Cystic Acne Pimple Popping: How Not to Jack Up Your Skin When You Bust Open a Zit

Popping zit the wrong way

Do not add another acne scar to your face! Read this article first. This article explains how to pop a severe acne pimple without damaging your skin. It takes you through all of the steps to identify a pimple ready for popping, how to prepare your skin for zit extraction, and most importantly, how not to ruin your face when popping a pimple. Invest in your skin, invest in your health, invest the time to read this article, and do pimple-popping the right way.


What are you really trying to POP?

Severe acne or acne conglobate is a skin problem that presents as comedos, abscesses, and nodules on your face. There three bugers are most likely your targets for popping.

But just like an IED (improvised explosive device) team does not just roll up on a bomb and think they will own it and defuse it without issue, you need to take the same approach with a severe zit.

  • Never pop a zit when you are mad. Calm down first. 
  • Never pop a zit that is still deep beneath your skin.
  • Never POP a zit by just squeezing it with your fingers with NO prep work. You will give yourself a huge, deep acne scar.

Educate and prepare yourself before popping cystic pimples.  Or, that crap trapped in your skin is going to blow up all over you and possibly leave lots of damage. Let’s get to the education and preparation so we don’t end up with a gigantic acne crater scar or worse, spread the infection to other parts of the body.

How Did That Bump Get There Anyway?


Acne formation steps
OpenStax College. Acne Formation

A clear pore on your skin allows for sweat and air to flow freely along the hair follicle. But over time, shed keratin (the building blocks of hair) and oil can start to collect within the hair follicle. This trapped collection of waste serves an ideal cafeteria for acne-causing bacteria. This blockage of hair, oil, and a growing bacteria population irritates the pore. This bubbling within the agitated pore gives rise to a zit.

Blausen Medical produced a short a straightforward video about how hair, sweat, bacteria and other body by-products can get locked in within your skin and pores then erupt as acne.

This video shows the blocked pore that eventually leads to acne. When most people envision popping a pimple, their goal is to clear out this blocked pore path. (Much like IDE teams do when they do route clearing before convoys.)

After watching that video, you will have a decent idea of what your pimple popping target looks like.

Closing In On Your Pimple-Popping Target: Identify Your Zits

Before you open fire on your face, identify your pimples, and ensure that they warrant getting punctured with a lancet. Why break out sharp, scary objects to destroy a blemish when a clay mask or steam could do the trick?



Source: staff (2014). Skin Pores.

A comedo, or whitehead or blackhead. Whiteheads are pores trapped with dead cells below the skin. They look like raised pores with a bump beneath. Blackheads are trapped pores that remain open. The dead cells and debris are oxidized and look black.


Pustule, a capsule of pus on your skin. In the case of acne, it is a pore filled with pus and perhaps blood that has risen to the surface of the skin. As you can see from the image of the pustule below when pustules are ready for popping, they just jump out at you.

Diariodaj / Pustule. Public domain



An abscess is a bunch of pus gathered underneath the skin. You are probably dealing with an abscess with you have a red bump that hurts, is warm to the touch, and is swelling.

5 Day Old Abscess
Amrith Raj / CC BY-SA. 5-day Old Abscess

The photo above shows an abscess that hurts me to look at. There is a black mass in the clogged pore and the surrounding skin is inflamed. You can tell because the bump has risen and the surrounding skin is read. This photos screams, “Owww! Pop me now! But do it with brains.”


A papule is a rounded, raised area of the skin. It looks as though there is something is trapped beneath the skin, both there are no obvious signs of fluid (pus or blood) or inflammation.

Papule on the nose
M. Sand et al. Papule on the nose.


This photo shows a papule on the side of the nose. It looks like a raised ball that is lighter than the rest of the skin.

Madhero88. Papule

How Will That Crap in Your Pores Get Out Escape Route or Busted Door?

Now, we have looked at three types of cystic acne formations that a person might be desperate to pop. But the thing you have to ask yourself before any explosion goes off is, “Where is your escape route?”

Specifically for these zits, how is all of that junk you so madly want out of your face going to get out?

Will it be through an escape route, like your pore that just needs to be cleared? Or, will you need to bust open a wall, i.e. rupture the skin for all of that gunk to get free?

Why do you care, you just want the zit off your face right?

Because, whether you open your pores or open your skin (by popping a zit), it has to be done the right way for the right reasons or you will jack up your face and damage your skin. I’m sure, messing up your face even more is NOT your goal here.

Here are the goals for each type of cystic acne pimple that’s marked for squeezing.

  • Blackhead – clear the clogged pore.
  • Whitehead – draw trash trapped in your skin closer to the surface of the skin.
  • Abscess– draw trash trapped in your skin closer to the surface of the skin and clear the clogged pore.
  • Pustule – draw trash trapped in your skin closer to the surface of the skin and extract smartly.
  • Papule – draw trash trapped in your skin closer to the surface of the skin and extract smartly.

The absolute last resort for all pimples is opening the skin. This is done after the clear the clogged pore and drawing the clogged mass closer to the surface of your skin techniques fail to remove the offending bump.

Preparing to Correctly Pop a Severe Pimple

Please keep in mind, if you do these steps correctly and as needed on a maintenance basis, you may not even need to pop a zit. Which is way better for your skin. That is why I don’t just jump into squeezing pimples. Remember, knowing what you are doing to your face, why you are doing it to your face and what to expect from doing your this to your face are keys to having clear and healthy skin.

Tools Needed for a Pimple Popping Facial


Cystic Acne Facial Kit
Naweko’s Cystic Acne Facial Kit

I’ve been giving my self acne facials for a long time. Long enough, that my pimple-popping days are almost nill. The image above is a sample of my own kit. The product brands don’t matter too much. The active ingredients do matter. What is really important is knowing what skincare products to use, when, and why.

Thick 100% cotton, white, face cloth

This is for deeply cleansing and gently exfoliating your skin. It is white so that you can see the filth on it (Yes, I know you can’t see germs). And, you don’t need the extra chemical that comes from dyes on your face anyway. The facecloth is thick so that it can more retain water and heat. Placing a warm, thick washcloth over your face (while still breathing) is relaxing and is a powerful yet gentle way to cleanse the skin.

Square cotton pad

These pads allow liquids like astringents to maximally penetrate the skin. I prefer square cotton pads over cotton balls because they cover more area and seem to allow more liquid to contact the skin.


To apply astringent to your skin. This disinfects, tones, and cleanses the skin.


This opens the pores, deeply cleanses the skin and draws waste to the surface of the skin

Big magnifying mirror with a light

Remember we started this article by identifying what type of zit you were up against? So how can you deduce that without closely looking at your skin? What is that blackhead to have in your target sight is actually a mole? This mirror will help you check on the progress of your skin treatments.

Clay mask

There are tons of clay masks on the market. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on a clay mask. The reason your and our ancestors applied mud to their faces and bodies was to suck crap out of the skin. In this case, we want the clay mask to dry and draw debris away from the skin tissue to the surface of the skin.

Acne Face Wash

Get a benzoyl peroxide face wash with at least 5% (up to a max of 10% for over-the-counter versions). Or if you don’t like benzoyl peroxide, you can use an acne wash with 1-2% salicylic acid. This wash will cleanse the skin and reduce acne-causing bacteria on the skin. If you are popping zits, you want infection spreading control and this face wash will help provide that.


Benzoyl peroxide spot treatment

No. I do not have stock on benzoyl peroxide. But I believe in using it. This stuff has been acne reducing go-to for decades. I had a skin analysis done once and the P. acne number on my face was substantially low. I attribute that to using as benzoyl peroxide wash or treatment, not daily, but as needed to keep my skin healthy.

Apply the benzoyl peroxide spot treatment to the pimple as a leave-on infection reducing agent.

Tweezerman No-Slip Skin Care Tool

Don’t use this tool as described in the Tweezerman No-Slid Skin Care Tool. This product has terrible reviews. This is because people are scared to tell you the right way to use it.

This is where acne products fail. And Tweezerman failed They show you how to use an acne treatment product on someone do does not even have acne. Not helpful.

If you have ever had an acne facial by a true professional, they use this Tweezerman No-Slip Skin Care Tool (or something similar to it) the right way to draw out surface-level waste from your skin.

Here are the keys to using this tool the right way:

  1. Pull the skin tight.
  2. Drag the small end of the No-Slip Skin Care Tool over the clogged skin with downward pressure.
  3. As you slide the device over the skin, gunk comes out.

The small end is for gliding over the skin. The large end is for applying pressure to one large clogged pore and encouraging the crap trapped in the pore to travel to the surface.

Ulta Blackhead Extractor

The Ulta Blackhead Extractor is another great product with terrible reviews because the manufacturer does not explain the best way to use this tool. This extractor is a tweezer with a sharp end hook. It would seem as though the ideal way to use this would be to squeeze the blackhead and bring it to the surface. NO! NO! NO!

As many users of this product found out, that will just result in slicing and dicing your skin. Again, that’s not what you signed up for.

To get crap out of your skin, the right way to use this product is as a puncturing tool, or lancet. Yes. This tool for me is the last resort to open a hole in the skin tool, NOT a squeeze-a-zit tool. I rarely use this tool, and rarely do this because I exhaust the other options first for popping a pimple first.

Other blackhead extraction tools come with a lancet that I find too dull to actually pierce the skin. This can cause problems as one attempt to open the skin may not work. When it comes to popping pimples, you definitely want the one-and-one approach. So pick a lancet or tip that is sharp enough to the job done in one jab.

blackhead extractor
Tool for pricking a pimple that is ready to pop.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Use this to clean your skin tools, before and after use. You can grab this at Walmart or most drug stores for under $2 for a 32 ounce bottle.

And now, what you came here for…


10 Detailed Steps to Popping a Severely Inflamed Pimple

Now that you have your supplies on deck, let’s get started with pimple popping, and perhaps you may not need to pop. The pimple may just rise to the surface of your skin or get dissolved in your skin because of the actions you will be taking below.

Note: These steps assume the pimple is on your face. You can substitute face for the location of the zit you want to eliminate.

We are treating the whole face here on purpose. When you have severe acne, your need to treat the entire area because your whole face is subject to getting a nasty zit.

1. Wash with an acne cleanser.

Using warm water, wash your skin with the benzoyl peroxide wash (or salicylic acid face wash). Rinse off the face wash. Then wash your face a second time with the benzoyl peroxide. Yes. The extra wash is to get the excess wax, oils, and dead skin cells off of your face.

2. Look at the zit with a magnifying mirror.

Get your magnifying mirror and turn the light on. Make sure the mirror is magnifying your skin at least 5-10 times. The mirror reads 5X, for example, when it magnifies five times the normal size. Give your skin a good look over. Where are the pimples you are planning to pop? What do they look like? Comedones (whiteheads/blackheads), pustules abscesses, or papules? Is that blackhead really a blackhead?

3. Softly exfoliate the skin with a washcloth.

Completely wet the white face cloth with water as hot as you can tolerate. DO NOT BURN YOUR SKIN. Wring excess water from the face cloth then place the cloth over your face. Leave it on your face for 30 seconds (making sure you can still breathe easy). Smooth the wash cover over the face in a sweeping motion to provide a final layer of gentle exfoliation.

4. Apply an astringent.

Saturate the cotton square with an astringent like Sea Breeze. Then smooth the square all over your face. Let the astringent seep into your skin. This takes about a minute.

5. Apply the clay mask to your skin.

Apply a layer that is the depth of two quarters stacked together. Why? Because this gives your clay mask extra suction power. You want this additional pull to help suck debris out of your pores and relieve inflammation in your skin.

Let the mask dry completely. This is key. Use a fan, or a hair dryer on the cool setting to help dry your mask faster. But the mask needs to dry fully. As the mask dries it is pulling waste from your skin. If you do not let the mask dry completely, you are not getting the full benefit of the mask. The mask should start to crack. Your skin should feel tight. That is the sign that your mask is dry. It may take 10-15 minutes for the face mask to dry.

6. Remove the clay mask.

Wet your face with warm water to remove the mask. Use the wet, warm face cloth to remove all traces of the face mask.

7. Steam your face for 10 minutes.

DO NOT GET SO CLOSE TO THE STEAM THAT YOU BURN YOUR SKIN. The point of steaming your face is not to burn your skin but to promote an increased rate of sweating. Sweating is your body’s natural way of getting rid of toxins. Plus it helps to flush the pores of the gunk trapped inside.

Use a dry face cloth to wipe your face during steaming. When I steam, I go intense (and I don’t burn my face). I need to wipe my face almost every minute with a face cloth to remove the built-up water.

I do not use a “facial steamer” to steam my face.  Even a professional grade facial steamer will not do the job for someone like me who susceptible to severe acne. I need the real deal. So I use an iron steamer like a boss.

This thing does better for me than any professional-grade steamer. I know, I’ve paid for tons of professional-grade acne facials during my pimple trauma phases. But no more, because I am an expert on acne facials, and you will be too.

After this steaming, your face should face a lot smoother. Like something took the air out of some of the bumps on your face. That is the power of steam lifting crap from your pores.

8. Mow the waste off your face.

Clean Tweezerman No-Slip Skin Care Tool with alcohol before using it.

In this step, you smartly glide the Tweezerman No-Slip Skin Care Tool over your skin to force more debris from your pores. Do this step while looking in your magnified mirror so that you can see the effect of the Tweezerman. Remember, this Tweezerman will only draw out waste over OPEN pores. So do not try to extract waste from a closed bump like a papule.

Caution: DO NOT GLIDE this tool over a closed, inflamed pimple. It will only irritate the skin. This tool was not designed to treat closed inflamed zits. That is what the Ulta Blackhead Extractor is for, as explained in the upcoming steps.

Use the Tweezerman No-Slip Skin Care tool in sections on your skin. Start at the bottom of your face and work your way to the top. Clean the tool loop after each section with alcohol because you don’t want to spread debris over your face.

  • Go to a section of the skin with lots of trapped oils and waste under the skin.
  • Pull the skin tight. This gives the tool better access to the skin and pores.
  • Drag the small end of the No-Slip Skin Care Tool over the clogged skin with downward pressure.
  • As you slide the device over the skin, pore garbage comes out.

9. Extract one blackhead at the time. Use the large loop end of the Tweezerman No-Slip Skin Care tool to draw out debris that remained in open pores.

  • Pull the area surrounding the blackhead tight. Again, this gives the tool better access to the skin and pores.
  • Place the large loop directing over the center of the blackhead.
  • Press down on the loop.
  • While pressing down, the black garbage in your pore should rise up to the surface.
  • Clean the loop and continue extracting blackheads.

10. Prick to Pop.

Pimple ready to pop
One94. Pimple that is ready to pop.

At this point, the pimple and its mass of pus, blood, bacteria, keratin and whatever else should be above the surface of your skin. Like the illustration above, that shows a pimple ready to be properly “popped”.

Now it’s time to relieve yourself of the flaming pimple.

  1. Locate the pimple that needs to be “popped”.
  2. Clean the Ulta Blackhead Extractor with alcohol.
  3. Wet your face with the warm white face cloth.
  4. Lay the warm cloth on the pimple to be popped.
  5. Remove the warm cloth.
  6. Look at the pimple in the magnifying mirror. Decide where you will prick the pimple with the tip of the closed Ulta Blackhead Extractor.
  7. With target in mind, grasp the Ulta Blackhead Extractor, close the tweezers and use the pointed end to prick the skin on the pimple. PRICK the skin. You don’t need to dig a hole in the skin. That will leave a scar. Just make a small, shallow opening. The skin expands. This prick should expand enough to allow the pus, blood and waste to escape from the pimple. Just give it time.
  8. Let the relieved pressure inside of the pimple naturally force out as much blood, pus and waste as possible though the prick you made.
  9. If necessary, gently use your hands to squeeze the excess waste from your pimple. Do you use too much pressure, or you will damage the skin, and leave a scare or even cause an infection.
  10. Cleanse the pricked area with the astringent. This will burn for a second, but it is necessary because when you popped that pimple, you invited a ton of germs and bacteria to the surface of your skin.
  11. This pimple may still bleed for a few minutes after the prick. Just softly remove the blood or waste with a cotton square moistened with the astringent.
  12. Your pimple is popped.
  13. Apply a layer of the benzoyl peroxide spot treatment to the popped pimple to help dry it out and keep the infection under control.

There you have it. The right way to pop a pimple. I have been using the above 9 steps for years now and rarely have to use step 10. I have that on your journey to clear skin, you will also find less of a need to pop pimples.

One last note, know when to see a dermatologist. Putting holes in your skin is a serious matter. It should not be taken lightly. And please do not approach your skin with sharp objects when you are mad and frustrated with your skin. Calm down first, love yourself, and then take on the task of helping your skin heal.



Amrith Raj / CC BY-SA. Five-day Old Abscess. ( staff (2014). Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436. / CC BY (

Diariodaj / Public domain.

Madhero88 / CC BY-SA (

M. Sand, D. Sand, C. Thrandorf, V. Paech, P. Altmeyer, F. G. Bechara / CC BY (” Fibrous papule of the nose 01.

OpenStax College / CC BY (

Other photos from Pixabay:

One94. Guy squeezing zit.

Streetwindy. Illustration of pimple ready to pop.


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