How to Bring Skin Boils to a Head

A painful, red lump on the surface of your skin could be a boil, which is an infection that begins when staphylococcal bacteria enters the body through a hair follicle 3. As pus forms under the boil, it becomes softer but more painful. You can use several strategies to bring the boil to a head and relieve yourself of the painful, unsightly lump.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Typical Home Remedy

Soak a washcloth in warm salt water. Ensure that the water isn’t so hot that it will damage or irritate your skin. Apply the compress to the boil. The heat will both stimulate the pus to move toward the top of the boil and temporarily relieve your pain. Wash the washcloth between uses so you don’t worsen the infection. Do this for several minutes each day or whenever you need the pain relief. Within 10 days, the pus will begin to drain from the boil.

Medical Procedure

If your boil is especially painful or large, make an appointment with your doctor. The doctor can safely make an incision at the top of the boil to speed up the drainage and recovery process. Never attempt to make an incision on the boil by yourself. You can only irritate or even spread the infection. In some cases, you might also end up scarring the skin. The doctor will be equipped with everything needed to prevent further infections and reduce scarring.


Topical creams, such as or polymyxin or clindamycin, might help bring a boil to a head if used early on. Penicillin based antibiotics, such as flucloxacillin, may also help reduce the severity of the infection. If you are allergic to penicillin, medications containing dicloxacillin or cephalexin may substitute 3. Always consult with your doctor to see if prescription drugs are necessary to treat your skin infection. The doctor might suggest that these antibiotics be used in lieu of or after an incision on the boil.

Herbal Remedies

Herbal remedies might also be able to bring your boil to a head. For example, the detoxifying properties of dandelion petals mixed with warm water may aid your recovery. Drink a cup of this mixture daily. Other herbal remedies include echinacea, which strengthens the immune system, and goldenseal, which can help your body fight off bacteria that causes the boil. Ask your doctor about these potential remedies.