Chances are you can spot a white head when you see one, but here's the deal. "A white head's technical, scientific name is a closed comedone," says Dr. Gohara. "It's essentially just a tiny little inflammatory lesion that has keratin or skin proteins, and sometimes some bacteria and skin cells, all jumbled up under that little dome."
- Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale University
Acne Vulgaris is one of those fun, long-term issues that can crop any time from puberty to menopause, explains Dr. Gohara. While there are any number of causes for acne, the most common include hormonal fluctuations, a genetic tendency toward oil or sebaceous skin, or even the products you put on your skin.
The theme here? A lot of the causes of acne are out of your control, which perhaps makes popping your pimples even more satisfying. And even though dermatologists generally recommend leaving your face the f*** alone and never popping your pimples, there is a right way to go about it if you can't resist. (Unless it's a pimple inside your nose—never pop those.)
Ahead, Dr. Gohara offers her step-by-step advice for extracting a pimple at home.
How to pop a white head, according to a dermatologist
Step 1: Wash thy hands and thy face
This one might sound like a great big "duh," but it's absolutely necessary. Wash your hands with soap and water and gently cleanse your face before going at that pimple. You don't want to be introducing any new bacteria into your skin, so cleanliness is key.
Step 2: Extract the pimple using a comedone extractor
Give your thumbs the day off and opt for a comedone extractor instead. Dr. Gohara recommends looping the tool around the white spec and applying gentle pressure until the white head comes loose. When you're done using the tool, make sure to give it a wash with your cleanser so it's ready for future use.
Step 3: Rewash your face and place your pimple patch over the extraction
Once you've re-cleansed your face to eliminate any stray white gunk, apply a pimple patch. "Make sure your pimple patch has a colloid dressing because this helps to speed up wound healing, bring down any inflammation, and protect the area so you can't touch it anymore," says Dr. Gohara.
Step 4: Check on it the next day
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