As much as we love swapping tips and tricks to solve our biggest beauty dilemmas, there are some questions we may not feel comfortable asking our friends about, let alone Google without going incognito. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. In this series, we’re tackling those embarrassing beauty queries by turning to experts in the field to get you the answers you need — minus any awkward feelings.

Pimples — we’ve all had them, and, if we’re being honest, we’ve all popped them. Regardless of the fact that we know to keep our paws off the pesky spots, there’s something so tempting about squeezing them. The problem is that getting handsy with zits tends to only makes matters worse, not better. That begs the question of what can you do to relax the redness and reduce the bump after doing the deed? To get to the head of it (get it?), we tapped a few of the industry’s top dermatologists to discuss everything from pre-pop prevention to post-pop recovery.

What to do immediately after you pop a zit

Brit + Co: What should we do after we pop a pimple so we don’t make matters worse?

Sejal Shah, NYC-based cosmetic dermatologist and founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology: If you’ve popped a pimple, you need to allow time for the skin to heal so stop continuing to pick or squeeze. Gently cleanse the area and, if swollen, you can use a cool compress to reduce swelling and redness. Avoid any exfoliating ingredients as they may increase irritation to the area. And, whatever you do, don’t forget daily sunscreen, as UV rays can further irritate the already inflamed spot.

B+C: Should I apply a zit cream or medication?

Rachel Nazarian, NYC-based board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Department of Dermatology: While redness and irritation can be alleviated by topical anti-inflammatories, it’s best to use them in a lotion or cream to avoid the potential irritation of most alcohol-based solutions or gels. Proactiv makes a good Green Tea Moisturizer ($40) that’s quite calming for inflamed skin.

what to know for next time

Brit + Co: What’s the big deal about popping a pimple anyways?

SS: When you pop a pimple, you are forcefully pushing the bacteria, oil, and debris of the acne bump out, which is very damaging to the skin as it is basically tearing the skin. It increases inflammation in the area, and when the contents are released from the pimple, it can spread and lead to more acne. You can even force the contents deeper into the skin, leading to more inflammation and potentially a larger pimple.

B+C: Surely it’s okay to do sometimes, though, right?!

Sandra Lee (AKA Dr. Pimple Popper), Southern California-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of SLMD Skincare: You really shouldn’t pop anything on your face unless it has come to a white or yellow head. If the pimple has a head, at that point it is okay to extract because the bump is very superficial to the surface of the skin and won’t have as high a risk of scarring — just make sure the area is sterilized and be sure to use a clean tool.

B+C: If I’m going to do it, what’s the right way to pop a pimple?

SL: You’ll want to wash your face beforehand with warm water to really open up the pores. It should come out pretty easily if it is ready, but if the pimple is not popping, there’s definitely a time to give up because forcing it and continually pushing and squeezing will only irritate your skin and certainly increase your risk for scarring. In short, know when to pop and know when to stop.

B+C: Are there any places that are worse to pick at than others?

SL: There is an area called the “triangle of death” on the face, which is from between your eyebrows to the two corners of the mouth. Behind this, nestled directly under the brain, is an area called the cavernous sinus – an area containing important nerves and blood vessels that bring blood to the brain and the eyes. If you get a pimple within this triangle, and this localized infection is left untreated and becomes severe, it could easily spread to the cavernous sinus since it is in close proximity. This leads to swelling, which can compress these important nerves and blood vessels within the sinus area, and, in serious cases, can lead to blindness, stroke, and even death. However, with modern medicine and antibiotics, we really won’t let an infection get to that level. This is a reminder, though, that a pimple in this area should be treated sooner before it becomes bigger and more problematic.

Do you have any more awkward beauty questions? Tweet @BritandCo using #askingforafriend!

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Illustrations by Rebecca Fong