How to Heal a Popped Pimple Scab

Steps to help heal a pimple that you've picked, popped or squeezed

Ice can reduce swelling of pimples.
Photo: Jerome Tisne / Getty Images

You had a pimple that was driving you crazy. So you popped it (yeah, you know you shouldn’t pop pimples but sometimes you just can’t help yourself). Now, instead of a pimple, you have an angry red sore or a dry crusty scab.

Time to heal that popped pimple, and fast. Try these tips to help minimize the damage done to your skin, and get that painful sore well on its way to healing.

Don't Continue to Pick at the Pimple

First things first, you must allow the popped pimple to heal.

That means no more messing with it. Don’t squeeze it to see if any more will come out. Don’t pick at the scab. Let your skin start the healing process without being interrupted. So as your skin heals, hands off.

Keep the Skin Clean

If you’ve just popped a pimple, go ahead and give it a good cleansing. You can use your regular facial cleanser for this as you’re washing your face. Be gentle, though, and try not to knock off the scab that is trying to form.

You can also use a touch of witch hazel on a cotton ball or swab. Carefully dab the popped pimple with this solution a few times a day, at least until a good scab forms.

Although lots of people suggest cleaning a popped pimple with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, those can sting and aren't as effective as witch hazel as reducing inflammation.

Apply Ice if Your Popped Pimple is Swollen

If you have a big, inflamed, red bump on your face, ice is the best way to soothe it.

Use an ice cube or cold pack, either wrapped in a soft cloth or paper towel and ice it down. This will help reduce the swelling and make your popped pimple feel better.

If your popped pimple already has a scab and it's not swollen at all, icing the area won't do anything so just skip this step.

Treat Popped Pimples with Antibiotic Ointment

Treat your popped pimple like an open wound, because that's basically what it is.

An over-the-counter antibiotic ointment is your best friend. 

Dot a tiny amount directly on the popped pimple or scab. This will help speed up healing time. It also keeps the scab moist, so it won't look as dry, crackly, and obvious.

Keep a picked-at pimple covered with a small amount of ointment until it's fully healed. This can take a few days.

Also, make sure you're only covering the pimple, not the skin around it (especially if it's on your face). Antibiotic ointment may clog your pores, so you want to keep it just in the area where it's needed.

Don't Pick at a Scabbed Pimple

It can be tempting but don't give in. You need that scab to stay put for your pimple to heal. If you're a bona fide picker, do your best to keep your hands off your face. Again, keeping the scab covered with a healing ointment makes it less appealing to pick it off.

Continue Using Your Acne Treatments

If you're using any OTC acne products or prescription acne medications, you should continue to do so. Most acne medications have antibacterial properties which should be helpful in getting that pimple to heal. Remember, if you treat your popped pimple well, it should heal within a few days. Try to be patient until this happens.

Are you an undisputable pimple picker? While the best case scenario is always a hands-off approach if you are absolutely going to pop your pimples, at least do it safely. 

Sources:

"Questions and Answers About Acne." National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Jan 2006. National Institutes of Health.

Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE, et. al. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016; 74(5): 945-73.

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