1. Don't poke too early. Wait until your pimple has a firm white head. That means the pus is close to the surface and ready to be drained.
2. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water, soap, and a fingernail brush.
3. Sterilize a straight pin with a match or lighter. Let the pin cool, then wipe it down with rubbing alcohol. Swab the zit with alcohol and pour some on your fingers, too.
4. Dry your fingers and wrap them with a clean tissue.
5. Position your pin. Hold it parallel to the surface of your skin, and gently pierce the very tip of the zit's white center.
6. Using your fingers, or a cotton swab, softly squeeze the pimple. Press around (not on) the white tip of the zit. If the pus doesn't come out easily, the pimple isn't ready to be popped. Stop!
7. Apply more alcohol (it will sting) or a very small amount of bacitracin ointment to the now-deflated blemish.
The Make-Up Alternative
Instead of squeezing a zit, you could hide it with makeup. Choose a cover-up that's "noncomedogenic," Rice says. That means it won't block pores.
You won't need much. "Less is more when it comes to covering up a blemish," she says.
Hollywood makeup artist Tasha Reiko-Brown agrees. "When you're trying to hide a pimple, your aim is to take away the redness, not flatten it out," she says. "If you keep piling on layers of makeup, you'll be creating a little mountain. It may not be a red mountain, but it will still be bigger and more noticeable than when you started out."
When Brown needs to hide a zit on a famous client, she uses a concealer that matches their skin tone or foundation in a dry, not creamy, formula. These generally come in pots or sticks.
Though she generally uses her fingers to apply makeup, she picks up a flat brush with short bristles when she's covering a zit. "That way I can get the concealer right where I need it without leaving a fingerprint behind," she says. Blend the concealer beyond the borders of the blemish.
If you find yourself facing the "to pop or not to pop" dilemma every day or week, talk to your doctor or a dermatologist about ways to manage your breakouts.