So you’ve popped that zit and shouldn’t have…now what?

You are fully aware that you need to stop prodding at that zit, but there it is, glaring back at you in the mirror, taunting you to do something, anything, to somehow fix the situation. Picking and squeezing at it until something emerges is never the best move—you know this, and yet, you continue. For what simultaneously seems like five hours or maybe five minutes, you’re stuck at the mirror, picking and prodding, with Lady Macbeth’s “out damn spot” monologue echoing in your head. You hate what you’re doing as you’re doing it, and before you realize it, you’ve created a mountain from a molehill, the damage has been done, and it’s too late to go back.

“The goal here is obviously to learn from the mistake so that it doesn’t happen again, but also, to make a pimple less noticeable,” says celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau. “Depending on where the blemish is in its life cycle, you’ll want to treat the infection, and use a product that creates a seal over the texture.”

If your pimple is going through its scabby, flaky phase, Rouleau recommends using a product like her Daytime Blemish Gel ($40) to help simultaneously smooth over the texture and keep bacteria at bay, but if you’re in a pinch, a few drops of water and the curve of a spoon can do the trick. “When the skin is crusty and flaky, the cells have dried in that position and are pointing upwards, trying to shed off,” she explains. “The goal here is to try and flatten the area, so before you apply sunscreen, re-moisten the area with water, then rock the curved edge of a spoon back and forth to push those cells down so that they dry in a flatter position.” From there, you can color-correct and conceal as needed.

If your blemish hasn’t yet dried up and is still oozing, well, that’s another story. Applying pressure to the area with a tissue in-hand could help to slow it down, but if the pimple shows no sign of drying up, leave it uncovered, and conceal it once the floodgates close. Attempting to apply product over an area where the skin will only result in frustration, wasted product, and rolling in late to work because of makeup. “When it’s in its oozing state and is open, you don’t want makeup interfering with that,” Rouleau says. “There isn’t really a safe intervention to stop it from leaking altogether, so just let the skin close on its own, then apply an antibacterial spot treatment to control the infection.” Once it does dry, practice Rouleau’s spoon trick (if needed), applying concealer over the top.

It goes without saying but, ensuring the spot properly heals is the most important thing you can do. Rouleau advises treating the area just as you would any other injury—keep it clean and hydrated until the skin closes and the infection is gone. Should a dark, post-blemish mark remain, try using a spot fading treatment to even out the pigmentation. We’re big fans of Peace Out Skincare Dark Spot Brightening Dots ($28), which are equipped with tiny, painless, microneedling points to guarantee the niacinamide and licorice extract penetrate at a deeper level to work their magic.

Next time a spot does pop up, take a beat before you attack the situation with the nails on your pointer fingers, breathe, and remember the lessons you learned the first time around. Aside from the immediate damage you could do to your skin, Rouleau notes that the results of picking at your skin can often resurface in the form of hyperpigmentation, which will be another battle you may eventually have to deal with. Try keeping your hands distracted if you find yourself unintentionally going for a raised area on your skin, and repeat after us ― no matter how angry, stubborn, and obnoxious the pimple on your face happens to be, dealing with an open wound and waiting for it to heal will probably be worse.

BTW, here are 8 acne-fighting ingredients to slather on if a pimple pops up and here’s how to cover a pimple up with makeup.

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