To pop or not to pop? That is the question

Should I pop my spots? We’ve all been there, staring at that pesky spot in the mirror, wondering whether we should give it a little squeeze or leave it be. We’ll be unravelling the mystery of whether popping spots is a good idea or not, regardless of if you get the occasional spot or you have acne.

How do acne spots form?

Before we dive into the popping debate, let's understand spots. Acne spots happen when excess sebum and dead skin cells clog your pores. Bacteria which normally live on the skin harmlessly can contaminate and infect the blocked pores, causing red, swollen, or pus-filled spots.

There are six main types of acne spots:

• Blackheads – small black or yellowish bumps that develop. They appear as black because of the inner lining of the hair follicle

• Whiteheads – similar to blackheads, but they’re firmer and don’t empty even if you squeeze them

• Papules – small red bumps that might feel sore

• Pustules – similar to papules, but they have a white tip in the middle

• Nodules – large hard lumps under the surface of the skin and they can feel painful

• Cysts – the most severe type. They’re large lumps filled with pus and they look similar to boils. Cysts have the biggest risk of causing scarring

What happens if I pop my spot?

Although you might think popping your spot means you’re getting rid of it, it’s important to think about what’s happening under your skin.

When you pop your spots, you might push any pus deeper into your follicle, rupturing the wall of the follicle which can make the pus spread. This can increase inflammation which can cause discomfort, scabs and in some cases even permanent scars.

The risks of popping spots

While popping your spots may seem satisfying in the moment, popping spots can actually do more harm than good. Have you ever popped your spot only to find it returns with a vengeance?

When you try to pop your spots, especially if it isn’t done correctly, you might risk damaging your skin’s natural barrier which can cause scarring. If your spot contains infected pus, squeezing it can spread the bacteria to your surrounding pores and hair follicles, which can cause more breakouts.

It's important to understand that your body has its own ways and mechanisms for dealing with spots and stopping this natural process can increase the healing time and make it harder for your skin to heal.

Spot solutions: The correct way to look after acne-prone skin

So, if popping your spots is off the table, what's the right approach? There are plenty of effective methods to manage those unwelcome visitors. From gentle cleansers to spot patches, we've got you covered.

Start by using a gentle cleanser in your skincare routine. You can choose one that’s made for acne-prone skin. These usually contain ingredients like salicylic acid that can help to unclog your pores and reduce bacteria. Cleansing twice a day, in the morning and evening, can help keep your skin clean.

You can also consider using products that have been formulated to tackle specific blemishes. Remember to apply them as instructed on the label of the product.

Lastly, don’t forget the importance of moisturising your skin. Opt for oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturisers which are designed to not clog your pores. Always use SPF during the day to help prevent sun damage and pigmentation.

By following these simple steps in a consistent skincare routine, you can manage your spots and help get clear, healthy-looking skin.

Skipping the squeeze

When it comes to managing acne breakouts, there are things you can try to help keep your skin clear and happy. From lifestyle changes to products, there’s something for everyone – without resorting to popping your spots.

You might find the following steps useful:

• Wash your face with a mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water

• Avoid washing your face more than twice a day. Washing it more than twice can irritate your skin and make your spots worse

• Avoid using oil-based skincare products

• Make sure to remove your make-up completely before going to bed

• If you have dry skin, use a water-based moisturiser

• Exercising regularly can’t get rid of your spots, but it can help to boost your self-esteem and your mood. The NHS recommends you should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week. It’s important to shower as soon as possible as sweat can irritate your spots

• Wash your hair regularly and try to avoid your hair touching your face

Skin SOS

While some spots can be managed without professional help, if you’ve got mild acne, you can speak to your pharmacist. They can help with advice on products including creams, lotions and gels that can help with your acne spots that are available to buy over-the-counter.

You can also access treatment to help bring mild to moderate acne under control from Boots Online Doctor Acne Treatment service*.

If over-the-counter treatments don’t control your acne or your acne is moderate to severe or if it’s making you feel very unhappy, speak to your GP. They can give you more advice and discuss treatment options.

The next time you’re faced with a stubborn spot and you find yourself asking, should I pop this spot? Remember to skip the squeeze. Your skin will thank you!

*Access to prescription-only treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.