Debunking Acne Myths: Does Popping Pimples Resolve Acne Faster?



Myth: Popping pimples resolves acne faster

Acne patients may be compelled to squeeze or pop their pimples at home thinking it will clear their acne faster, but they should be advised that doing so without using the proper technique can actually make the condition worse.

When over-the-counter or prescription acne medications take too long to work, some patients may use their fingernails or even a physical instrument (eg, tweezers) to clear the contents of the pimple; however, this process often produces lesions that are inflamed and far more visible, slower to heal, and more likely to scar than lesions progressing through the natural disease course. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), unwanted side effects of popping pimples can include permanent acne scars, more noticeable and/or painful acne lesions, and infection from bacteria on the hands.

The AAD promotes that dermatologists know how to remove bothersome acne lesions safely. Also, the AAD guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris reported that comedo removal may be helpful for lesions resistant to other therapies. Acne extraction may be offered when standard treatments fail and involves the use of sterile instruments to clear comedones and microcomedones. For single lesions that are particularly painful, dermatologists may opt to inject the lesion with a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation, speed healing, and decrease the risk of scarring; the strength of this recommendation is level C, according to the AAD acne guidelines work group. Finally, incision and drainage using a sterile needle or surgical blade can be used to open and clear the contents of large or painful pimples, nodules, and cysts.

These procedures are not first-line acne therapies. To minimize the appearance of acne lesions and promote clearance while waiting to see results from prescribed treatment regimens, patients should be advised to keep their hands away from their face and avoid picking at lesions, to apply ice to painful lesions to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, and to be patient with the acne treatment prescribed by a dermatologist. If patients are prone to picking their acne lesions, a more aggressive approach to treatment may be necessary, as a reduced number of inflammatory lesions leaves the patient with fewer spots to manipulate.


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