Should I pop my pimple or skin acne?

Everyone who struggles with acne can relate to the unconscious urge to pick their skin. For many, the act of draining all the pus from the acne is an oddly satisfying feeling. No wonder those pimple-popping videos garner millions upon millions of views in seconds.

But have you ever wondered if picking your acne is even good for your skin? You might think, “Yes, because I see doctors do it all the time on the internet.” Let’s find out more below.


Picking vs “popping” your acne

We must first establish the difference between popping and picking your acne.

Popping acne is the very deliberate process of draining the contents out of your blemishes to help them heal more quickly. The build-up of pus prolongs inflammation in the skin, so it is actually beneficial to have a professional do this for you.

Picking, on the other hand, is a mindless activity that involves using your fingers or fingernails to scratch your blemishes. This behavior causes further irritation to the skin, which only lengthens the natural healing process of acne. There are also people who think they are popping their acne, but those who do it incorrectly are essentially picking their skin at the end of the day. 


Is picking acne bad for my skin?

The answer is a resounding YES! When you pick your acne, you can introduce more bacteria into the blemishes, which would trigger a stronger local inflammatory response – and cause even more acne! Additionally, the act of physically pushing on the acne spots can cause further irritation and ultimately more inflammation. As we have discussed in other posts, inflammation is a key factor for increasing your likelihood of skin scarring.


Why do I feel the urge to pick my acne?

Picking acne is a very common problem among adolescents and young adults suffering from acne. Acne can be very irritating, which naturally triggers the urge to touch your face. What’s worse is that it is such an automatic response: you may find yourself picking while doing mindless activities, such as watching TV or driving.

Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder are also driving factors. People with anxiety or OCD feel a very strong urge to remove imperfections on their skin. However, such behavior can actually worsen their skin condition, which only increases the urge to pick even more.


How to avoid picking my acne?

Some ways to address this behavior is to vent your anxiety and compulsive behavior through an alternative outlet. Journaling about your skin or undergoing therapy are great ways to not only express your frustration but develop self-coping mechanisms to prevent yourself from feeling the urge to pick again. Some professionals also suggest hiding your mirrors to prevent yourself from looking at your skin imperfections. Although this may provide temporary relief, this does not necessarily help you address your underlying anxiety and OCD. Again, therapeutic approaches, such as exposure therapy, can train you to look at your blemishes without attaching negative, compulsive behaviors to them.


Can I get scars even if I do not pick my acne?

Yes, you can still get scars even if you do not pick your acne. Scarring results primarily from excessive inflammation of the skin resulting from poorly managed acne. Picking your pimples simply prolongs or intensifies inflammation, increasing your risk for scarring. Therefore, even if you have excellent skin hygiene, scarring is still a possibility.

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What is the right way to pop my pimples?

You have to make numerous considerations when popping those stubborn blemishes. 

First of all, not all types of acne are created equal. Non-inflammatory acne, such as whiteheads or blackheads, are not as sensitive to skin picking, although this is still not recommended. Papular, pustular, and cystic acne are more prone to skin scarring when they are prematurely or improperly drained.

Secondly, the types of tools used to drain acne are important. Dermatologists and estheticians use very precise sharp-tipped instruments, such as #11 blades or lancets, to make small punctures in the acne spots so that the fluid can escape. Oftentimes, people try to squeeze the contents of their blemishes through a tiny pore. They end up having to use a lot of force, which only causes more inflammation in the skin. 

Lastly, other treatments should also be highly considered. Cortisone or steroids can be injected in the drained acne spots to further reduce the risk for scarring. These substances carry potent anti-inflammatory properties, which is critical after causing mild injury to the skin from draining. Keep in mind that only dermatologists can perform these types of treatments, so it is important to find out if one is available at the office rendering your service.


What do I do if my acne keeps coming back after popping?

Some individuals may experience recurrent acne even after numerous rounds of acne extractions and cortisone injections. Examples of alternative diagnoses include hormonal acne or hidradenitis suppurativa – essentially more severe and chronic forms of acne. In these more cases, pharmacological intervention may be necessary, including prescriptions, such as spironolactone, accutane, doxycycline, etc. Keep in mind that these medications are often prescribed after all other options are exhausted due to their greater risk for side effects. It is important to consult your dermatologist to determine if these options are right for you. 



Skin picking is an unhealthy skin habit that manifests among young adults suffering from acne. Consequences of picking acne include worsening infection and irritation and potentially causing scarring down the line. While many derive satisfaction from trying to remove imperfections on their face, there are many other healthy alternatives guided by health professionals. Our Dermatologists and licensed estheticians at Scar Healing Institute can properly drain your acne to expedite the healing process. Additionally, our therapists can offer mental support by helping you overcome the urge to pick and develop healthier skin habits. By finding the right help, you can break free from the harmful cycle of skin picking and maintain the health of your skin and your mind.

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