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Why to resist the urge to pick at pesky pimples

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Pimple Popping

stating the obvious

Picking can easily turn a pimple that would clear up in a few days on its own into an enemy for weeks.
By: An Anonymous Pimple Picker


I’ve been a picker since my earliest, puberty-induced pimples. (If you're short on time for a story, scroll to the bottom for the tips...)

While my skin has always been relatively clear, an angry zit would occasionally pop up, and, much to my horror, settled into the most prominent parts of my face. The precision was infuriating, with the center of my forehead, nose, and chin the most common targets. To get back at these rude intruders, I would make the satisfying, yet destructive decision to pick at them. Picking at a pimple feels like an itch you can’t scratch – except you do scratch it, and it leaves behind a gross-looking scab that no one is looking at, but you feel like everyone is.

Picking my face has become a vice; a destructive physical pattern that isn’t as bad as my nail biting but happens almost before I realize it. It’s a nervous tick, brought on by the insecurities stemming from my breakout. I spoke with Heyday's Skin Therapist team and Head of Skincare, Jeni, to discuss my pesky picking problem.

Jeni was quick to confirm my fear. “Picking can easily turn a pimple that would have cleared in a few days with proper TLC into an enemy that hangs out for weeks on end,” she told me as I sat on my hands (okay, not really, but I should have). “The natural lifespan of a blemish left untreated can vary from a day or two to a week or two, depending on the type of breakout and whether you apply the ingredients needed to calm it, or if you treat it in a way that actually worsens the situation.” It should be no surprise that picking falls into the latter category.

“Picking is one of the most common mistakes for trying to deal with a breakout on your own – but these home surgeries usually add and spread bacteria, irritate and inflame the area to make it extra-cranky and red, or even break the skin, leaving you with a blemish that scabs, refills, sprouts two new heads, or lingers for a minimum of an extra week or more,” Jeni said. “Picking is also most likely to cause scarring and dark pigmentation after the blemish has healed.” 

So how do we avoid the itch to pick? Start by visiting a Skin Therapist to determine what type of breakout you’re experiencing, and discuss what tools and products would be best to calm and manage the zit. Along with expert advice, some tools of the pros like peels, high frequency, and bacteria-busting blue Light Therapy can help move things along professionally and pain-free.

Throughout adolescence, I remember try to keep my picking at bay by slathering my blemishes with a minty, dry remedy – toothpaste. “Try an antibacterial spot treatment that soothes, cools, and doesn't over dry the skin,” Jeni said, kindly resisting the urge to lovingly laugh at my toothpaste suggestion which she acknowledged is a common myth out there. “Plain lavender or tea tree essential oil is an antibacterial medicine cabinet staple. Your best bet is not to put these directly onto the skin, but you can whip up a spot treatment any time by blending a drop or two of the lavender or tea tree oil into to some plain unsweetened yogurt or a with a dab of your favorite hydrating mask.”

I asked about one of my other pimple vices: washing my face several times a day in attempts to keep any oil off my face. “More washing doesn't necessarily speed up a pimple's lifespan,” Jeni told me. “Over-washing or stripping your skin in a quest to be clean or using too harsh of cleanser for your skin type can actually trigger breakouts.”

Overall, the advice was simple: 

  • Wash your face twice a day with a cleanser that doesn't leave you overly dried out.

  • Don't overexfoliate, you can't 'scrub' off the blemish. If only it worked that way!

  • Try a spot treatment like our Moss Blemish Mask or Blue Tansy Mask, which will help move it along while also keeping your hands away.

  • Wash your pillowcases whenever you do your laundry

  • Talk to a Skin Therapist about your routine and an emergency routine that'll work for you and the type of breakouts you're facing (i.e., hormonal breakouts, hairline breakouts, those nasty 'underground' cystic ones, all have different causes and approaches)

  • Most importantly: don’t pick, because it will only elongate your pimples visit. 


Perhaps less a tangible tip but one that's equally important – be gentle with your skin. Both physically, but mentally, too. We all get pimples, no matter what skin type we are or how diligent we are with our routines, diets, and lifestyles. Try your best not to get mad at your skin – it's a huge part of you, after all. We're here to help you help it cooperate. All we ask, as a start, is that you keep those pinching fingers at bay.


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