One can only have so much willpower. Sure, you can pass on that decadent dessert and hit the gym instead of lounging on the couch, but can you walk away from a zit just waiting to be popped? We all pick our battles; some of us pick our zits.
So if you’re going to do it, what’s the best, safest way? We consulted Lotika Singh, M.D., a dermatologist at Manhattan’s Schweiger Dermatology Group, and Michele Green, M.D., a Manhattan-based cosmetic dermatologist, on how to do the least amount of damage.
Whatever you do, avoid applying harsh ingredients like hydrogen peroxide or pure rubbing alcohol to your face (outside of the pre-pop sterilization). Doing so—or even applying acne treatment products so frequently that your skin starts flaking—can over-stimulate oil production and leave you with more zits in the long run. And keep in mind: The bigger the zit, the more likely it is to leave a mark. If the whitehead is bigger than the top of a Q-tip, it shouldn’t be messed with.
Also steer clear of popping a zit with your fingers, which can lead to a localized infection, Green says. Use a steel comedone extractor if you really feel the need, Singh says, but above all, make sure the pimple is ready to be popped. “If it’s really deep below the surface and the skin on top looks just red and smooth, it’s probably not going to come out,” Singh says. And picking without a pop? Not an experience worth having.