My Post-Pimple-Popping (Scar-Preventing) Skin-Care Routine

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The mental state of the author, post-extraction. Photo: WIN-Initiative/Getty Images/WIN-Initiative RM

No matter how many times people tell you not to, picking at facial imperfections can be painfully difficult to resist. Last week, I succumbed to the urge myself: I attempted to extract a small bump on my cheek so aggressively that it, in a matter of minutes, essentially became a gaping wound. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, either — I’m prone to performing unnecessary surgery on anything that looks remotely like a blemish, then wanting to cry when I see how inflamed and angry I’ve made my skin. I’ve gone through the miserable cycle of picking and healing many, many times — and now, I not only know how to deal with it on a mental level (sort of) but have discovered what products best assist in speeding up the healing process.

What I share with you below is my actual a.m. and p.m. routine when my skin is in recovery from major, horribly executed extractions — the combination of all of these products has helped my self-inflicted wounds and the worst of my hyperpigmentation resolve in about a week and a half. Disclaimer: I realize that this is a lot of products. If you’re looking for an effective but slightly less expensive combination of things to heal the mess you’ve created on your face, get the pimple patches for getting rid of the scab and the vitamin C serum to treat the dark spots afterward.

Days One to Three Post-Picking

In situations where extracting has gone awry, these Cosrx Pimple Patches are your very best friend. If I were only allowed to select one product to use in these emergency situations, pimple patches would no doubt be my girl. However, there are certain circumstances in which the pimple patches work better than others. At the risk of once again giving TMI, the product works best on “open wounds” so that it can go in and suck all the oil and bacteria out of the blemish.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: If you pick your skin — especially if the extraction didn’t go as planned — put this on immediately after. Don’t wash your face, don’t exfoliate, don’t put a tea-tree serum on it. Put this on. My friend swears that you can wash your face with this on, but I just try my best to wash around the area if I’ve picked at my skin prior to washing. The patches aren’t just for immediate assistance: Wear them as much as you possibly can and definitely every night. The patches help to keep the area moisturized while also protecting it from bacteria — precisely what you need.

So you picked your skin last night and put on a pimple patch. Now it’s the morning and you just don’t think you can brave wearing a patch to work. If you’re wondering what you can do to help heal your spot during the day (when you obviously don’t want to wear the pimple patch), try patting snail mucin into your skin — paying extra attention to the affected area — right after washing your face. While I’m admittedly a major SK-II girl, I’ve actually found that snail mucin is a better product when it comes to actively healing damaged skin. Exfoliating the blemish in the early days of its healing can actually be super damaging — it ends up stripping layers of the scab off and preventing it from fully healing. What damaged, scabbing skin needs most is hydration — skip the normal exfoliation step (just on the blemish, you can still exfoliate the rest of your face) and go in extra on the essence.

Essences essentially prep your skin for any kind of concentrated treatment (serums and oils), so right after the snail mucin, pat in a few drops of this marula oil from Drunk Elephant onto the blemish (and your entire face). When it comes to finding a product that’s both hydrating and reparative, this product from Drunk Elephant is a total dream. Self-described as “rehab in a bottle,” this product is packed with antioxidants that help fight against environmental stresses — lessening the redness of the trouble area while simultaneously providing healing vitamins. This product is a true Holy Grail of mine, and I’m already panicking thinking about running out. This helps so much with any kind of blemish issue, but it especially thrives when combating scabs and flaky skin.

The Drunk Elephant product is amazing but admittedly pricey. Here’s the cheaper alternative from my beloved the Ordinary.

After the marula oil, you want to lock in all of the work you just did by adding another final layer of hydration. This is where your moisturizer comes in. As mentioned above, it’s all about finding products that provide hydrating and reparative properties — and you guys know how much I love my overpriced cream from Tatcha. This is deeply hydrating and does great things for redness and irritation.

A Tatcha dupe I am just so excited about is this Klairs Blue Cream, which I bought for the first time during the Soko Glam Black Friday sale. If you’ve been wanting to try the Tatcha Recovery Cream but can’t bring yourself to carve out the cash for it, go ahead and try this amazing potion from Klairs. This is incredible for calming, and it makes a noticeable difference. I will say it’s not as rich as the Tatcha Recovery Cream, which leaves me looking ultradewy, but it does have a similar effect in it’s combating of redness and angry skin.

Days Four to Seven Post-Picking

Sadly, even when the affected area scabs and falls off, it can still leave behind a really nasty dark mark that can sometimes last for what feels like forever. I do not use this serum until after the scab has already fallen off. This serum is super potent and can actually end up exfoliating or further irritating the damaged skin. However, this is one of the most intense vitamin C serums on the market and will sure as hell kick the dark mark that blemish has left you with to the curb. Post-scab-flaking-off, I use this right after the snail mucin and right before the marula oil. I personally do all of my brightening treatments in the a.m., and spot treatments in the p.m., but you can incorporate this into both a.m. and p.m. routines. This vitamin C serum also from Drunk Elephant is definitely pricey, but it’s one of my all-time favorites that I just simply cannot let go of. These won’t provide overnight results, but they will help light the spot significantly faster.

A beloved dupe for Drunk Elephant is this vitamin C serum from Cosrx.

While the above kind of creates a pretty solid a.m. and p.m. routine, a mask is something you can throw in if you feel like doing a little extra. This mask, as I’ve mentioned before, is truly disgusting, but I did see it make a major difference on speeding up the healing process of damaged skin. This mask is intense, and I do think it has some exfoliating properties, so I waited until the scab had been living for about four days before I got back into using it. This was also a good way of slowly introducing exfoliating properties back into my routine post-disaster. This mask is also great for helping hyperpigmentation, so you should use it when the worst of the scab is over.

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My Post-Pimple-Popping (Scar-Preventing) Skin-Care Routine