We’re taught a couple of major skin no-nos early on: no sleeping with your makeup on, no skipping SPF, and, perhaps the most elementary of all, no picking your face. But what if we told you that this last rule is flexible? What if we told you that picking your face isn’t actually all that bad? We spoke with esthetician Kerry Benjamin and asked her when it’s ever acceptable to pick at that pesky zit, and exactly how to do it. Keep scrolling to find out how to pick your face like a true professional!
Before you start picking every pimple with abandon, know this: If you do it the wrong way, you can cause some serious damage to your skin. “Picking [incorrectly] can lead to permanent scarring or superficial PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) that can take a long time to correct,” Benjamin says. “In most cases, it will take a couple of professional treatments and good topical [products] to correct PIH, like Vitamin c, retinol, and alpha hydroxy acids.”
“If there is a pimple that looks like it’s ready to come out, I say go for it!” Benjamin says. But don’t just go popping every raised red bump; school yourself on how and what you can pick. Benjamin says that one of the biggest problems of attempting at-home extractions is not knowing how to do them properly. “The angles of pores vary in different locations on your face,” she explains. “Understanding this is essential in successfully extracting the pore while causing the least amount of trauma to the skin and surrounding tissue.”
There are also certain instances when you should never, ever pick, even if you’ve got the technique down pat. Avoid trying to pick at cystic acne of any kind and milia (you can read more about these little bumps here). “In order to extract [milia], you need to properly exfoliate your skin with the help of a professional or use a lancet. I wouldn’t recommend attempting this at home because it can result in scarring,” Benjamin warns.
Benjamin shares two techniques for popping pimples at home. For both, she recommends cleansing your face, then following up with an exfoliating scrub in the shower (we love the Doctor’s Scrub Advanced ($98) by Goldfaden MD). “The steam [from your shower] will loosen the sebum and the scrub will slough off some dead skin cells to make extractions easier,” she says. Then, wrap a soft tissue around your index fingers and place them across the lesion on either side, pulling the skin slightly outward and pushing your fingers together gently. “You can also move your fingers back and forth a few times to see if you can squeeze it out a little further,” she says.
Benjamin says you can also use Q-tips instead of your fingers. “Take two Q-tips and soak them in 91 percent rubbing alcohol,” she says. “Place the Q-tips on either side of the lesion, and pull gently outward. Then, push them towards each other in a downward motion on the side of your nose and cheeks, or inward for other areas on your face.” After the extraction comes out, Benjamin says to wipe the surface clean with a BHA toner.
Always remember: If nothing comes out after trying two to three times, step away from the mirror and leave the zit alone. “You’re only going to make it worse if you continue trying and it doesn’t come out easily,” Benjamin says.
So your zit is popped—how good do you feel right now? Before you fall asleep with a satisfied smile on your face, make sure to follow up with the right products. “Cleanse your skin thoroughly with a BHA cleanser, spot treat with a BHA and a serum with stem cells and growth factor to help heal the lesion, then seal it in with a water-based moisturizer,” Benjamin says.
Pictured: Peter Thomas Roth Beta Hydroxy 2% Acne Wash ($35)
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