You've been warned and yet you still pick at your pimples? No guilt!
"It's a habit that's hard to kick, so your best bet is to learn how to do it without damaging skin," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Your pop plan:
Wash with your usual cleanser, then apply a washcloth soaked in warm water for a minute to soften the zit. Disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol.
Pop only pimples with visible pus (squeezing red ones will just irritate skin). Just don't attempt it while wearing makeup (or even moisturizer); it can cause inflammation.
Use a sterilized comedone extractor, such as Sephora Double-Ended Blemish Extractor ($16; sephora.com), or two Q-tips. Apply pressure to the skin around the pimple.
Tempting as it may be to use your fingers, don't! They can apply too much pressure and leave a scar.
Afterward, spot-treat with an antibacterial gel that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to tame inflammation. Try Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Eliminating Spot Gel ($8; mass retailers).
Resist the urge to go at it a second time. Broken skin needs time to heal.