Are Blackheads OK to Pop?

Reviewed on 3/5/2021
Pesky zits are a bane for many throughout the teens
Pesky zits are a bane for many throughout the teens

Pesky zits are a bane for many throughout the teens, sometimes extending well into adulthood. Though a few zits here and there should not really be a cause for concern, regular breakouts often cause low self-esteem and depression in teens and adults alike.

Popping them open with fingers or commercially available acne extractors is a very tempting and weirdly satisfying technique, but it will do you more harm than good. Improper popping techniques may leave you with a scarred or pockmarked face, which is worse compared to breakouts.

What is acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when hair follicles present in the skin get blocked. Stress, genes, dandruff, poor eating habits, cosmetics, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may often trigger your breakouts and need to be watched out for. The most common acne breakouts are in a form of tiny white bumps (whiteheads), tiny black bumps (blackheads), pus-filled pimples, and, in several cases, painful fluid-filled bumps called cysts.

A whitehead forms when excess oil and dead skin cells accumulate and plug shut the opening of a pore. Skin specialists recommend that these must not be popped or attempted to be extracted. These respond well to acne gels and medications.

A blackhead forms when the build-up inside the choked pore reacts with oxygen in the air forming a blackish goop. These respond better to steam and are ideal for extraction by a dermatologist.

A cyst or a pus-filled pimple should never be popped. It can push the infection deeper, increasing the redness and swelling. It can also cause the formation of depressed scars that are difficult to treat. 

What is acne extraction?

Acne extraction is a procedure to extract acne and must be ideally done by a professional. This is only practiced in cases of blackheads and superficial whiteheads. The procedure is to be done in a sterile environment. First, the skin pores will be opened by using a mild cleanser and a chemical exfoliating cream. A clean warm washcloth will be kept over your face. This step helps unclog and open the pores and is crucial to prevent further facial scarring. It will also minimize the tears that form while attempting to force sebum, oil, or debris out through a pore. The doctor will apply pressure around the lesion to force the gunk out. Identifying the direction of the pore and pressure application at strategic points will minimize skin damage. Your doctor may use sterile suction tools, loops, and lances to help loosen debris. In case of a bump that is not infected, they may use a corticosteroid injection to flatten it.

Blackheads and whiteheads can return, so you must follow a skin-care plan to prevent new blemishes. Trying to extract acne at home may cause increased redness, scabbing, infected acne, and bleeding. You must know which acne spots are ripe for extraction, which are best left alone, how much to prod, and where to push. Often, oral and local medications are the best cure for acne and take 6-8 weeks to work. Never attempt popping acne if you are on oral or local retinoid therapy.

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References
https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/skin-care/popping

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/features/acne-treatment-mistakes

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