Have you ever watched Dr Pimple Popper’s videos? I watch them with a combination of disgust and fascination. It looks so satisfying! All that jet-propelled pus squirting out! Squeezing your own spots “until they bleed” seems like a brilliant way to get rid of the problem until the aftermath of the little self-surgery episode looks more like you’ve been hit by a bus, in the face, repeatedly…
I have made a mess of a perfectly calm looking blemish MANY times. I’ve also squeezed deep, miserable acne in desperation to get them to DIE. The only results were red, inflamed bumps that throbbed, scabs, craters and hyperpigmentation. Take it from me, you do NOT want to squeeze your spots.
We all want lovely healthy skin. Having acne does not mean that you are dirty or that you don’t take care of your skin. Just the opposite sometimes. It is a medical condition that needs intensive treatment. Some of us don’t even notice that we are picking or the sheer frustration keeps us punishing ourselves and our skin. Be gentle and kind to yourself.
What is acne and how does it form?
Comedones are hair follicles that have become clogged with sebum and dead skin cells. Sometimes bacteria will cause infection and the blocked pore becomes red and painfully inflamed as the body’s immune response tries to deal with the infection.
Acne can be caused by a wide range of things from hormones to diet, to cosmetics to repeated irritation from clothing. Your dermatologist will ask you many lifestyle questions to determine where your acne is coming from.
Whiteheads: A little sack containing oil, dead skin cells and in some cases pus forms just under the skin surface. (closed comedones)
Blackheads: The pore becomes blocked but stays open at the surface. Exposure to oxygen causes the sebum and skin cell blockage to darken. (open comedones)
The following types of blemishes are serious and should be treated by a dermatologist if they show up frequently or in large numbers:
Pustules are inflamed comedones that are filled with white or yellow pus. They generally have a red ring around them and they can be painful. They look like large, inflamed whiteheads.
Papules are comedones that become inflamed. They tend to be red and painful. They don’t usually have a visible centre or whitehead.
Cysts are large, pus-filled legions that are similar to boils. They are quite likely to cause scarring and should always be treated by a doctor or dermatologist.
Nodules are large inflamed bumps under the skin. They tend to be red and painful without a white or yellow head. They are hard and deep under the skin.
Why you really, really shouldn’t squeeze your spots
Very Good Reason #1: Spreading infection
There are several ways that you can spread infection by squeezing your spots but here are a few common ones. Number one, the actual blemish may contain bacteria. When you pop it you could smear the pus around and infect other pores. More spots will form around the original.
Second, when squeezing, you can also spread the infection by forcing the pus and bacteria deeper into the pore and surrounding tissues. What comes out may only be a small amount of what is actually hiding in there. Worst case scenario, you rupture the wall of the pore by applying too much pressure and the infection spreads into surrounding tissues.
Third, darling, your hands are not surgical tools and they are not as clean as you think. You can add bacteria and dirt into an already sensitive area. As a rule of thumb, it is best not to touch your face without washing your hands first, never mind squeezing and scratching at a blemish with dirty nails and fingers.
Excellent Reason #2: Creating wounds and scabs on your skin
When you “pop” a blemish you actually tear the skin surface. The pore opening is sometimes completely blocked. By applying a lot of pressure to the spot you rupture the skin and force the contents out. This leaves a little tear in the skin that can become infected. Chances are also pretty good that the broken skin will weep and form a scab because it is inflamed. Most people don’t leave that little scab alone either.
Some people also scratch the “head” off of a pimple and leave a hole in the skin that can easily become infected. How is this a better look than just having a spot on your face? Digging the nails in “under” the edges of the spot, trying to force the “gunk” out is another home extraction method that will leave you with little cuts on either side of the spot and more redness.
Brilliant reason #3: Pitting or scarring
Scarring is the body’s natural response to trauma or wounds. Acne can damage the skin and cause either raised scars when too much collagen is produced or pitting/indentations if there isn’t enough.
Deep cysts and nodules may cause scarring without any squeezing at all because they affect the deeper layers of the skin.
When you repeatedly squeeze an inflamed spot, you may damage the deeper layers of the skin and cause wounds. You may also spread infection which can inflame more and more of the surrounding tissue. This will also cause scarring or pitting. If you leave it alone you may only end up with hyperpigmentation but repeated trauma can cause deeper scarring.
Pitting can be treated with specialised laser therapy, chemical peels or dermal fillers but it’s an expensive process. Might just be better to leave your spots alone and get treatment.
Seriously Brilliant Reason #4: Postinflammatory Hyper-pigmentation
Inflammation causes the body to produce excess melanin in the infected area. It’s a natural response but the more you annoy the area by squeezing and scratching, the more damage you do and the more melanin gets deposited. Some heavily inflamed pustules, cysts and nodules will leave pigmentation anyway that will have to be treated, but by squeezing and scratching you will make it all worse. Keep your hands off and go see a dermatologist. They will diagnose the cause of your breakouts and prescribe the appropriate treatment to minimise inflammation and treat any pigmentation issues.
The most basic but epically awesome reason #5: A bright red oozing mountain on your face
Explain to me how having a swollen, inflamed, bleeding or oozing mountain on your face is less noticeable than a simple spot? Why would you want to look like you are growing another head on your chin?
I understand that it’s desperation, that having a white head full of pus on your face makes you feel gross or self-conscious. People may think that you don’t take care of your skin or that you are dirty, so you squeeze, scratch and fuss until the whole area is bright red and inflamed. When you’ve scratched all the skin off and squeezed the area to death, you are just stuck with a red wound or scab anyway. Doesn’t REALLY look any better, does it?
There you go gorgeous. Some very good reasons to keep your mitts off. My best advice, find a dermatologist to help you develop a skincare regime to heal your skin and stick to it like your dermis depends on it.