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6 Best Practices For Popping Pimples, According to Dr. Pimple Popper Herself

Lindsay Kellner
Contributing Wellness & Beauty Editor
By Lindsay Kellner
Contributing Wellness & Beauty Editor
Lindsay is a freelance writer and certified yoga instructor based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a journalism and psychology degree from New York University. Kellner is the co-author of “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self Care,” with mbg Sustainability Editor Emma Loewe.
Image by Leandro Crespi / Stocksy
January 1, 2019

We've all been there—turning toward the bathroom mirror in full light, lingering for a moment longer than needed only to inspect whether that blackhead or whitehead is ripe for extraction. Those able to peel away swiftly, we salute you. To the rest of you, don't worry; we got you.

We consulted with Sandra Lee, M.D., better known as Dr. Pimple Popper to her combined 10 million social media followers, whose new book Put Your Best Face Forward hit shelves on December 31, 2018, about the best way to go about doing your own extractions. Dr. Pimple Popper is famous for her Instagram feed, YouTube channel, and hit TV series that all revolve around—you guessed it—popping pimples, cysts, blackheads, growths, and more.

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"As a doctor, I need to say that you really shouldn't pop them on your own," said Dr. Lee. She recommends bringing your extraction needs to a trained professional. "But if you're going to anyway, it's my responsibility to share how to do it best." Think of it as another tool in your manual skin manipulation toolkit: gua sha, lymphatic drainage massage, jade rolling, facial reflexology, and now an extraction tutorial care of Dr. Pimple Popper herself.

1. Prepare the skin.

Take a hot shower or safely steam your face by making a tent over a pot of hot, just-boiled (no longer boiling) water. Ideally you'd cover your face and the pot or bowl with a towel to trap the steam, but if that causes anxiety or discomfort, simply hover for a few moments. "If you soften up debris that's clogging pores, [the extractions] will come out easily with less trauma to the skin," said Dr. Lee.

2. Gather your supplies.

Dr. Lee recommends using a loop tool to extract rather than your hand, so it's worth investing in one. Her namesake extractor is the one she uses and costs $20. "Using the tool feels like scraping against the skin, but it's actually relieving the pressure from the skin and trying to 'pull' out the contents of the pore," rather than squeeze, said Dr. Lee. Along with proper prep, using an extractor can seriously reduce the trauma caused to the skin.

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3. Disinfect.

We're all for getting dirty and wilding your microbiome, but risking an infection on your skin isn't worth it. Wash your hands thoroughly and make sure all your tools are clean before you begin. This is a must! Dr. Lee uses rubbing alcohol to clean her extractors and recommends the same for anyone using a tool.

4. Set a timer.

"Know when to pop and when to stop," Dr. Lee told mindbodygreen. Well said. One of the biggest traps when getting in front of a mirror, whether it's magnified or not, is picking at the skin for too long. It starts with one innocent blackhead, and 10 minutes later you have a raw, red, ragged complexion. We recommend setting a timer for a minute or two and really abiding by it to avoid doing more harm than good.

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5. Employ proper technique.

If you're going to pop with your hands, avoid using your nails (or cut them) and stick with the pads of your fingers, and always cover them with tissues before squeezing, said Dr. Lee. Always approach the area gently, and if it's not coming out easily or feels particularly painful, stop popping. "Some things just aren't meant to be popped at home," she said.

6. Apply appropriate after-care products.

Wash your face and use a spot treatment formulated specifically for acne afterward, Dr. Lee said. She recommends a product that includes sulfur and/or hydrocortisone. "You can also crush over-the-counter aspirin and mix with your moisturizer, which can make the area less red temporarily," she said. 

To be clear, we're aware that the anti-extraction movement in facials is only growing, and we still fully embrace skin positivity. But sometimes, the urge to pop is too strong to pass up. The more you know!

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Lindsay Kellner
Lindsay Kellner
Contributing Wellness & Beauty Editor

Lindsay Kellner is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist based out of Brooklyn, NY. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and psychology at New York University and earned a 200-hour yoga certification from Sky Ting. She is the co-author of “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self Care,” along with mbg’s Sustainability Editor, Emma Loewe.