8 Ways To Heal A Popped And Over-Picked Pimple

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You did it again. You popped that pimple that's been bothering you all day, and while the act itself was pretty satisfactory, you're realizing that the aftermath is not. But you already knew that, and you did it anyway. Now you've continued picking at it and the area is red and inflamed. Sound familiar? If you frequently reprimand yourself for picking at pimples, you're not alone. Many of us struggle to withstand the temptation, but if you persevere, you'll likely be rid of that pimple much quicker than if you pop it. "I try to stress upon my patients that the impact [popping a pimple] has on scarring can last so much longer than acne," Nada Elbuluk, a professor of dermatology at Keck School of Medicine of USC, told Self.

You can also set yourself up for other skin issues, like hyperpigmentation, Mary L. Stevenson, M.D. says. "I tell my patients, 'Take your mirrors down. Keep your paws to yourself'," she jokes, adding that it's normal for people to have the urge to pick pimples and that sometimes popping them is inevitable (via Self). However, most of us go a little too far and end up creating a real mess. Where once a tiny pimply grew, we create a wound that needs extra TLC to heal. So, if you're currently stuck with an over-picked pimple — we feel you — here are some tips to remedy the situation and keep your skin as flawless as possible.

1. Make sure you immediately clean the picked area

Once that pimple is popped and you proceeded to pick at it, you'll need to be extra careful about what you do next. "... Popping the pimple means disrupting the barrier and creating a wound that will need to heal," Joshua Zeichner, M.D., told Seventeen. Rinsing your skin after popping and picking at a pimple is vital in preventing the bacteria from spreading.

Speaking to Rachael, dermatologist Sandra Lee, known by many as the famous Dr. Pimple Popper, said that cleansing is your best bet after picking at a pimple. While you might be tempted to use your favorite scrub to try and remedy the situation, Lee says it will only make things worse, so steer clear of it. This goes for both chemical and physical exfoliators. She recommends you wash your face with a cleanser that contains salicylic acid instead. The salicylic acid will do a great job of preventing new spots from forming around the picked area. A gentle cleanser will also do the job, Nada Elbuluk, M.D., told Self. Lee warns that you should refrain from picking that pimple once it forms a scab if you want to prevent it from leaving a permanent mark on your face. "Don't pick a scab because this can pull off healthy skin cells that are growing underneath and can slow down the healing process, and also, it increases the risk of permanent scarring," she warns.

2. Use an antiseptic toner

After cleaning the picked area properly, you can opt to add some other products that will help prevent inflammation, like an antiseptic toner.

Owner of Je'Derm Skin Care Judit Galambosi told Byrdie that opting for an antiseptic toner is a great way to help that over-picked pimple heal quickly. Galambosi is a fan of Erno Laszlo's Light Controlling Lotion. This product does a great job of balancing your skin and kicking bad bacteria to the curb, and with hundreds of five-star reviews on Amazon, you can trust that it'll help you take care of over-picked areas without causing more irritation. You can also opt for the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads, which have thousands of five-star reviews on Amazon and are touted by many as a real skin-saver. One reviewer praised it for being incredibly gentle and effective, saying, "I also have rosacea and this does not irritate my skin at all," adding, "It's earned a permanent place in my skincare routine — and I'm very picky about what goes into that routine."

If you notice extra swelling and redness after cleansing and toning, Galambosi says not to worry. "The swelling is a natural protective reaction from the skin, and it will start to calm down in a few hours," she assures. After that, your skin should start forming a scab, which you need to refrain from picking at all costs. Just think back to all the work you put in to get to that point whenever you get the urge to pick.

3. Apply an anti-bacterial ointment

Getting rid of bacteria is vital after popping or picking at a pimple. The best way to ensure you get rid of all the nasties is to apply a good bacteria-killing ointment. This will "prevent the area from getting an infection and allow the skin to heal properly," Joshua Zeichner, M.D., told Seventeen.

You can opt for a simple spot treatment or ask your doctor or dermatologist for one that contains antibiotics. Zeichner says to read the labels before buying. A decent spot treatment will list at least 2% salicylic acid and 2.5% benzoyl peroxide on its ingredient list. "The benzoyl peroxide lowers levels of acne-causing bacteria, while the salicylic acid dries out the pimple and removes dead cells that block the pores," Zeichner explains.

"A spot treatment can also help you keep your hands off it, prevent infection, and speed along the healing process," dermatologist Sandra Lee told Rachael. Still not sure what spot treatment to opt for? You can even try one from Lee's skincare line, the SLMD Acne Spot Treatment. You can wear this under your makeup and let it work its magic behind the scenes — and it works hard, according to several raving reviews. "Already swearing by this stuff. It works so much better than the drugstore treatments I have bought in the past, and a little goes a long way! So worth it," one review on the product page reads.

4. Try a pimple patch

They might be very noticeable, but pimple patches work great to help heal over-picked pimples. For starters, once you stick that patch over the picked area, you'll no longer be able to touch or dig your nails into it, co-founder of Hero cosmetics Ju Rhyu told Bustle.

Most pimple patches also contain an ingredient called hydrocolloid, which does a great job of healing over-picked spots. "Hydrocolloid helps skin heal from the inside out in a moist environment, like the way it's supposed to," dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D., told Cosmopolitan. Rhyu agrees, saying, "The patches absorb the gunk from the breakout, which helps speed up the recovery process."

Pimple patches also usually contain other anti-inflammatory and moisturizing ingredients like bacteria-busting tee tree oil, salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide, according to Healthline.

In order to get the most out of pimple patches, you need to wear them for a couple of hours, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It goes without saying that no one would willingly wear a pimple patch to work, so apply them before you go to bed. Before sticking a pimple patch on your face, make sure you dry your skin properly and clean the pimple you're about to cover, especially if it's still oozing. This will ensure that the patch sticks properly. Some patches need to be worn longer than others, so make sure you read the instructions.

5. Use a gentle moisturizer

If you have an over-picked pimple, you should be extra careful with the moisturizer you apply to prevent irritating the area any further. Your best bet is opting for a product that is simple but effective.

Speaking to Self, Nada Elbuluk, M.D., warned that moisturizers containing ingredients that are geared towards preventing fine lines and wrinkles or work as exfoliators should be avoided when you have an over-picked pimple. Again, these products will irritate the area, which will only make the spot more visible. If you're using medication to help treat your acne, dermatologist Sandra Lee, M.D., warns that your skin might be extra dry, and you should make sure you use products that will keep it hydrated. She told Rachael that those with very dry skin from medication should opt for a good hyaluronic acid serum. This nifty compound won't clog your pores and will soothe and hydrate dry and inflamed skin. 

After the pimple heals, you can incorporate some glycolic acid into your routine, but steer clear of it while the pimple heals since it can cause irritation. "[Glycolic acid] will help fade dark spots once the picked spot is healed, but shouldn't be used on open skin," dermatologist Morgan Rabach, M.D., told Bustle.

6. Opt for some anti-inflammatory products while the pimple heals

This might be a no-brainer, but ensuring your skincare routine consists of plenty of anti-inflammatory products after going on a pimple-picking spree is paramount. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Drugs In Dermatology found that nature provides us with plenty of excellent anti-inflammatory compounds. Skincare that includes ingredients like chamomile, colloidal oatmeal, feverfew, aloe vera, licorice, and turmeric can help calm down irritated skin and is also gentle on sensitive skin types.

Another 2013 study published in the Advances in Dermatology and Allergology found that cica, another natural compound, can work wonders to reduce redness and calm inflammation. It also works well when it comes to healing small wounds, like over-picked pimples. Not only will cica help heal the wound but also encourage the growth of strong, healthy skin. Other ingredients to look out for are azelaic acid and kojic acid. These amazing compounds will "help reduce pigmentation in damaged skin," dermatologist Morgan Rabach, M.D., told Bustle, adding that niacinamide is another skin-saver when you're struggling with red, irritated skin as a result of breakouts.

Last, but not least, make sure you keep over-picked pimples moisturized. Rabach says this helps to prevent further injury to the area and minimizes scarring. Skincare products containing vitamin E work great. You can expect the spots to be a little red, but this will diminish in about two weeks' time. Products containing cica can help make the discoloration disappear faster.

7. Apply a soothing mask

Sometimes, over-picked pimples can be accompanied by red, irritated, and inflamed skin. You might even experience some swelling. If your face looks like a complete war zone (which, let's face it, is usually made worse by excessive picking) a mask might be just what the doctor ordered.

Speaking to Seventeen, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital Joshua Zeichner, M.D., advised using hydrocortisone to calm your skin. You can apply a small amount on your entire face. If you tend to struggle with stubborn pimples and pustules, Zeichner says to mix acne-busting ingredients to create your own DIY mask. You'll need a drop of hydrocortisone, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid. You can easily mix these ingredients using the palm of your hand. Zeichner says to then apply it to the area where you popped that poor pimple and leave it to sit overnight. You should also, under no circumstances, apply this potent mixture to your entire face. 

If you have very sensitive skin and are afraid of using strong compounds like salicylic acid, Healthline recommends icing your face if you're dealing with a lot of redness and inflammation. Simply cover an ice pack with a clean cloth and hold it against the spots that look the most irritated. The ice will help your skin look less red and inflamed.

8. Make sure you have efficient spot treatment products

If you constantly struggle with breakouts and have plenty of popped and over-picked pimples to take care of daily, it might be time to reassess your skincare routine.

First of all, make sure your skincare products include acne-busting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and even retinoids, Nada Elbuluk, M.D., told Self. If you just rolled your eyes after reading that because you've tried these products without success, Elbuluk recommends you make an appointment with a dermatologist. They'll be able to make a professional assessment and provide you with an effective skincare regimen tailored to your needs.

As a bonus, some dermatologists are also willing to pop some nasty pimples for you. Mary L. Stevenson, M.D., says that she often squeezes in some clients between appointments who need painful pimples popped. She administers a cortisone injection that reduces the pimple to nothing within two days. Sweet. Stevenson added that prevention is always best, and recommends prescription retinoids to those who suffer from frequent breakouts. You can easily get a prescription from your dermatologist, or you can try an over-the-counter retinoid like Differin Gel first. After all, prevention is always better than trying to cure painful and over-picked pimples and acne.