So, You Couldn't Resist Popping That Zit — Now What?

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
We know ten times over that we’re not supposed to pick at our face or pop our pimples — but we all lose control occasionally. And when an angry zit is growing bigger and bigger every morning, it's basically begging you to end the misery, right? So you give in — and for a second, all you feel is sweet, sweet relief. Then... Why the eff did I make this worse?!

But all is not lost. Follow this short, easy guide to avoid scarring, redness, and further pimples post-popping. And next time, try your best to follow your mother’s (and every derm's) advice.

Immediately After Popping:
If you commit to popping, you better make sure you give it your all and clear the pimple out fully before moving onto the treatment, or else you risk it reappearing. Hopping in the shower or applying a hot compress can soften hardened oil underneath and help remove all the gunk. But if blood or lymph fluid appears, it’s time to leave it alone. Once you’ve successfully extracted the zit, apply a calming toner with antibacterial properties like witch hazel or tea tree oil to reduce redness and soothe irritation.

One Hour After:
After an hour, the swelling and redness should have subsided. Apply ice wrapped in a towel if the affected area needs a little extra love. Popped pimples are similar to open wounds, so be careful about apply drying treatments immediately afterwards. A thin layer of Aquaphor will fight bacteria and promote healing. Avoid touching the area and consider covering it with a small bandaid to further ward off dirt and grime.

The Next Day:
Most likely, you’re going to be seen in public, so you might want to remove the circular Band-Aid of zit-popping shame. Apply a gel spot treatment to seal the broken skin and draw out any remaining infection. Make sure the skin is closed before applying any makeup products over it.

Day Two & Three:
Continue to apply emollients to the area if the skin remains open. Take care to wash your face with a gentle cleanser twice a day to ward off further outbreaks. A scab might form over the area within the week and if it does, you know the drill — no picking.

One Week Later:
After the scab has faded, you may be left with a dark spot. Applying a brightening and exfoliating fading gel to help reduce darkness and bring your skin back to its pre-pimple glory. You can also try using light therapy or creams containing echinacea if you suffer from regular breakouts.
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