We all pick our battles; some of us pick our zits. So if you’re going to do it, what’s the best, safest way? We consulted Lotika Singh, M.D., a dermatologist at Manhattan’s Schweiger Dermatology Group, and Michele Green, M.D., a Manhattan-based cosmetic dermatologist, on how to do the least amount of damage.
#1. Hold a warm towel to the affected area. This opens up the pores and helps the whitehead come out easier.
#2. Clean off the are with rubbing alcohol to make sure everything’s sterile.
#3. Use Q-tips to gently squeeze the skin around the zit until you reach the popping point.
#4. Give it two or three tries. If it takes any more, just walk away, If you’re too aggressive, you run the risk of scarring.
#5. Apply a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide spot treatment and let the zit heal on its own.
Whatever you do, avoid applying harsh ingredients like hydrogen peroxide or pure rubbing alcohol to your face. Applying acne treatment products so frequently that your skin starts flaking—can over-stimulate oil production and leave you with more zits in the long run. And keep in mind: The bigger the zit, the more likely it is to leave a mark. If the whitehead is bigger than the top of a Q-tip, it shouldn’t be messed with.
Also steer clear of popping a zit with your fingers, which can lead to a localized infection, Green says. Use a steel come done extractor if you really feel the need, Singh says, but above all, make sure the pimple is ready to be popped. “If it’s really deep below the surface and the skin on top looks just red and smooth, it’s probably not going to come out,” Singh says. And picking without a pop? Not an experience worth having.