Pimples 101: How to Pop, Treat & Conceal a Blemish


In This Article:

No matter how often you breakout, you know what a blemish looks like, so we aren’t going to show you one (it just isn’t pretty). When it happens to you, the white, red, swollen appearance of a blemish is maddening, and research shows is an emotionally devastating experience. Using great skin care is vital to reduce or even stop breakouts, but what do you do with that pimple you see in the mirror is important, because it can determine how long you have to live with its memory.

Here is your straightforward, honest three-step guide with everything you need to know for complete damage control the next time a blemish rears its ugly head.
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Recommended Blemish-Reducing Products

Lesson 1: To Pop or Not to Pop

You've heard people say never pop a pimple, offering only vague reasons why you shouldn't. They're wrong. In reality, popping a pimple reduces inflammation, scarring, healing time, and gets rid of the ugly white bump, but only if you do it right! Doing it right is key, because what you absolutely should not do is over squeeze, pick, puncture, or do anything else that can cause serious scabs.  

Learning to when and how to remove a blemish properly is essential, since leaving a whitehead (or blackhead) sitting there on your face is just not realistic for most of us. You'll know the blemish is ready when you see a white head. As long as you can see an obvious head, and you're certain you're not dealing with cystic acne (deep, red swollen bumps far below the skin's surface), you can follow these steps to remove the contents. Here's what to do:

  1. Buy a comedone extractor. Here's what it looks like:

    Comedone Extractor

  2. Cleanse your face with a gentle water-soluble cleanser first but do NOT use cold or hot water (that makes the blemish redder—don't make a pimply angrier than it is!—and hurts the skin's ability to heal).
  3. With the cleanser lightly massage skin with a soft, wet washcloth to remove dead skin cells. This makes extracting the pimple easier but don't overscrub.
  4. Dry your skin gently. Do not use the comedone extractor or squeeze when your skin is wet because it's more vulnerable to tearing and creating a scab, which can cause scarring.
  5. Take the comedone extractor and center the opening over the pimple. Then gently (and we mean really gently) and with very little pressure (and we mean very little pressure) push the comedone extractor down on the whitehead and move it across the pimple. That should release the contents.
  6. You may have to repeat this one or two more times, but that's it.
  7. If you overdo it you will create a scab and risk scarring (a reminder of your acne you don't want with you for the rest of your life). Remember to be gentle; the goal is to remove the whitehead without creating a scab or damaging the surrounding skin (scabs are not better to look at than a pimple).

Lesson 2: Banish the Blemish

After your gentle extraction, you must follow up with a 2.5% or 5% benzoyl peroxide product (Paula's Choice Clear has excellent options but you can also check Beautypedia for other recommendations) and/or a 1% or 2% salicylic acid (BHA) product (again, Paula's Choice has several options, but Beautypedia can help you with other selections if you want). These will not only help immediately reduce inflammation, they will disinfect, and definitely help prevent further breakouts.

For more information about skin care for acne read our comprehensive article What Is Acne.

Lesson 3: Take Cover

Once you've removed the contents and treated your blemish with well-formulated anti-acne products, now it's time for the magic of makeup to make your blemish almost unnoticeable.  

  1. Prep with a mattifying serum. If the skin is dry the concealer won't go on smoothly over the area.
  2. Select a matte concealer that matches your skin tone exactly, no peach, pink, green, or ashy colors. It should also have enough slip to make blending easy.
  3. After applying your foundation, use a concealer brush (synthetic hair with a flat, rounded point) or your finger and gently dab a small amount of concealer onto the center of the blemish, then begin blending softly outward, creating even coverage that sheers out to the unaffected skin around the blemish. If you need more coverage, let the first layer of concealer set for about a minute before adding more, starting at the center and using the same technique.
  4. It helps to set the concealer with a gentle dusting of powder. A small, soft eyeshadow brush is perfect for applying a layer of powder over a concealed blemish. Applying powder over a blemish with anything larger or scratchier and your makeup can look cakey or cause your makeup to breakdown.
  5. It helps to wear foundation so the concealer doesn't stick out on your face but if you're not wearing foundation you have to be extra careful how you apply the concealer. Check your application in daylight to make sure it doesn't look like there is a clump of makeup color over a blemish. You want it to look natural, not obvious.

Even if you rarely breakout, pimples do happen to everyone at some point or another. Now you have three simple steps you can use to minimize the amount of time you have to deal with one!

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! See Paula's Choice Products for Acne Breakouts.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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