pushing to the surface, I go on to the next step. If not, I use salicylic acid to bring it to the surface more quickly.

3-step extraction process

  1. Extract

I make sure that my hands and face are clean before beginning. There are two ways to do it, either with tissue-covered fingers or with a blemish extractor. Most of the time, I use my fingers and place them on the side of the spot. I then push down and upwards towards the spot (Caroline Hirons explains the importance of this technique in this cheat sheet). If it doesn’t get out after two/three attempts, I leave it alone (well, I try anyway).

2. Disinfect

The second step is to disinfect the area with a cotton pad and the acid toner of your choice. I use the same salicylic acid lotion I mentioned earlier.

3. Repair

Finally, the last step is to repair the skin. For that, I like to apply a layer of Avène’s Cicalfate restorative skin cream on the area. It helps to speed the healing process and to decrease the redness of the mark.

This concludes my spot treatment series!

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