Picture this: You wake up, head to your vanity, and look in the mirror only to find a constellation of zits staring back at you. While your safest bet is to leave the blemish alone completely, we know all too well how tempting it is to pick at the pesky bumps. But before you do, you should know that there’s a proper way to pop pimples.

Below, dermatologists share their expert knowledge on how to deal with blemishes.

Understand there’s no real safe zone
“For starters, there is no real ‘safe’ way to pop a pimple at home,” says NYC-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Arielle Kauvar. “Manipulating, squeezing, and popping pimples can result in additional inflammation, skin discoloration, and even scarring, particularly when attempting to squeeze or pop deeper cysts.”

Learn the different types of blemishes
“There are many different types of acne lesions, and the types that can be popped are those with superficial blockages in the pores – blackheads, whiteheads, and pustules,” says Kauvar. “Blackheads and whiteheads are pores (hair follicle channels) that are blocked with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria without inflammation, so they are not red or tender. Blackheads have an open pore and whiteheads have a closed pore. Pustules are blocked pores that are also inflamed (red bumps with a white peak), and they contain fluid or pus that results from inflammation in the pore.” Remember, if it’s just a large and painful red bump without a head, at all costs, keep your hands off.

Pop it at night
“If you do attempt to pop your pimple before an important event, try to do it the night before so your skin can recover,” says Kauvar.

Be gentle
“Start by removing your makeup and cleansing your face and hands well to avoid infections (preferably after a shower so the steam can expand your pores),” advises Kauvar. “Avoid using extractors or sterilized needles as these instruments can lead to additional skin damage, infections, and possible scarring. Gently squeeze the skin around the lesion from two sides with equal pressure. If your attempt fails, do not persist. You will ultimately make your skin look worse.”

Hold off on spot treatments
“Avoid immediately applying acne medications on open, abraded skin, which can lead to more inflammation,” warns Kauvar.

Schedule an appointment with your dermatologist
“If you have active acne, you should see a dermatologist who can safely treat your acne most effectively,” Kauvar says. “Attempting to pop deeper cysts can cause the cysts to enlarge and damage the surrounding skin and lead to scarring.”

xx, The FabFitFun Team