Essential Guide to Popping Pimples and Blackheads Safely

Our extensive guide covers everything you need to know about popping pimples and blackheads, including the causes, home remedies and medical treatments.

girl popping pimples


All of us love to sport that perfect flawless and smooth skin without any blemishes or spots. But all of a sudden, you notice a blackhead or a pimple popping out on your forehead or cheeks. And then you freak out. These pimples and blackheads can show up on any part of your body. Of course, they tend to be more noticeable on your face. So, what can you do to get rid of them and also prevent them from occurring in the future?

Getting pimples or blackheads is not uncommon these days. Blame it on dust, pollution, our eating habits, and many other factors that lead to these outbreaks on your skin. And none of us would want our skin getting spoilt.

Now, what do you do when you normally spot a blackhead or a pimple? Of course, you are tempted to take it out. Our natural tendency is to squeeze out that pimple or blackhead forcefully. By doing so, you are doing more harm than good. 

How can you extract these pimples and blackheads without damaging your skin? In this article, we shall provide an essential guide for popping blackheads and pimples without harming your skin. We will also be giving you a few tips for skin care post a blackhead or an acne removal treatment.

How Are Blackheads and Pimples Formed?

There are numerous hair follicles present underneath our skin. These follicles contain hair and sebaceous glands. When dust, dirt, and dead skin cells mix up with the oil of these sebaceous glands, they tend to block the pores of the skin, ultimately leading to eruptions on the skin.

process of how a blackhead is formed

If the skin over the eruption opens up, it leads to a blackhead formation owing to continuous exposure to air. If the skin remains closed, although a blackhead does not form, the infection underneath the skin leads to a whitehead formation that may slowly develop into a pimple or acne.

Process of how a pimple is formed

Is Popping Blackheads or Pimples Bad?

Woman thinking about popping blackheads and pimples

When you see that tiny black dot peeping out through your skin, you will be highly tempted to pull it out. The same goes for a pimple too. The white plug of the pimple protruding out of your skin could tempt you to either prick it forcefully or pull it out, thereby causing the pus to ooze out. Then, should you be popping blackheads and pimples? The thought of forcefully pricking a pimple or pulling out a blackhead plug could give goosebumps to many. 

Before you attempt to do any such thing, you need to keep a few things in mind:

  1. The blackheads might not really be blackheads!

All breakouts on the skin that look or may seem like blackheads actually may not be so. Sometimes, the skin’s pores appear blocked owing to oil or sebum collection within the pores. 

These are known as sebaceous filaments. What are these? Our skin naturally contains an oily gland called sebum, that helps in retaining the required oil content within the skin, thereby preventing it from drying up.

Blackheads Vs Sebaceous Filaments

Sebaceous filaments resemble thin threads that help in sebum movement from the sebaceous glands to the skin surface. All of these occur naturally within our skin.

When sebum occupies enlarged skin pores, they resemble blackheads. However, they are either grey or sandy in color, unlike blackheads which are black.

Going by the first look, sebaceous filaments look quite similar to blackheads. In such situations, if you attempt to forcefully extract it, it may not help you much as the sebum tends to pile up again within the pores. Hence, it is best to leave sebaceous glands alone.

  1. Your skin might get damaged if you squeeze hard. When you forcefully try squeezing out a blackhead, there is a high chance of damage to your skin. Your skin is also very likely to get inflamed, causing you more trouble. It also spoils your skin, thereby disrupting its appearance.
  1. Make sure your skin doesn’t get bruised. If you are convinced that you can extract a blackhead safely, then there are ways to do it. One needs to follow the techniques carefully such that the skin does not get bruised in any way.
  2. Pimples can contain pus. The same logic explained above is true for your pimples too. Pimples are caused by oil, dust, dirt, and acne bacteria. All of these lead to pus formation underneath the skin. 
  1. Be careful of acne scars. If the pimple is red, this means the infection is still high. In such cases, it is best to not even touch it. If you try to squeeze out a highly inflamed pimple, even the surrounding area will get infected. This will only aggravate the issue and you are very likely to develop acne scars. These scars do not vanish very easily and you need to take additional efforts to get rid of them.
  1. White heads can be safely extracted at times. If the white head of the pimple is almost out, you may extract it carefully by following a few necessary precautions.

    Since blackheads are exposed, popping them out forcefully could probably cause lesser damage when compared to the forceful extraction of acne. Still, it is highly recommended to follow the extraction procedures and precautions carefully to avoid any kind of skin injury. We shall go through these procedures in the following section.

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How to Pop a Blackhead Like a Pro?

popping facial blackheads like a pro

One needs to exercise utmost caution and use the right tools when extracting a blackhead. Blackheads could occur on the skin in many variations. Some could be extremely severe and we may fear touching them. Some blackheads could be very mild and may come out easily. It all depends on how deep within the skin these are embedded. In this section, we will see how to pop out different kinds of blackheads safely.

Blackheads can appear on any part of your body. They can occur on your face, behind or inside your ears, on your arms, or even on your back. 

Popping Extreme Blackheads

Deep blackheads, also known as extreme blackheads, are lodged deep inside the skin. You may either extract these at home or visit a dermatologist.

  1. Extracting deep blackheads at home

None of us like those deep blackheads present on our facial skin. If you are planning on popping facial blackheads at home, you need to follow the following steps.

Step 1: Wash the affected area thoroughly

The skin should be very clean before the extraction process. Hence you must clean the affected area thoroughly. Facial blackheads could turn out to be severe in a few cases. Use mild soap to clean your face. 

If you have sensitive skin, then you can use the soap prescribed by your dermatologist. Usually, Cetaphil Face Wash works pretty well on sensitive skin. Some other good products include Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser, Neutrogena Skin Balancing Purifying Gel Cleanser, PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash, etc.

The cleansing soap plays a vital role in the blackhead extraction process. You need to ensure that your cleanser does not deprive your skin of all its oils, and neither should it leave your skin too oily to touch. If your cleansing gel contains exfoliants, then all the better as it aids in dead skin removal, easing out your blackhead extraction process. 

While you are washing your face, remember to clean your neck too. It is always better to use lukewarm water to cleanse your face. Although normal water may not be harmful here, avoid cleaning your face with very hot water. Hot water erases all the protective oils from your skin, thereby drying it out. Very cold water can also irritate your skin. Hence, it is always better to strike the right balance by using lukewarm water.

Dermatologists recommend cleaning your face twice a day. Avoid cleansing your face more than this, as it could dry out your skin, thereby making room for more dead skin formation which ultimately opens the doors for blackhead formations and eruptions. However, you don’t have a choice especially when you sweat out. You need to clean your face well during such times to feel fresh.

Step 2: Exfoliate your skin

Exfoliating your skin is another important step that helps in removing those deep blackheads. When you exfoliate your skin, you are clearing it of all dead skin cells, sebum, oil, and dirt. When your skin is cleared of all the unwanted debris, blackheads pop out easily. 

Woman's skin exfoliated by a professional

You can either pick an exfoliating scrub from the market or use a natural exfoliant. Baking soda, coffee powder, sugar, oatmeal, finely powdered almonds, etc can be used as natural exfoliants. These are quite effective in eliminating those dead skin cells from your skin. 

You can even use products made of salicylic acid. Go for products like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser, Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, or CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser. Your exfoliating cleanser should not be very strong that you end up encountering other skin problems.

The video above gives a detailed description of how to use Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant.

Usually, a market-based scrub will have all the instructions on how you should use it to exfoliate your skin, but we are giving you the steps for the same. You can follow a similar sequence even when you are using a natural exfoliant.

  • Wet your skin thoroughly.
  • Apply a uniform layer of the exfoliating scrub on your skin.
  • Gently massage your skin with the scrub on. Remember, do not be too harsh here. You should get that soothing feeling while you are massaging your skin. All these precautions are necessary to avoid any kinds of skin abrasions.
  • Leave the scrub on your face for a while.
  • Wash the scrub thoroughly off your face. You can also prepare a DIY exfoliation scrub at home. 

Step 3: Steaming

Woman steaming her face

Subjecting your skin to steam generally helps in opening the pores on the skin, which is a very crucial step in blackhead extraction. You can either make use of a steamer to steam your face. If you do not have a steamer, then no need to worry. Steaming can be done without a steamer too. Just follow these steps.

  • Boil sufficient water in a big vessel. It should be sufficient enough to generate enough steam.
  • Very carefully, transfer this to a suitable container.
  • Sit at a careful distance from the bowl. If you are too close, you are at risk of coming in contact with the hot vessel. If you sit very far away from the vessel, the steam may not reach your face at all. Adjust your face above the water depending on your comfort level. Do not put your face too close to hot water to avoid scalding.
  • Steam your face for at least 10 minutes.

Step 4: Charcoal mask / Clay mask application

Clay mask application on woman's face

Although exfoliation and steaming loosen the pores on your skin, you cannot go and extract those blackheads right away. What about the dirt within the pores? 

You may feel that exfoliation and steaming have cleaned your skin quite thoroughly, which is not false either, but then, applying a mask ensures a flawless blackhead extraction. Some amazing facial masks include L’oreal Detox and Brighten Face Mask, The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque, Detoxifying Charcoal Sheet Mask With Honey, etc. An appropriate facial mask deeply clears your skin, leaving no unwanted remnants at all. 

  • Apply a smooth, even layer of the facial mask all over your face. You can consider a charcoal or a clay mask.
  • Leave it on your face for at least 10 minutes.
  • Wash your face with warm water.

Step 5: Blackhead Extraction with an extractor tool

Blackhead Extraction with the help of an extractor tool

The final step is blackhead removal with an extractor tool. Be very careful during this phase if you are doing it yourself. You don’t want abrasions on your skin.

Various designs of blackhead extractor tools are available. You can go for the one which you can use easily. The commonly used one is the tool that has a loop over its head. 

Blackheads can also be popped out with a vacuum suction handheld device. You can check them out before you decide to go for the right pick.If you are using an extractor tool with a loop, then follow these instructions carefully:

  1. Before you use that extractor tool to remove those blackheads, ensure you have washed it well. The best way to ensure this is to sterilize it. You can even wash it with warm water since it deals with blackheads and this only means that it contains lots of bacteria.
  2. The edge of the loop area of the extractor tool needs to sit around the blackhead. If the loop is not placed properly around the blackhead, it may not come out easily. What is worse, you could end up pushing it deeper into the skin.
  3. Press the tool slowly by applying the appropriate pressure. If you press too hard, the skin around the blackhead could get inflamed. If you do not apply sufficient pressure, you may find it difficult to pop out stubborn blackheads.
  4. If your blackhead does not pop out on the first attempt you could try plugging it out a couple of times more. However, if you feel any discomfort, then leave it for a day or 2, and then you may try it again.
  5. The next time you use your extractor tool again, ensure you have cleaned it thoroughly.             

If you do not have an extractor tool, you could even wear hand gloves and try removing the blackhead by slowly applying pressure around the area using your fingers. If the blackhead is not too nasty, it comes out easily. However, gloves are a must here to avoid further infection spread.

Popping Blackheads on the Nose

Man popping blackheads on the nose

The techniques for removing blackheads on the nose are quite similar to the above. You need to wash, exfoliate, steam and then you can use an extractor tool for popping out those blackheads on the nose. In case of severe blackheads on or around your nose, it is better to consult a dermatologist. 

A few doctors use a plucker-like tool to extract blackheads. Check out the video below.

You can also make use of pore strips that are useful to remove not-so-dense blackheads on your nose. However, certain people claim that using nose strips too frequently could completely rid your skin of sebaceous filaments, thereby, further exposing your pores to dust and dirt. 

Moreover, pore strips do not remove blackheads permanently and these tend to return. Hence you can resort to other blackhead removal techniques.

If you are suffering from a severe blackhead infection, or if you need those blackheads out of your ears, you should seek professional advice. Dermatologists will apply the right kind of techniques to extract those nasty blackheads, thereby stopping the further spread of infection. All of us might have viewed those popping blackheads videos on YouTube by Dr. Sandra Lee, also known as Dr. Pimple Popper. Check out a couple of these videos below.

Top 10 Best Blackhead Pops of 2015

What techniques do these professionals employ? 

Blackhead popping techniques by dermatologists
  • Microdermabrasion for exfoliation: Microdermabrasion is essentially used by dermatologists to thoroughly exfoliate your skin. Typically, this technique is used to treat acne scars and provide an even skin tone to your skin. Microdermabrasion is also used to tackle wrinkles. How is this done? Dermatologists use a handheld device that cleanses the top layer of the skin and removes all the dead skin cells. Whenever the tip of this device runs over your skin, you can feel as if someone is rubbing sand against your skin. This technique is also used to exfoliate sensitive areas, like around the eyes. However, the tip of the device could be a little different here.
  • Usage of chemical peels: Skin practitioners also make use of chemical peels to free the outer layer of the skin from dirt, and dead skin cells thereby revealing fresh-looking skin underneath. What happens during this treatment? Dermatologists apply a chemical composition to the affected area, that results in deep exfoliation of the skin. This treatment is also used to tackle skin damage owing to sunburns. Chemical peels can be either light, medium, or deep. Your dermatologist will assess the situation and recommend the appropriate one for you.
  • Laser treatments: Dermatologists use laser treatment in extreme cases when no other treatment works. For getting rid of those nasty blackheads, skin specialists make use of photopneumatic therapy, which includes intense pulsed light (IPL) lasers along with a vacuuming action. This is an FDA-approved treatment for tackling blackheads, whiteheads, and even pimples.

Popping blackheads on the ears

Did you know? Blackheads can appear in your ears too! It may appear inside or outside your ear. Our ears are quite sensitive. Any error in using the extractor tool to remove blackheads from these areas can damage your ear tissues. Hence, it is best to see a dermatologist for ear blackhead popping. 

Process for popping ear blackheads

  • Moisten the infected area with a warm cloth to soften or loosen the pores.
  • Use an extractor tool to gently plug the blackhead out of the ear.

Check out the video below. You can see Dr. David Myers plugging out blackheads around the eyes, over the nose, and inside the ears.

Ear Blackheads

Popping large blackheads

Massive blackheads are best treated by dermatologists. Sometimes, these blackheads can appear on your back. In certain cases, you are left with no other choice other than to visit the doctor. 

Check out the video below. Watch how this doctor extracts a large blackhead from a patient’s back.

Rock N Roll POW

How to Pop a Pimple Like a Pro?

steps to popping pimples like a pro

We have seen all the steps necessary for safely extracting blackheads. Let us now come over to pimples. Just like blackheads, pimples and acne also spoil the look and feel of your skin. And unlike blackheads, pimples tend to hurt, thanks to the pus-filled within them. Also, some people tend to have severe acne breakouts which could embarrass them to even step out.

In this section, we will go through:

  1. Steps to pop a pimple safely
  2. Video for popping pimples
  3. Tool to pop pimples
  4. The right time to see a dermatologist

Should You Pop a Pimple on Your Own?

Is popping pimples bad? To answer this question precisely, one should avoid popping pimples on their own. Skin doctors do not recommend this at all. They are totally against it. However, if you still want to get rid of that pimple yourself at home, follow these steps.

1. Steps to Pop a Pimple Safely

  • Check whether your pimple is ready to pop out: Before you try to even touch your pimple, check whether it is ready to be popped in the first place. You can pop out only a pustule. What is a pustule? These are outbreaks on the skin where the white head of the pimple is almost on the verge of coming out. The white color of the pimple head is due to the pus inside it. Its outer area is a little red, indicating that it is slightly inflamed. Popping a pustule may not cause much harm, still, it is better to follow all the precautions carefully.
  • Ensure your hands are clean: Once you deduce that your pustule is ready to be popped, then wash your hands well.
  • Make use of a cotton plug: Dip a cotton swab into rubbing alcohol and gently move this swab over your pustule.
  • Use gloves: Avoid using bare hands to pop out your pustule. Cover your hands with gloves or you can even use clean tissues.
  • Avoid putting too much pressure: Apply pressure slowly around the pustule and check whether the white head of the pimple breaks open. Try it from all directions. If it is refusing to come out, then it means your pimple is still inflamed and needs some time to come out.

Remember, under any circumstances, never try to prick your pustule with a needle or even your fingernails. You could be increasing the depth of the infection by doing so.

2. Dr. Pimple Popper Pimple Popping Video

You must have come across many pimple-popping videos on YouTube. The video below shows Dr. Pimple Popper explaining how to pop a pimple. Take a look.

You can follow the steps mentioned above for popping pimples on the nose, cheeks, chin, or sometimes even around your lips. However, you need to be extremely careful.

3. Tool to Pop Pimples

The blackhead extractor tool that has a loop around its head can be used for popping your pimples too. You can use it in case you want to avoid using your fingers. Dermatologists generally use this extractor tool if the outbreak is severe.

4. When Should You See Your Dermatologist for Your Pimples?

A pimple here and there on your face hardly matters. However, sometimes even these situations can spiral out of control. If your pimple outbreak is severe, you need to visit a dermatologist as fast as possible. Skin treatments take time to heal, hence any delay in treating these things would only aggravate the issue further. 

What special techniques do dermatologists use to treat acne? Their tools are sterilized and they know the exact amount of pressure that needs to be applied. Sometimes, skin doctors have to inject corticosteroids to treat a very painful pimple so that it heals quickly. This is something that cannot be done at home and only medical experts can carry out these steps carefully.

Caring for Your Skin Post-Blackhead Removal

tips to care for your skin post-blackhead removal

Once your skin frees itself from all the blackheads, it is important to give it a soothing treatment so that it does not get inflamed. During blackhead extraction, your skin turns red in a few places. In cases of severe blackheads, even a little blood could ooze out during the extraction. 

To sort this out, there are cooling gel masks and facial serums that go easy on your skin. You can choose a facial serum consisting of vitamin E, green tea, or almond oil. All of these have cooling properties and they help in settling down your skin.

Stubborn blackheads could leave behind a few scars on the skin in certain cases. You can consult your dermatologist for further care in such cases.

You need to avoid using any sort of acidic products on your skin for at least 24 hours post the blackhead removal procedure.

Skincare Tips After Popping a Pimple

Three skincare tips after popping pimples

Now that you have gone ahead and popped out that pimple on your own, it is time for some skin care. Although you have taken all the necessary precautions, still it is better that you follow these guidelines once that pustule is popped out.

  • Once the pustule pops out of the pimple, a little bit of blood could ooze out. Hence it is best to apply an appropriate ointment over the affected area to prevent any sort of inflammation around the affected area. Ointments like Bacitracin work well in most cases. If you still have any doubts regarding the ointment, you can check with your dermatologist.
  • To prevent further infection, it is best that you apply tea tree oil which works best against acne bacteria. However, do this only once your open pimple has healed completely.
  • Wash your face regularly. Keeping your skin clean will prevent further acne outbreaks.

Alternatives to Pimple Popping

Four alternatives to pimple popping

Popping a pimple can have serious consequences and you don’t want any regrets. So then, what can you do instead of putting your fingernail on that white spot? Well, we have a few tips for you:

  • Leave your pimple alone. We can understand that every time you are tempted to squeeze it whenever you stand in front of the mirror, but then, it can leave a permanent spot on your face. And you don’t want that happening.
  • You can apply an ice pack over an infected area to soothe your skin and reduce inflammation.
  • Apply anti-acne face packs as suggested by your skin specialist. This helps in faster drying of the pus inside the pimple which is key to quick pimple healing.
  • Pimple patches are available in the market these days. These are made up of salicylic acid, tea tree oil, niacinamide, or hyaluronic acid. These elements help in fighting those acne bacteria. Pimple patches may also prevent you from frequently fiddling with your pimples.


After going through this article, we hope you have understood the right techniques for popping blackheads and pimples without damaging your skin. 

You also know that certain outbreaks or abrasions on your skin need timely intervention and it is best to seek the help of your dermatologist in such cases. So next time, when you spot that nasty blackhead on your forehead or you see a pimple erupt on your cheek, you know what to do. Take care.

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