Behind People’s Unhealthy Preoccupation with Pimple Popping

Teenager popping her pimple

Nearly everyone learns as soon as they hit puberty that picking on their pimples and popping it themselves is a big no-no. Yet, everyone is guilty of popping a pimple or two when left to their own devices — even when you know that dirty hands, open pores, and oily skin are a recipe for acne and other skin problems like scarring or dark spots.

It’s better to leave the pimple popping to dermatology clinics like and popular experts like Dr. Pimple Popper or Dr. Sandra Lee. If your pimple popping ways are becoming more of an obsession than an occasional problem, understanding what drives you (and many others) to pick on your pimples may help you finally break the habit.

Delving into the Human Brain

It feels good to pop a pimple, as bad as it may be for your skin in the long run. Popping a particularly stubborn pimple (or blackhead or whitehead) feels highly satisfying and leaves you with a sense of accomplishment. These feelings, which make the action of popping a pimple addictive, are all because of dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurochemical popularly known as the “feel good” or pleasure chemical. It’s involved in reward, motivation, and emotional responses. This is why you feel an almost physical pressure to pick on your pimple and why you get a sense of relief mentally afterward.

Moreover, dopamine is a “seeking” neurochemical. It drives you to seek out and do certain behaviors, as well as make you curious about ideas or activities. The dopamine system is never fully satisfied; it’s only temporarily sated once you feel good, such as after you successfully pop a pimple. Anticipating a reward can get you stuck on a dopamine loop. Seeing another pimple, blackhead, or whitehead that you can pop triggers this anticipation and keeps the loop going unless you force yourself to stop or find yourself interrupted.

Warning Signs of a Growing Obsession

Woman popping her acneThe inability to stop from picking on your pimples without outside interference may be more than a discipline problem. It may be a sign of a burgeoning obsession. Recognizing the symptoms of a pimple popping addiction early on is crucial to saving your skin from yourself.

  • Mistaking each dot on your face as a clogged pore or a pimple and not stopping unless you give an experimental squeeze to see if it pops
  • Unconsciously and consciously touching acne prone areas throughout the day to check for bumps or comedones
  • Causing pimples and acne flare-ups to worsen and scar due to constant touching and picking
  • Feeling guilty about popping pimples after the initial relief and satisfaction but continuing the habit once you spot another pimple or clogged pore

Breaking the Bad Habit

Understanding the reasons behind your pimple popping addiction and recognizing its warning signs are only the start of breaking the cycle. Disciplining yourself to stop a bad habit is a long and continuous journey.

Make sure to take a trip to your dermatologist and ask for professional help on how to get your skin back to normal. You may need more effective acne products to treat small breakouts immediately and minimize comedones that can further tempt you.

It’s also advisable to spend less time in front of a mirror and to keep your hands busy with a fidget toy or another activity. Watching pimple popping videos may help relieve some of your anxiety in a more constructive and less skin-damaging way.


From nutrition and fitness to mental health and holistic wellness, we provide valuable insights, practical tips, and evidence-based resources. Whether you're seeking guidance, motivation, or a supportive community, we're here to help you unlock your full wellness potential and live a vibrant, balanced life.


    Scroll to Top