So, you’ve got a raging whitehead, and also a hot date/ business pitch/ life to live. What to do? Normally we’d take the dermatological line and tell you to leave well alone, but when the possibility of exterminating the sucker by way of popping exists, you’d have to be a skincare saint to resist. If you’re going to do it, we’d prefer that you did it safely and with the proper protection, so here are your spot-gauging guidelines from three self-confessed spot-poppers. If you’re eating lunch or of a sensitive disposition, look away now. Everyone else, gather round.
What a skincare expert says
Skincare queen Caroline Hirons squeezes her own spots from time to time, and she doesn’t care who knows it:
“I’m a popper. Always have been, nothing more satisfying to be honest.”
With that confession, she does draw a clear distinction between popping and picking- popping applies to whiteheads only, and picking entails prodding at painful, inflamed zits and making things far worse than they were in the first place, possibly resulting in blood and permanent scarring. Pick Your Own isn’t the healthy option here.
If you’re all set to wipe out that whitehead, here’s what you’ll need if you’re popping à la Hirons:
“Clean everything. Clean hands. Clean skin. Clean flannel. Clean tissues. Acid on a cotton wool or a ready made acid pad, plus a good quality (non mineral) facial oil.”
Caroline advises incorporating your spot-popping into your normal skincare routine in the morning or evening, following a cleanse with a flannel to ease the whitehead into submission as much as possible. Onto the spot-busting- go forth with forefingers wrapped in a tissue, using finger pads only (don’t even go there with your nail), pushing downwards at a 90º angle towards the bottom of the spot, then push upwards. If it’s ready to blow, it’ll come on out, and ensure that you stop when the white stuff stop spouting- apparently if it’s getting a little bloody, you’ve gone too far.
Next up press your acid pad over the spot and apply pressure. Hold it down until bleeding stops, and Caroline advises that the bigger the spot in the first place, the longer you need to press in that acid. It will sting, but you’re nixing bacteria, so be brave.
Once the acid bath is over, Caroline recommends massaging a good quality facial oil into the area with gusto to minimise the risk of scarring, infection and inflammation (if skin is flaky and dry it’s more prone to damage). Reapply oil if it absorbs, and try to give your skin some time to recover if at all possible. You can apply moisturiser and makeup over the top, but when it comes to your next cleanse, wipe over the area with an acid toner afterwards and reapply oil. Genius.
See Caroline’s entire ‘how to ‘pop’ a spot’ cheat-sheet here , along with other skincare related gems such as ‘why I don’t like cleansing brushes’ and the topical ‘festival skincare’ lowdown.
What a dermatologist says
Dermatologist and founder of London’s Eudelo clinic Dr Stefanie Williams always advocates professional extractions over at-home pop jobs, but if you are lancing a whopper from the comfort of your own bathroom, she advocates the use of sterile equipment and a gently, gently approach:
“Ideally you shouldn’t squeeze spots at home at all. If you do, you risk pressing acne bacteria into the surrounding tissue and making the inflammation worse. You may even risk permanent scarring. When our medical aestheticians express spots in our dermatology clinic (as part of our medical grade acne facials) , they have been specially trained by a dermatologist, and use a specialist technique with sterile instruments as well as gloves. You can’t copy that at home, so my advice is not to squeeze spots at home. Simply apply an antibacterial cream such as a benzoylperoxide cream (you can get this via your GP) and let the pimple dry out on its own accord.”
“IF however, you can’t help it and just have squeeze, then my advice would be to use a needle technique (rather than plain fingers).”
“This is what I recommend: you will need a very fine, sterile needle, alcoholic skin disinfection solution (you could also use this to sterilise the needle), fresh cotton buds and clean paper tissue."
“Before you start, wash your hands with soap and water. Use the needle to superficially scratch the surface of the pimple (where you see the white pus shining through), in order to release its pressure so that the pus comes out easily without the need to apply much manual pressure (this is important!).”
“Wrap one clean paper tissue around each index finger and gently squeeze the pimple from both sides, aiming upwards and inwards. If the pus does not come out without pressure, stop! Once (hopefully) the pus has come out, dip the cotton bud into the alcoholic skin disinfection solution and then rub the solution on the expressed pimple. That’s it!”
If you’ve got time on your hands and would like to leave it to the pros, you can book in for a medical grade acne facial at Dr Stefanie’s clinic here .
For a different dermatological viewpoint, take a trip to Dr Sandra Lee’s YouTube channel , tellingly titled ‘Dr Pimple Popper’. With over two million subscribers and around three million views a day, you won’t be the only one ogling her gross-out spot popping videos, and while many of the dermatological procedures featured should most definitely not be tried at home, the level of honesty about the grimier aspects of beauty and skincare is refreshing in our over-filtered world. If you do want to put a pimple popping tutorial into action, an extraction tool such as the Hula Tallulah Beauty Tool, £6, could come in handy, but lassoing a spot is harder than it looks...
What a supermodel says
In bonafide, on-camera truth that supermodels do in fact suffer spots, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley admitted to squeezing her zits when we interviewed her earlier this year . We asked her for her beauty secrets here, and it’s fair to say that she didn’t hold back. She qualified her spot-squeezing with a pretty no-nonsense statement:
"There is no way I'm leaving a whitehead on my face."
Quite. Post squeezing Rosie applies IS Clinical Active Serum , £68, to her combination skin and tops this with her Rosie for Autograph Sheer Finish Complexion Enhancer , £18.
In conclusion, the occasional well timed and safely executed spot-pop is unlikely to result in damage or further acne aggravation, but just don’t jump the gun or become a ‘popaholic’- that path leads only to pain and recurrent pimples.
Suffering from adult acne? You’re not alone- read our adult acne diary here