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What to do about that really bad pimple

October 21, 2019 / Duncan Fisher
First tip: Don’t squeeze it.

Few things in life are as satisfying as squeezing out one of those giant acne pimples, the hard ones, that get red and sore. And few things are as frustrating as not being able to squeeze them out.

We’ve all had these, they’re just dreadful, and it’s a natural urge to want to go in with force and clobber them, with squeezing, or picking, or popping.

The problem is, squeezing pimples, or picking them, or generally being rough, makes them worse.

Think of your pimple as an infection

A pimple is a blocked oil gland, full of bacteria, all swollen and probably filling with pus.

Think how you deal with other infections on your skin. Don’t you clean them, calm them down with compresses, and put on some sort of disinfectant? And then don’t you leave them alone, so they can heal?

That’s exactly what to do for a pimple. The right treatment goes like this:

1. Wash the area. Do it gently, with your fingertips. Be nice to the hurt skin.

2. Hold an ice cube in a clean cloth on the pimple for 10 or 15 minutes. This can help reduce the swelling, and the soreness.

3. Put on a topical treatment that contains benzoyl peroxide. You can get one over the counter at your pharmacy. Benzoyl peroxide brings down the bacteria-count, and it also helps reduce oil production in the gland.

4. If you see a whitehead develop, you can make a hot compress for it, with a clean washcloth, and hold it on the area for 10 or 15 minutes. As much as you want to squeeze – don’t.

5. Do all of these things a few times a day.

6. Do nothing else. Try not to touch your face.

The wrong treatment, this being an infection, is to squeeze, or pick, or pop, or do anything else that might damage that already-tender skin. If you make a tear, you have in effect a little wound, and it’s now open to the flood of bacteria, and oil, and skin detritus – exactly what it doesn’t need.

If you squeeze, you may also be pushing some of the contents of that pimple down, deeper into the wound.

And if you get really rough with your pimple, you may even scar.

Good acne care is Clean and Gentle

Sometimes acne can get out of hand, for medical reasons, and you need a dermatologist’s help.

But broadly speaking, you yourself can do a lot to keep your acne down. Here are the rules:

1. Wash a couple of times a day, particularly if you’ve been sweating. Rinse with mildly warm water.

2. Fingers are better than washcloths, and the best cleansers are the non-abrasive ones. Hard scrubbing can actually spread acne.

3. Stay away from alcohol swabs and exfoliants, if you think they tend to irritate your skin.

4. Have you got oily hair? Shampoo it.

5. Keep your hands off your face. If your skin is clean and healthy overall, leave it alone.

If your skin doesn’t heal, or if you spot a scar, or any darkening in your acne, then go to your dermatologist.

Meanwhile, go easy on that big pimple, however much you may hate it. The nicer you are to it, the sooner it will go away.

Questions about your skin? Ask our dermatologists online for $35.