An Esthetician’s Guide to Pimple Popping

Pimple popping . . . feels satisfying, doesn’t it? (Bingeing Dr. Pimple Popper anyone?) We understand the obsession with pimples; we’re skin experts and love talking about this stuff. We’re here to remind you that it’s totally normal to want to pick your pimples – we’re apes at heart! All jokes aside, if you can’t help but pick at THAT pimple, we want you to know the proper technique and the tools to have on hand to do an extraction safely at home. 

How-to at home//

We highly recommend waiting to see your esthetician if you’re dealing with acne that doesn’t disappear. In general, noninflamed extraction is the only one that should be extracted at home. These are pimples that are “good-for-skin” extractions, such as blackheads and non-inflamed pimples with whiteheads. The difference between the two is that blackheads are a blockage or plug at the top of a pore that prevents oil from escaping through the pore. Whiteheads appear white or yellow in the center of a pimple. These form when blocked pores close. 

The two most important rules of thumb are cleanliness and being gentle. 

If you can’t resist the urge to pick a pimple, here are some simple tools you’ll need:
-Clean washcloth
-Clean cotton pads or tissues, avoiding any scented or “added moisture” tissues
-A conditioning facial oil (we like using Replenishing Facial Oil for extractions!)

For extraction aftercare:
Clarity Oil
Fix-zit Mask

For whiteheads: If the pimple looks ready to pop, here are some steps to take for safety.
1. Wash your hands with soap. Make sure to give yourself an extra 30 seconds to get your hands really clean!
2. Wash your entire face with face wash. 
3. Apply a conditioning face oil all over to keep the skin conditioned while extracting. 
4. Use a clean washcloth and get it nice and steaming warm with water. Place over the entire face and let sit until you feel it start to cool down (3 to 5 minutes). Chill out and enjoy this process!
5. Wrap tissues or cotton pads around the tips of your fingers. With padded fingers, gently push down and inward to apply pressure to the whitehead and encourage the contents to come out. If gentle pressure does not achieve results, stop squeezing. The pimple may not be ready to pop.

It is important to avoid using the fingernails, as they may puncture the skin, creating a skin injury and spreading bacteria.

For Blackheads:
Follow steps 1-4 above.
5. Avoid squeezing too close to the blackhead, as this can make it harder to extract. Instead, start farther away from it and move the fingers around in a clock-like motion to extract it from different angles. If this motion does not remove the contents, we know it’s hard but, stop! The blackhead may not be ready to come out. It could also be a sebaceous filament, which is a thin, hair-like structure that lines the inside of the pore and helps sebum travel to the skin’s surface. It has no plug. They are similar in appearance to blackheads.

For inflamed nodules, cysts, pustules, or papules: These should be left alone and treated with topical anti-inflammatories, like using our Clarity Oil as a spot treatment or the Fix-Zit Mask in conjunction with internal support.

Healing post-extractions//

We’re fascinated with our skin’s ability to heal wounds within days of injury! In the treatment room, we help our clients identify what’s an extractable pimple and what isn’t. The long-term consequences of picking the wrong type of acne can lead to scarring, systemic inflammation, and damage to the function of your skin; so, please listen to your mom, esthetician, and dermatologist, and don’t pop that pimple! Even if you do have a professional do your extraction your skin still needs to heal and recover.

Here are Justine’s go-to tips for recovering from post-extractions in record time!

1. Directly after extractions use a mask such as our Fix-Zit Mask or Clarity Oil on the spot you just extracted. You can also use the Clarity Oil mixed in with the Fix-Zit Mask which is a great spot treatment! This will help your skin recover with skin-supportive botanicals like goldenseal leaf, comfrey leaf, and anti-fungal sweet annie. Sulfur in the Fix-Zit Mask is antibacterial and also helps with product penetration, so the Clarity Oil can get deeper into your skin to support it while it’s healing. 

2. Use ice! Directly after extractions, ice can be helpful for taking down your body’s inflammatory response.

3. Don’t pick at the scabs! It’s natural to want to pick away scabs because they’re hard to cover up and make us feel bad about our skin. But they are working to protect the underlying tissues to heal.

4. Use SPF with zinc! Zinc will protect your skin and barrier while your skin is healing. It will also protect you from sun damage and scarring. 

5. Wash and hydrate your skin and body properly! Just like with any wound, keep your skin clean and hydrated so your body can repair itself. Twice daily, wash, tone, and moisturize your face. At night, add a spot treatment to the area and sleep with it on.

6. If you have a scar, stimulation, and circulation are your friends. Massaging that tissue for extra time will diminish the pigmentation donation in your skin and help the new cells that are being formed regenerate healthier. 

7. Be patient. It takes 21 days, on average, for a cyst or pustule to be fully resolved. It takes time to heal; let your body do its magic. It truly is amazing that we can recover so quickly! 

Additional tools of the trade//

There are two tools that you can buy at any beauty store that could be helpful for extracting pimples.

Extractors. A metal stick with two loops on each end, which can be a powerful tool for blackheads but also needs to be used with caution! I have seen a lot of bruising and broken skin that can cause inflammation. But if used properly, it can actually be gentler for the skin than fingers. The trick here is to use almost no pressure and find the exact angle to extract. For instance, if it’s a blackhead you want to make sure the skin is nice and moist with your face oil and then place the extractor over the center of the blackhead and lightly press down, in a dragging and pumping motion to gently extract the blackhead. We never use extractors on whiteheads because they can be too inflammatory.

Needles. These can be beneficial for whitehead extraction but you should always make sure you use a sterile needle. You can find extraction needles online, which we suggest instead of trying to use a regular needle. Only use a needle if a pimple has a white head on it. To use: Insert the needle parallel to the skin only at the tip of the whitehead, opening the pore to be extracted. Be very gentle: you are not using the needle to puncture into the skin but only to open the very surface up so that you can easily and gently extract without having to squeeze too hard. 

Tips for preventing skin picking//

If you’ve ever had a pimple, you know there’s an emotional toll that acne has on us. And here’s the thing: our skin is a detox organ, and its job is to do exactly what it’s doing, to purge and send fighter cells to a pimple to kill bacteria that then turn into pus. Its job is to fight pathogens. When your hormones are out of sync, it’s showing you that there is an imbalance with your body. Our skin has no poker face, and it will tell you when it’s come into contact with an allergen or a product it can’t tolerate. This is the beauty of our skin. And yet it doesn’t make it any easier to have a pimple, acne, or inflammation. 

If you have a habit of picking your skin, here are a few tips that might help. It’s good to know if you’re picking only when you see a pimple forming or if you’re doing it mindlessly. If it happens often while looking in a mirror, here’s your PSA to get rid of any magnifying mirrors right away! Lower wattage and warm light bulbs also help soften the lighting in your bathroom that might otherwise have you notice your pores. If you can’t see the imperfection, you might be able to resist the urge to pop.

If you’re noticing the picking is more compulsive, you might want to find some practices that distract your mind and reduce stress. Yoga and meditation are wonderful practices at every level that can help bring that mind-body connectedness to your attention. Here’s personal advice from one of our holistic estheticians, Aubrey of Daydream Holistic: if you become aware that you’re picking at your skin, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and congratulate yourself for bringing awareness to your actions. Then, shift to something that makes your body feel supported, like drinking a glass of water or doing a quick short meditation. Over time, Aubrey was able to realize how much more empowering it felt to work in partnership with her body and tend to it: “When we view our breakouts as our bodies asking something of us or signaling that they are working hard to keep us in good health, it becomes a lot harder to expose ourselves to habits that interfere with healing.”

And here’s the big picture: whether you pick or don’t pick, having a trusted esthetician in your life will help you find guidance and support that’s critical to you knowing exactly what to do and what not to do. We know the emotional toll that skin issues can create, and we want nothing more than to be your ally in healing your skin. It’s why we started Botnia. To support your skin, help you never feel despair, know your worth, and celebrate your skin because it’s an incredible organ that cares deeply for you.

If you have questions on extractions or figuring out which kinds of pimples you should or shouldn’t pop, reach out to us anytime via DM on Instagram or by email


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