What to Do About a Hard Pimple That Won't Pop

Woman trying to pop a hard pimple

The last thing you want to do to a hard pimple that won't pop is to try to squeeze it. Keep your hands off or you might end up with a scar and if it is on your face, you will regret it. Try simple home and over-the-counter remedies instead.

The Common Cause of Hard Pimples

Hard pimples are most often the result of acne activity, caused by a blocked hair follicle or sweat gland that is plugged with oil, skin cells, debris, bacteria, and inflammatory cells, according to the Mayo Clinic. They are more common in areas that are prone to sweat and bacteria, such as the armpits, genitals, buttocks, and especially on the face.

Because the gland opening or hair follicle is blocked, there is no place for the build-up to escape. When this fails to drain, a hard lump forms under the skin. If you try to pop a hard pimple, you might push trapped bacteria deeper into the skin and increase the chance of an active infection, which will worsen your condition and can lead to scarring.

Home and Over-the-Counter Remedies

Your best strategy to treat a hard pimple is to try to unplug the gland opening or hair follicle by applying a simple and easy home or over-the-counter remedy three to four times a day,

Things to Know Before You Start

Before you start to treat your pimple, be aware of the following:

  • Try only one treatment at a time so you know what works.
  • Give each method at least seven days to work before trying another one.
  • How long it takes a pimple to resolve varies, and depends on factors such as the size of the pimple and any surrounding inflammation.
  • Don't apply any of the methods if your skin is irritated.
  • If you have sensitive skin, test a treatment by placing a small amount on your inner upper arm near your elbow overnight. If you have a rash the next morning, don't use the treatment on your face or any other sensitive area.

In addition:

  • Before applying any of the remedies, wash the area of your pimple and pat it dry.
  • Apply your method of choice three or four times a day.

Warm Compresses

The heat from a warm compress can soften a pimple, kill bacteria, and reduce inflammation so that it can drain.

  • Dampen a small wash cloth with warm water.
  • Apply the warm cloth to your pimple and surrounding skin for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • If the cloth cools, re-soak it with warm water.

Lemon Juice

Cut lemons and a bowl of lemon juice

Vitamin C provides several benefits to skin, according to the Indian Dermatology Online Journal. The acidic nature of vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) in lemon juice can help break down the contents of the pimple, the blocked gland, and the pore opening. As an antioxidant, it helps to refresh new skin cells and exfoliate dead skin ones, which will also help unplug a blocked pore. Lemon juice can also help lighten any hyperpigmentation that occurs because of the pimple.

  • Cut a fresh lemon in half.
  • Squeeze the juice out of the lemon halves into a small jar with a lid.
  • Use a Q-tip or a cotton pad to apply a small amount of the lemon juice to your trouble spot.
  • Let dry and leave on for 15 to 30 minutes, then wash off with cool water. You can also leave the juice on instead of washing it off and repeat the application three to four times a day.
  • Refrigerate any left-over juice in the tightly closed jar to preserve it for the next application.

Green Tea Powder Paste

Among other benefits, the antioxidants in green tea reduce inflammation and increase skin cell renewal, according to the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. This causes old cells to slough off as new cells come to the surface of your skin, which will encourage a blocked pore to open and drain.

  • Mix a quarter of a teaspoon of Matcha green tea powder with just enough water to form a smooth paste.
  • Apply the paste to your pimple using a small, cosmetic brush (or your finger).
  • Allow the paste to dry for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Wash the area with warm water and pat it dry.

Aspirin Paste

Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, is an anti-inflammatory medicine which will exfoliate your skin, reduce inflammation, and soften the plug and contents of a pimple in order to allow it to drain.

  • Finely crush one regular aspirin in a few drops of water to make a smooth paste.
  • Apply the paste to the pimple and leave on for 15 to 20 minutes to dry.
  • Wash off and pat the area dry.

Salicylic Acid Anti-Acne Product

Salicylic acid is related to aspirin and is available in OTC (over-the-counter) topical anti-acne skin care products. Like aspirin, it will reduce inflammation and soften the pimple plug, allowing the pore to drain.

  • Buy an over-the-counter (OTC) 2% salicylic acid leave-on anti-acne lotion or cream.
  • Apply a small amount to your pimple and leave it on.
  • You can reapply the cream three or four times a day. Be sure to apply just before bedtime as well.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is an effective anti-acne treatment and works by eliminating bacteria and skin oils that block a gland.

  • Apply an OTC 10% benzoyl peroxide cream to your pimple and leave on to dry.
  • Leave it on until your next application is due then wash your face before re-applying.
  • As with salicylic acid cream, make sure your last treatment for the day is just before bedtime to give it a chance to work overnight.

Skin Exfoliation

Skin exfoliation gets rid of dead skin cells that plug gland openings and hair follicles. To treat a hard pimple or pimples on your face:

  • Buy a 2% salicylic acid facial scrub.
  • Apply a small amount to your entire damp face and scrub gently for two to three minutes, especially around the area of your pimple.
  • Wash off your face with warm water and pat dry.
  • Apply a small amount of salicylic acid cream three to four times a day as above.
  • Don't exfoliate more than once or twice a week to avoid skin irritation.

Helpful Information

  • If you get skin irritation from any method, wash off the product immediately and do not reuse. Let your skin rest and recover for a day before trying another method.
  • Keep your skin clean and dry every day to prevent the build up of dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria, as well as new pimples from forming.

When to See Your Doctor

See your doctor if your hard pimple does not resolve with home or OTC skin care preparations. She or he may give you prescription medicines or refer you to a dermatologist for other types of treatment. Sometimes a hard pimple is not the result of acne but is due to other causes such as a small, hard, unresolved lump after a slight slight bruise or an ingrown hair. See your doctor if your pimple is large, getting larger, or is exceptionally painful.

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What to Do About a Hard Pimple That Won't Pop