The 8 Emotional Stages of Popping a Zit

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as popping a zit. We all know you’re not supposed to touch it—let alone squeeze it—but sometimes you just can’t keep your hands off. (And yet rarely does the outcome exceed your expectations.) Here, the eight stages of popping (or attempting to not pop) a zit:

1. Determination
You feel or see the intruder unassumingly cropping up—right now it’s a faint red and/or slightly tender to the touch. Don’t panic; there’s nothing to see here…yet. You steadfastly vow, “I will not pop this zit. I will not touch this zit. Where’s my concealer with that acid zit-fixer stuff in it?” Proceed with caution: Things are only going to get worse.

2. Obsession
You’re pulling the mirror on the flip-down sun visor in your car at every red light. Is this pimple really that obvious? You dab on a little more makeup. Maybe it’s way worse in your head…or in this harsh sunshine. You get to your destination and check your compact one last time. You’ve put so much concealer and powder on at this point that you’re actually piling more dirt into this already inflamed pore. Out of options, you face the world looking like you’ve just hit puberty, despite being a grown ass adult woman.

3. Pain
Even though you swore you wouldn’t, your hands keep finding their way to your chin (or nose, jawline, or eyebrow—acne has no mercy). Does it feel like it’s getting bigger? Yes, it’s definitely getting bigger. Ouch, it hurts more, too. Okay, you weren’t going to pop it, but when this face invasion starts to get painful and overwhelm the rest of your face, you have to do something, right?

4. Denial
You graze the acne pressure point with the slightest of grips. Maybe this is just a tiny whitehead that will disappear just as quickly as it arrived after it releases some cringe-worthy puss? Just dispose of it before anything gets out of hand, cover the damage with a little makeup, and then be on your way. This is also called the serious denial phase.

5. Cockiness
All right, you’ve gotta nip this zit in the bud. You decide to play dermatologist and take matters into your own (probably dirty, so wash them before touching your face, okay?) hands. You run a washcloth under hot water and gently press it against the offender. If you can just get it to a whitehead, you can use two Q-tips to extract this clogged pore, flatten the surface again, and put this whole mess behind you. You’ve got this.

6. Anger
You’ve abandoned any barriers between your fingers and the pimple. In full-blown attack mode, you are squeezing the living sh*t out of this thing, and it refuses to dislodge itself from your skin. Now it’s bigger, redder, and somehow angrier than when you started this whole process. All the concealer in the world will not cover this up—you’ve created a monster.

7. Disappointment
After taking five, you finally manage to break the surface. The removal is not nearly as gratifying as you thought it would be, and now you’ve got a puss and/or blood situation on your hands (literally). Is it too late to apply the acne medication—the one you should have put on originally before deciding to do the job of a professional on your own with no training? You put an ice pack to the zit, cursing yourself for not having the discipline to leave it alone, all while praying to the cosmetic gods this won’t leave a scar.

8. Regret
Are you happy now? It may no longer be a palpable bump, but it’s red and sore and probably still leaking fluid (gross, we know). Keep putting on the medicine, and avoid makeup, which will only make things worse. Let this be a lesson: Do not engage with those little suckers!

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