Is It OK to Pop Zits?

Is it ok to “pop your zits”?

What do you think? I’m sure you’ve heard the sermon from your mom, “Don’t pop your pimples, you’ll only make your acne worse…Blah, blah, blah… That’s why your skin looks awful now. Stop that!” We’ve all heard it.

But really, will popping zits make your acne worse or is it just another Utah acne myth?

Dermatologist Alexa Boer Kimball, MD, decided to place pimple popping into the skin malarkey category, as scientifically unfounded acne aggravator.

The question remains, “Does zit popping make acne worse and what evidence is there to prove it?”

The Real Issue: Why People Pop Zits in the First Place

To solve this issue, first, you need to know why you pop zits. The clear-cut answer is because zits are ugly and make you feel ugly and depressed.

Research supports this finding. For instance, a study published in the 2006 edition of the Journal of the American of Dermatology found that out of 387 dermatology patients who completed the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview, 37 patients (9.6%) suffered from major depression.

Similarly, in 2000, a report in the same journal found that of 268 dermatology patients, 11.9% suffered from body dysmophic disorder (BBD), that is, they had a preoccupation with feeling ugly or having a nonexistent flaw in their appearance.

Another study published in Dermatologic Surgery in the June 2004 that examined facial scarring that resulted from acne excoriée concluded facial scarring could be controlled by first removing the underlining psychological disorders to control the impulse for desire to squeeze pimples.

Collectively, this data tells us that people pop zits because pimples the make them feel ugly and in order to stop bursting zits, you need to control the impulse to correct a bodily flaw.

This can be done by reminding yourself that your zit does not look as big to everyone else as it looks to you. Never let a zit make you feel like the village freak.

Even if that self-esteem booster does not work and you go ahead and pop the zit, will it make your acne worse? At first glance, that zit you targeted embodies a number of traits including compromised skin shedding, blockage of the pores and inflammation.

What Matters to Your Skin Is What Happens After You Pop the Zit

Given these circumstances, what will happen after you pop the zit? Well, you will create a mess and after that your skin will need to start the repair process.

Wounds heal in a series of steps. The bleeding must stop, inflammation starts to disinfect the area, this inflammation causes more cells will grow to replace the damaged ones and the finally then skin will begin to renew itself.

The Acne-Triggering Chain Reaction

So, when you squeeze a zit, you immediately trigger more of the traits of acne, which include inflammation. Not only this but squeezing affects multiple pores located next to you target pimple to pop.

This leads us to another cause of acne- premature breaking of a pore that is congested with excess oils and proteins. Busting such a pore promotes the inflammation response to remove the oils and proteins from surrounding tissues. Yes, this means more zits!

There Is a Time to Squeeze and a Time Not to Squeeze

Long answer short, pimple popping can aggravate acne because your skin contains a community of pores and what you do to one pimply-puss infested pore will affect the neighboring pore. The key is to time the popping of your zit right. Not all pimples are ideal for popping. Pop-ready zits are puss filled and above the surface of the skin. Such pimples are easily extracted with a sterile needle.

Acne-inducing pimple squeezing happens when you attempt to pop a pimple that is still beneath the surface of the skin and bordered by healthy, non-infected pores. Such pimples need time to rise to the upper layers of the skin and in some instances, may require medical extraction.

So, listen to Mom and please do not pop your pimples prematurely. Nevertheless, if pimple popping is an uncontrollable problem for you, a report published in Dermatologic Therapy found that hypnosis does help control the impulsive behaviors that can lead to pimple popping. The next time you are gazing into the mirror and that zits looks grossly humongous, but truly should not get squeezed, remove your hands from your face and just repeat after me, “I will let my zit heal, I will let my zit heal, I will let my zit heal…” Good luck.


American Academy of Dermatology, The Stubborn Truth About Acne: Myths and Misconceptions February 15, 2005.
Bowes L.E.1; Alster T.S. Treatment of Facial Scarring and Ulceration Resulting from Acne Excoriée with 585-nm Pulsed Dye Laser Irradiation and Cognitive Psychotherapy. Dermatologic Surgery: Volume 30, Number 6, pp. 934-938(5), June 2004,
Cohen, Arnon D, Andr’e Ofek–Shlomai, Daniel A. Vardy, Zeev Weiner, MD and Pesach Shvartzman, MD. Depression in dermatological patients identified by the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview questionnaire. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: Volume 54, Issue 1, Pages 94-99, January 2006.
Shenefelt P.D. Biofeedback, cognitive-behavioral methods, and hypnosis in dermatology: Is it all in your mind? Dermatologic Therapy: Volume 16, Number 2, pp. 114-122(9), June 2003.


  1. A.E. says

    Yes! I’ve been looking for an article about popping zits – and whether it helps with acne or not – for a while. Great and interesting article.


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