Ask a Beauty Editor: How to Bring a Pimple to a Head ASAP

You know those underground zits (aka the worst kind)? Here’s how to squash them.

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Reader question: How do you get a pimple to come to a head quickly? —@opposumpooka

Ever get a deep-rooted pimple that has no head but feels like an immovable mountain? They linger just under the surface of your skin so you can't use your conventional acne routine or pimple popping methods.

This weed-like nuisance is actually called a "blind pimple," a misleading name that doesn't sound too bad but is actually the worst kind. Unlike your average whitehead (which is non-inflammatory and relatively easy to treat with spot treatments), it's deep, painful, and near impossible to treat since the pus is burrowing underneath your skin. FYI: These guys are caused by oil getting trapped beneath the skin, which is why you might notice them before your period when oil production is at its highest.

If you know anything about treating pimples, you know that it's much easier to do when it comes to a head. A blind pimple is classified as a "papule," i.e., a superficial raised red lump. At this point, your skin gland is engorged, swollen, and hardened by oil clogging. The pus (I know, ew) also creates a pressure buildup that triggers your skin's sensory nerves, which is why you might feel some pain.

The goal is to turn that thing into a "pustule," which is exactly as it sounds (it contains pus and can be squeezed). First, NEVER pop any pimple that doesn't have a visible whitehead as it will make the inflammation way, way worse and could lead to scarring. Your approach should be gently coaxing all that gunk and bacteria to the surface.

Unfortunately, there's no magic trick to making a blind pimple disappear in a few minutes. However, there are a few ways to expedite the pimple's lifespan so it goes away faster (and no, suffocating it in toothpaste is not one of them). These are the only safe and effective methods to bring a pimple to a head—and yes, we made sure to get dermatologist approval.

Apply a warm compress

Warm compresses have long been used to calm inflammation and encourage the draining of wounds, and a pimple is essentially a tiny, inflamed wound. If it's superficial enough, warm compresses could help the pimple come to a head, allowing it to rupture and expel the pus that's causing pain, says Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. In order for this method to work, you may have to repeat the process a few times throughout the day in 10-minute increments.

Slap on a pimple patch

Similar to the warm compress method but a bit more modern, hydrocolloid bandages are used in hospitals to suck the blood and pus from open wounds. The smaller pimple version will do the same thing to help pull out all that gunk. Another bonus: It'll keep bacteria out and stop yourself from picking your cystic acne while you wait for it to heal on its own. Try Starface Hydro-Stars ($15, if you're looking to turn your red eyesore into an Insta-worthy look. Facing a deeper cystic pimple? Try a heavy-duty microneedling patch, like Zitsticka Killa Kit ($29,, which has rows of tiny, thin needles and a concentrated serum to stimulate collagen production and soothe inflammation.

Apply anti-inflammatory ingredients

While this one takes a little longer, applying topical benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and/or adapalene gel can penetrate into the congested pore and dissolve oil, dirt, and other debris. Just make sure to only use one product containing the ingredient at a time as your pores may become agitated with overuse (If you use a spot treatment, don't use a face wash with it as well.)

Get a cortisone injection

Sorry, this one doesn't involve a cheap, easy hack with a DIY kitchen ingredient, but it's really the fastest way to eliminate a blind pimple. "Cystic pimples can be treated with intralesional cortisone injections to decrease the inflammation and shrink the size," says Dr. King. Fair warning that these can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 a shot (insurance might cover this), but they do work. It might be worth heading into a dermatologist's office if you have a big event coming up—just make sure to do it at least 24 to 48 hours in advance to see full results.

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