Blisters are both painful and unsightly. Whether you developed this uncomfortable skin lesion while getting burned, or after wearing ill-fitting shoes, you’re probably wondering one thing: Should you pop it?
It’s always best to consult with a specialist to learn more about how to properly treat your skin. However, the research says that in most cases—you shouldn't pop that blister. Let’s uncover why you shouldn't pop your blisters and explore scientifically-backed methods for blister prevention and treatment.
Blisters are small pockets of fluid that can form anywhere on your body after your skin faces damage. When a blister forms, fluid collects under your injured skin, protecting the tissues underneath from further harm.¹
Identifying the type of blister you have is important for proper treatment. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of blisters.
Fever blisters—also known as cold sores—are painful liquid-filled sores that form around the outside of your lips and mouth. These blisters are caused by the HSV virus and are very contagious.²
These prominent skin lesions are sometimes mistaken for canker sores. However, fever blisters occur outside your mouth, whereas non-viral canker sores only appear inside your mouth.
The good news is fever blisters typically go away on their own. However, your doctor may prescribe an oral or topical antiviral medication to reduce pain and speed up your recovery. You must not pop these blisters. Why? Popping a fever blister can increase your risk of infection, increase pain, and further irritate your skin.³
Here’s the good news. You can prevent them by managing their triggers, like sun exposure. By reducing your sun exposure and wearing sunscreen, you can reduce your likelihood of getting fever blisters, and keep your skin healthy.⁴
Friction blisters mostly appear on your feet and (as their name suggests) are caused by continuous friction in these areas.⁵
Common activities that cause friction blisters include:
Wearing ill-fitting shoes or clothing that keep rubbing against your skin
Sweating excessively and leaving your skin damp
Carrying heavy weight while moving
To prevent a friction blister from worsening, you must protect and cover the area using a padded bandage.⁶ Wearing moleskin can help prevent friction blisters because this fabric reduces the potential of skin damage by dispersing the load across a larger surface area.⁷
While tempting, you should avoid popping your painful blister so it does not get infected. However, if the blister is about to burst or is extremely uncomfortable, you should see a healthcare provider right away so they can drain the blister in a sterile and controlled environment.
Blood blisters are almost identical to friction blisters—with one main exception: they are filled with blood instead of clear fluid. These blisters form when your lower layer of skin is damaged through some form of impact, but your skin does not break open.⁸
You may develop blood blisters by getting pinched, or stubbing your toe. If you’re an athlete or dancer, you’re no stranger to these blood-filled pockets.
Like fever and friction blisters, blood blisters also generally heal on their own within a week. You can speed up your recovery by keeping the area clean and dry. Using antibacterial cream can help prevent infection.
The skin over your blood blister may look unsightly, but it protects your skin from getting infected. You should never try to peel it off or pop it.
Burn blisters may develop over a mild or severe burn to protect it from further damage and infection. It is always best to leave your blister alone until the burn underneath heals properly.
You can apply an antibiotic ointment to the burn, and cover the burn with a sterile dressing to prevent infection. You should see a healthcare provider right away if the burn is over four inches long, very painful, or you notice signs of infection.⁹
Much like popping a pimple, popping a blister disrupts the natural healing process and is often unnecessarily harsh on your skin. Most blisters will heal on their own within a few days and should be left alone.
You should see a doctor right away if:¹⁰
You notice signs of infection such as swelling, redness or pus
Your blister persists for longer than a few weeks
You develop a fever
Your doctor may drain your blood or friction blister, or recommend antivirals for fever blisters.¹¹
Blisters act as a barrier against bacteria and protect your wound while new skin forms below undisturbed. You should never pop a fever blister since the virus can easily spread. Burn blisters should also generally be left alone so your skin underneath can heal properly. It is always best to consult with a skincare provider before taking action regarding any concerns regarding your skin.
Have questions about any other skin concerns? Curology is here to help! When you sign up for Curology, you can get a personalized skincare routine created and powered by licensed dermatology providers, who can answer any of your skincare questions. Sign up here for a 30-day trial.*
The fluid in your blister helps protect the area of injury. This clear liquid is filled with proteins and growth factors which help increase blood flow and immune activity so your skin heals properly.¹²
Popping or draining a blister can lead to infection and should be avoided. If your blister is large and very painful, you should seek medical advice as it may be necessary to drain the blister.¹³
No, blisters do not usually heal faster if you pop them. In fact, popping them can prolong your healing process since more bacteria can get in and cause an infection.
Nidirect. Blisters. (n.d.).
National Institutes of Health. Fever Blisters & Canker Sores. (2021, September).
Nidirect. Blisters. Ibid.
National Institutes of Health. Fever Blisters & Canker Sores. Ibid.
Rushton, R., and Richie, D. (2023). Friction blisters: A new paradigm to explain causation. Journal of Athletic Training. (2023, January 23).
Cleveland Clinic. Blisters: Causes, Treatment, Prevention. (2021, April 30).
Rushton, R.J. Exploring the Mechanism for Blister Prevention Using Moleskin. Current Sports Medicine Reports. (November 2020).
Pathology Outlines. Blood blister. (2020, November 11).
NIH News in Health. Learn About Burn Care. (September 2021).
BetterHealth. Blisters. (2020, January 6).
NIH. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Cold sores: Overview. (2018, July 12).
Gupta, S., et al. Role of Burn Blister Fluid in Wound Healing. Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery. (July-September 2021).
American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to prevent and treat blisters. (n.d.).
Melissa Hunter is a board certified family nurse practitioner at Curology. She received her MSN from George Washington University in Washington, DC.
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Melissa Hunter, NP-C