I Asked 7 Derms Whether or Not They Actually Pop Their Pimples

And we've got a bunch of sneaky sneaks in our midst.

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Imaxtree

Last week, I sheepishly admitted to my derm that yes, I had squeezed the pimple on my face because I’m a terrible person, and I don’t deserve my beauty-editor card anymore, etc. As I prepared for the verbal lashing, she scoffed and said, “Whatever—I squeeze my zits, too.”

Excuse me, what?! Did a dermatologist, i.e. a protector of faces and defender of the “hands off” rule, really just admit to popping her own pimples? It was if I had caught my dentist guzzling soda, or Prince Harry singing the American national anthem.

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As I basked in this news, I wondered how many other dermatologists also lead a double life. So I asked them. A lot of them. And, surprise, surprise, dermatologists are a bunch of rule breakers—though they don’t want you to know. Keep reading to find out how dermatologists really handle acne, along with their favorite products to treat your breakouts fast.

Stocksy

Vivian Bucay, M.D.

Clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center

Do you pop?

“Of course I pop the occasional pimple–I’m a dermatologist, but I’m also human."

Zit of choice:

“I will squeeze a red on that has a white head on it, a.k.a the kind that looks ready to burst.”

Popping tricks:

“Sometimes, I use a comedone extractor like I do on my patients, but I’ll also often use two cotton-tipped applicators to gently squeeze the pimple.”

Do as I say, not as I do:

“If I do pop a pimple, I like to dab a little salicylic acid, like Neutrogena Rapid Clear Fight and Fade Acne Gel, to calm inflammation and dry the pimple.

To treat existing pimples and prevent more, I sometimes make a cocktail of three over-the-counter products: Differin gel, which speeds up cell turnover to keep pores from getting clogged; any over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide gel, which kills bacteria and helps open up the pore; and 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, which reduced inflammation."

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Mona Gohara, M.D.

Assistant clinical professor at Yale University

Do you pop?

“Hell yes; I do it to myself and my kids. I tell my patients not to do it, but the truth is that not one of us derms would walk around with one pimple on their face, let alone a face full of acne.”

Zit of choice:

"The juicy, pus-filled zits—they’re the safest to squeeze.”

Popping tricks:

“I usually use two Q-tips, pressing down on either side of the zit, because they leave less hyperpigmentation.”

Do as I say, not as I do:

“Listen, you’re going to pop your zits anyways, so when you do, I recommend first putting on a little Visine—it constricts blood vessels so it immediately brings down the redness—and then a dab on a tiny bit of cortisone cream to reduce inflammation, redness, and swelling.”


Joshua Zeichner, M.D.

Director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital

Do you pop?

“To be honest, I’m a better doctor than I am a patient, and sometimes I wish I would just listen to my own advice, but yes, I’ve definitely popped my pimples when I break out.”

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Popping tricks:

“Make sure to treat it like a surgical procedure: Clean your skin, clean your fingers, and make sure that your nails are cut, since they harbor bacteria. And don’t pick right before bed assuming that everything will be healed when you wake up; you may be tired and not thinking as clearly as you would be first thing in the morning.”

Do as I say, not as I do:

“To treat zits without popping them, I like to combine Neutrogena on The Spot Acne Treatment with Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment and dab it on the zit. If the pimple is angry, I’ll also dab on CeraVe Hydrocortisone Cream to bring down the swelling.”


Rebecca Tung, M.D.

Dermatologist at Loyola University Medical Center

Do you pop?

“Yup—that’s what fingernails are for…on occasion! Sometimes, the temptation is just too great. You shouldn’t do home finger extractions on a deep-seated acne cyst, of course, but the occasional blackhead or whitehead does get the squeeze.”

Zit of Choice:

“Straight-up blackheads on the nose.”

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Popping tricks:

“Pre-clean and post-clean the area with good ol’ hydrogen peroxide—diluted with an equal quantity of water—to minimize the chance of infection and scarring. I also find an extractor can be very effective to get the job done in seconds flat.”

Do as I say, not as I do:

“I like Mario Badescuo’s Drying Lotion as a spot treatment, as it has a combination of calamine, sulfur, camphor, and salicylic acid that calms down and dries up pimples overnight.

As for an all-over, acne-preventing and treating product, I would use Differin gel, which is an over-the-counter retinoid. Use a pea-sized amount on the whole face nightly, and if you notice any irritation or scaly skin, you can mix the pea drop with your face lotion to reduce redness and dryness.”

Stocksy


Tobechi Ebede, M.D.

Clinical assistant professor in dermatology at Cornell

Do you pop?

“I do pop my pimples, but only superficial whiteheads.”

Popping tricks:

“I try to be sterile when I pop them—I clean the zit with an alcohol swab and make as small a hole as possible with a comedone extractor. If the pus doesn’t come out easily, I stop and switch to spot treatments.”

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Do as I say, not as I do:

“For big pimples, I like to use Neutrogena Rapid Clear Spot Gel or Kiehl’s Breakout Control Targeted Acne Spot Treatment, which has glycolic acid that helps clear up my post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation quickly. Fear of PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) is the only reason I do anything with my pimples; those dark spots last forever if I’m not quick to treat.”


Annie Chiu, M.D.

Dermatologist at The Derm Institute in Redondo Beach, CA

Do you pop?

“I actually really, really resist. The one time I’ll do it is when the whitehead is so superficial, even a washcloth would drain it.”

Popping tricks:

"I cheat! I use a sterile lancet—which is like a teeny needle— from my office to neatly and non-traumatically drain the whitehead.”

Do as I say, not as I do:

“I love Skyn Iceland Blemish Dots—they’re these little skin stickers with salicylic acid in them that dry out a spot also help you resist picking at the zit. And, of course, Differin gel is truly the gold standard for the treatment for overall acne and anti-aging. Adapalene—i.e. its main ingredient—unclogs pores and reduces inflammation in pimples.”

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Julie Harper, M.D.

Founder of Dermatology & Skin Care Center in Birmingham, AL

Do you pop?

“Yes! I have a dermatologist friend who said that she went to school a very long time to be able to pop her pimples.”

Zit of choice:

“Blackheads. They already have a dilated opening on the surface, so these are easy and don't take much manipulation. Other blemishes I do leave alone—a tender, red lesion without a white pustule on the surface will heal better left alone.”

Popping tricks:

“I just use my fingers! But you have to know when to stop. If a pimple doesn’t pop easily, don’t keep trying.”

Do as I say, not as I do:

“I don’t usually recommend spot treatments, because I think it’s so important that people who are acne-prone treat the whole affected area, rather than just one spot, with something like SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Mask.”

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