Pimples 101: How to Pop, Treat and Conceal a Blemish by Paula Begoun

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Pimples Learn everything you need to know about dealing with that unwelcome pimple. From popping (yes, you can!) to concealing, let us be your guide the next time a blemish rears its ugly head.

No matter how often or infrequently you break out, you know what a blemish looks like, so we aren’t going to show you one (it just isn’t pretty). When pimples happen, the white, red, swollen appearance is maddening, and psychological research shows that it can be an emotionally devastating experience. Using great skin-care is vital to reducing or even preventing breakouts, but what do you do with that pimple you see in the mirror right now?

What you choose to do with a pimple is important, because it can determine how long you have to live with its memory. Here is your straightforward, honest three-step guide, with everything you need to know for ultimate damage control the next time a blemish rears its ugly head.

What you choose to do with a pimple is important, because it can determine how long you have to live with its memory. Here is your straightforward, honest three-step guide, with everything you need to know for ultimate damage control the next time a blemish rears its ugly head.

Lesson 1: To Pop or Not to Pop

You’ve heard people say “never pop a pimple,” offering only vague reasons why you shouldn’t. They’re wrong. In reality, popping a pimple reduces inflammation, scarring, healing time, and gets rid of the ugly white bump, but only if you do it right. What you absolutely should not do is over-squeeze, pick, puncture, or do anything else that causes serious scabs.

Learning when and how to remove a blemish properly is essential, because leaving a whitehead (or blackhead) sitting there on your face is just not realistic, at least not for most of us. You’ll know the blemish is ready when you see a white head. So as long as you can see an obvious head, and you’re certain you’re not dealing with cystic acne (deep, red swollen bumps far below the skin surface), you can follow the steps listed below to remove the contents.

  1. Buy a comedone extractor (available at drugstores & Sephora).
  2. Cleanse your face with a gentle water-soluble cleanser, but do NOT use very cold or very hot water. Both will make the blemish redder—don’t make a pimple angrier than it is!—and hurt the skin’s ability to heal.
  3. Lightly massage the cleanser on your skin with a soft, wet washcloth to remove dead skin cells. This makes extracting the pimple easier, but don’t overscrub.
  4. Dry your skin gently. Do not use the comedone extractor or squeeze when your skin is wet because it’s more vulnerable to tearing, which can cause scarring.
  5. Center the opening of the comedone extractor over the pimple. Then gently (and we mean really gently) and with very little pressure (and we mean very little pressure), push the comedone extractor down on the whitehead and move it across the pimple. That should release the contents.
  6. You may need to repeat this process a couple more times, but that’s it.
  7. If you overdo it, you will create a scab and risk scarring (a reminder of your acne you don’t want to carry with you for the rest of your life). Remember: Be gentle; the goal is to remove the whitehead without creating a scab or damaging the surrounding skin. After all, scabs are not any better to look at than a pimple.


Lesson 2: Banish the Blemish

After your gentle extraction, you must follow up with a 2.5% or 5% benzoyl peroxide product  and/or a 1% or 2% salicylic acid (BHA) product. Don’t expect these products to immediately reduce inflammation because that’s not their purpose; they are intended to disinfect, which they do, and they definitely will help prevent further breakouts.

Lesson 3: Take Cover

After you’ve removed the contents of the pimple and treated the area with well-formulated anti-acne products, it’s time for the magic of makeup to make your blemish almost unnoticeable.

  1. After following your skin-care routine, use a small amount of moisturizer to help moisten your skin, because if your skin is dry, concealer won’t go on smoothly over the area.
  2. Select a matte concealer that matches your skin tone exactly—no peach, pink, green, or ashen colors. It also should have enough slip to make blending easy.  Recommendations: L’Oreal True Match Concealer ($8.95); Origins Quick, Hide! Long-Wearing Concealer ($15); Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer ($30).
  3. After applying your regular foundation (if you wear any), use a concealer brush (synthetic hair with a flat, rounded point) or your finger and gently dab a small amount of concealer onto the center of the blemish, then begin blending softly outward, creating even coverage that sheers out to the unaffected skin around the blemish. If you need more coverage, let the first layer of concealer set for about a minute before adding more, starting at the center and using the same technique.
  4. It helps to set the concealer with a gentle dusting of powder. A small, soft eyeshadow brush is perfect for applying a layer of powder over a concealed blemish. Applying powder over a blemish with a large or scratchy brush can lead to your makeup looking cakey, or cause your makeup to break down.
  5. It helps to wear foundation so that the concealer isn’t obvious on your face, but if you’re not wearing foundation you have to be extra careful how you apply the concealer. Check your application in daylight to make sure it doesn’t look like there is a clump of makeup color over a blemish. You want it to look natural, not obvious.


Even if you rarely break out, pimples happen to everyone at some point or another. Now you have three simple steps you can use to minimize the amount of time you have to deal with one!

I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!

Melissa @ Mommy Living the Life of Riley!
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