An infected zit or pimple occurs when the pressure of squeezing or popping forces dirt, debris and bacteria deeper into the skin. Pimples are defined as small, localized infections of the oil glands, usually due to over-activity and bacteria.
The act of popping a pimple tears open the skin, increasing the risk of infection and exposing an open wound to bacteria from the hands or environment. Infected pimples and zits can lead to scarring; however, in worst-case scenarios, an infection can travel to the sinus cavities and result in paralysis, vision loss or even death.
The visible pustule of a pimple contains the oil, debris and bacteria, keeping them from spreading. When a pimple is popped, the contents of the pustule are allowed to spread over the skin, increasing the risk of more acne or pimples. A single pimple rarely lasts more than three to seven days, but attempting to pop it can cause one to linger for weeks or months.
If attempting to pop a pimple, wait until a firm white head is visible through the skin. Sterilize a needle and the pimple, then gently pierce the center of the pimple with the needle. Press around the zit but do not force the pus out. Clean the area afterward.