What to Do When Your Pimple Won’t Come to a Head

The pain, the throbbing, the inflammation, the horror! We’ve all been there. And sure enough, when it happens, we’re ready to do just about anything to get rid of the big honker—you know, the one that hasn’t quite made it to the surface of your skin yet.

The trouble is that our desperate measures usually lead to more pain, throbbing, and inflammation.

Here are some tried-and-true techniques that’ll help bring your pimple to a head:

  1. Make a warm compress
  2. Apply an ice pack
  3. Treat it with topicals (like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or sulfur)
  4. Avoid touching it at all costs
  5. See a dermatologist for pro treatments

These techniques are outlined below. May the odds ever be in your favor.

1. A Warm Compress Can Help Bring Your Pimple to a Head

A warm compress increases circulation, stimulates blood flow to the application area, and speeds up the healing process. And this helps release the pus, turning your blind pimple into a not-so-blind pimple.

Not to mention, it’s the first thing I do when I get a blind pimple—my saving grace.

To make a warm compress, pour warm (not scolding-hot) water on a washcloth and apply it to your face for give-or-take 10 minutes. Expect to do this 2-3 times a day for ~3 days. By that time, your pimple will come to a head and you can treat it in other (more traditional) ways.

Side note: Some people like using tea bags instead of washcloths. The choice is up to you.

2. Ice Reduces Swelling, Pain, and Redness

You don’t really need to buy fancy (and budget-busting) treatments to handle your blind pimple. You can use what you have on-hand. And as long as you have a freezer, you’ve got access to ice.

That’s right, ice.

Why ice?

Well, it can do three things:

  • Reduce swelling, making your pimple smaller/less noticeable.
  • Alleviate pain by eliciting a numbing sensation.
  • Lessen redness by slowing down blood flow to the area of application.

After reading this, you might be ready to try it out.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Wrap an ice cube in a paper towel or a thin cloth (a clean t-shirt should do the trick)
  2. Hold the wrapped ice cube to your headless pimple for 1 minute
  3. Wait a good 5 minutes (or wait until your skin feels “normal”)
  4. Repeat the process a few times over

3. Topicals Exfoliate, Reduce Inflammation, and/or Dry Out Your Pimple

Okay, let’s be real—topicals aren’t perfect. While they work great on whiteheads, they aren’t able to penetrate the skin deep enough to handle cystic/blind breakouts.

Nevertheless, some people swear by them. Personally, I think they help speed up the healing process.

The top three topicals are as follows:

  1. Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria (also bleaches clothes/pillows/bed sheets so be careful)
  2. Salicylic acid unclogs pores
  3. Sulphur dries out acne

Other choices include retinoids, clay masks (like bentonite clay), and drying lotions (Mario Badescu’s Pimple Drying Lotion is a really popular choice).

4. Touching It Will Make Your Pimple Bigger and Badder

Everyone knows that you shouldn’t poke and prod at your acne. But let’s be honest, most people can’t resist the urge and do it anyway.

Related: How To Stop Yourself From Popping Pimples

While you might get away with picking at whiteheads (at least every once in a blue moon), you won’t be so lucky when it comes to blind pimples. That’s because they live deep within your skin. Picking at them won’t release them. Instead, picking will only push the infection deeper, which will increase inflammation and redness. In other words, your big, bad pimple will only get bigger and badder.

And if that wasn’t enough, picking at blind pimples often leads to seriously bad scarring.

Now, I know that being patient isn’t easy—especially when you feel like everyone is staring at the big honker on the middle of your face. But remember, being inpatient only serves to extend your healing time—nobody wants that!

5. A Dermatologist Can Change Things Instantly

Sometimes you need an outside perspective. That’s where a professional opinion can come in handy.

When you go to a dermatologist, they can guide you on the right path. More than that, they can provide you with in-house treatments (like incisions and cortisone shots) that’ll instantly change the appearance of your pimple. Treating your pimple at the right time and in the right way also reduces your risk of scarring.

In a worse-case scenario, your dermatologist will tell you that the bump on your skin isn’t actually a pimple. Then, they’ll give you an accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan to boot.

Final Thoughts

Regrettably, there aren’t any sure-fire techniques to calm down an angry pimple. You have to feel it out and see what works for you. In most cases, the first two techniques on this list (ice and heat) are enough.

Otherwise, if your acne is severe enough, please don’t suffer in silence. Find a dermatologist ASAP. Seriously, a good dermatologist can make a world of difference. Check out this article on cystic acne to get a brief overview of potential treatment options.