It's massive, mean, and totally inconsiderate of your feelings (or the fact that you have a job interview tomorrow). But while its angry red eye stares deeply into your own, you might want to ask yourself a question that's familiar to everyone with traitorous skin: Should I pop my zit?
I get it: It's totally normal to want to dig into that bulbous pustule, squeezing it until it finally relents and allows your face to be free of the trash inside of it. However, if you care about your skin at all, you should probably know that popping zits is one of the worst things you can do for yourself. In fact, many dermatologists recommend that when it comes to your pimples, it might be best to leave well enough alone.
Dermatologist Zakiya Rice explained the trouble with pimple-popping over at WebMd. "Think of a pimple as a little sack that holds oil, debris, and acne bacteria. What we call the pustule is actually keeping the bacteria nice and contained," she said. "When you puncture the pimple's outer skin, the gunk oozes out. If the bacteria contained in that gunk splatters and lands inside other pores, it can lead to more pimples."
As much as I agree with her (and am horrified by the thought of a debris sack on my face), I also know that sometimes, popping a zit is absolutely essential — not to mention satisfying as hell. So, if you must get down and dirty with that devilish carbuncle, here are some questions to consider first.
1. What Kind Of Zit Do I Have?
Not all zits are created equal, and therefore not all attempts at popping should be, either. There are comedones, blackheads, whiteheads, papules, and pustules, to name a few, so you should familiarize yourself with which type of zit you have before attempting to tackle it (and to let yourself know whether you should tackle it at all). According to WebMD, cysts, for instance, should always be treated by a dermatologist and never popped at home. Whiteheads, however, can usually be treated in your bathroom mirror.
2. Do I Have Enough Time To Do It Right?
Properly excising a zit at home requires care and patience. In other words, friends should never let friends pop on-the-go. "If you're going to do it, there's a proper way," dermatologist Cynthia Bailey told WebMD. In other words, only settle in for a pop-sesh when you have a bit of extra time on your hands.
3. Have I Got The Proper Tools?
Dr. Oz once demonstrated how to properly pop a pimple using a sterilized needle and some tissue. Other dermatologists recommend using a comedone extractor and other pimple-friendly tools (just make sure you have a good handle on how to use them).
Unfamiliar with the tools of the trade? The Dermatology Review had this to say about comedone extractors: "A blackhead extractor, also called a comedone extractor, is a special tool designed to remove the dirt and skin cell plugs that cause blackheads. A blackhead extractor tool is commonly used by dermatologists, or during facials, because it can remove toxins from the skin without causing significant damage."
4. Are My Hands And Face Both Clean?
This step is of the utmost importance. Wash your face with hot water to open up your pores for easy extraction. Women's Health expanded on this, saying, "Don’t attempt to touch anything without washing your hands thoroughly with soap before and afterwards, or you may make things worse. Dirty hands drag bacteria from the zit to other parts of your face, causing breakouts to spread."
Above all, be honest with yourself. If you start popping your zit, are you going to be able to be gentle? From personal experience, I can say that usually, things start out gently enough, but before I know it, I'm in full rage-popping mode. According to Teen Vogue, using a delicate hand is key when popping a zit. So if you know you're usually kind of rough, it might be best to abstain.
6. Do I Know When To Stop?
Your zit produced nothing but blood, your skin is inflamed, and your spirits are low: Do you keep going, trying with all of your might to get your zit to produce, or do you call it quits? “The pimple will swell in response," said dermatologist Rebeca Kazin for Women's Health . "And it’s best not to try to get more out of it because the bump that’s left over is most likely just swelling.” In other words, unless you know when to quit, you might want to reconsider that one-way ticket to Pop Town. Your skin will thank you for it later.
7. Is It Worth It?
Ponder your zit-popping motives in the mirror before you take the plunge. Knowing that it could all go wrong, leaving you with scars or worse acne than you had before, and sucking the life force out of you until you are nothing but a hollow, pimply shell, remember to ask yourself if popping that juicy zit is really worth it. If the answer is no, leave it alone — or find a dermatologist to do it for you.
While most of us can understand the allure of a few moments spent poppin' wild in front of a mirror, in the end, your delicate skin is what suffers. This isn't to say that you should never pop your own zit, ever again. But definitely keep these important questions in mind before you do.
Images: Gold Circle Films; BiancaConsuji/Bustle (3); Oprah; Columbia Pictures Corporation; Twentieth Century FOX