Does Popping Pimples Increase Chances of Scars?
Zits. We all get them (or have gotten them at some point in our lives). As teenagers, they seem to be the inevitable thing that's renowned for showing up on special occasions, like picture day or the night of your big date. Some of us are lucky enough to get through those turbulent years rather unscathed from scars (at least, the kind that can be seen with the naked eye). Others, however, are left to deal with tricky skin conditions their whole lives. No matter how old you are when those unwanted welts appear on your face, the temptation to pop pimples is always there. If you could bear the pain just a little longer and give it just one more squeeze, the pain and tears will be worth it to be blemish-free, right?
Not so fast!
Resist the temptation to pop your zits just a little longer as we explore the potential side effects that can happen when you're too hasty with your hands.
What is a Pimple, Anyway?
Pimples are the manifestation of built-up bacteria, dirt, and skin oils that began to accumulate below the skin's surface, deep inside the pores. When the bacteria starts growing its own colony of friends in that fragile area, it turns into a germ-infested infection zone. As with any other infection, the body sends cells to combat the unwanted material, sending the area into an unsightly, swollen whitehead, filled with puss and surrounded by inflammation and pain.
As your brain deals with the intensifying discomfort—and your eyes struggle to accept the image that looks back at you in the mirror—it seems only natural to try to expedite the process and eliminate this ugly feature before it can go even more rogue on your face. Popping your pimple should do the trick, then your skin will go back to normal and you can carry on with life as you knew it before this blemish appeared.
Well, not quite.
Yes, popping your pimple will be a quick solution to the unwanted puss that's imparted itself on your face, but there are repercussions far beyond the tear-jerking pain you should consider before you put your fingertips to work.
What Happens When You Pop a Pimple?
As mentioned previously, your pimple is a world filled with bad bacteria. By simply squeezing your skin together to pop your zit, you're inviting all of that bacteria to flow over your uninfected skin, enabling it to work its way into previously unaffected pores, which often results in the growth of more zits. If that's not enough to sway you away from this bad habit, consider the way you're impacting the area that's directly impacted by the situation. When you squeeze a pimple, you may be relieving some pressure when the liquid comes to the surface, but you're also forcing bad stuff deep down into your skin at the same time.
Your body is an amazing resource when bad things happen to it, including pimples. Once you relieve the pressure by popping your pimple, you'll leave a crater in your skin, which your body will consider a wound. This causes your body to amp up its collagen production to bridge the gaps in the skin and help it heal. The problem is, when the collagen fills the crater, it ends up caving back into the skin when the inflammation settles down. The end result is a sunken-in acne scar that's permanently placed on your face.
Unfortunately, the scarring isn't the only negative effect to popping pimples. Some people's skin is even able to bounce back from the concave effect that happens after the collagen is produced, but this area remains scar tissue, and scar tissue has a tendency to form irregular pigmentation (dark spots) that can be extremely difficult to eliminate.
A Skin-Safe Way to Eliminate Pimples
Always start with clean hands. Many people make the mistake of popping pimples without thoroughly sanitizing their hands. Unfortunately, your hands are ghastly breeding grounds for some pretty gross bacteria, and if you don't take care to remove that dirt before you touch your face, you're asking for even more trouble as far as your skin is concerned. Everything you touch throughout the day—from door handles to keyboards to mobile phones—is covered in nasty ingredients you don't want anywhere near your fragile facial skin. You should never even inspect your blemishes (or any other body part) before first consulting a squirt of antibacterial soap.
With a freshly cleaned set of hands, follow these steps:
- Wipe the area with rubbing alcohol. Avoid ingredients that can be ultra-drying, such as benzoyl peroxide. You need ingredients that will sanitize the skin without causing the inflamed area to become flaky, dry, and irritated.
- Apply a steaming-hot washcloth directly to the affected area. Be careful not to burn yourself, but get a clean cloth as hot as you can possibly stand it. The heat will allow the skin to relax and invite the pore to open up naturally, which is something it won't be doing if you're squeezing.
- Rub the pimple gently with your index finger through the hot washcloth. Don't squeeze or force it. This will enable the infected fluid to escape directly onto your washcloth, rather than finding its way into other pores on your skin.
- Dip a cotton swab into a natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory solution and rub it gently over the newly opened wound.
- Avoid ointments, as they may cause further clogging of your pores, which can result in even more blemishes.
- Repeat the process several times over the next day or two to ensure the bad bacteria is well managed.
What to Do if You Have Acne Scars
For some people, this advice may be one of those hindsight-is-twenty-twenty moments. Your pimple days may have occurred long ago, and now you're just left with the results of pimple-ravished skin. If that's the case, you're not required to put up with your scars or brownish blemishes. Before you do anything, consult with a dermatologist. Dermatologists are skincare experts who are skilled at everything involving your epidermis. He or she can recommend treatment options that will be ideal for your unique situation. Some solutions might include:
- Dermabrasion. If you have scars left over from acne, dermabrasion can help rejuvenate the skin by deeply exfoliating the top layer of skin and bolstering the turnover and growth of healthy new cells. While at-home kits are available, this type of procedure is best administered by a skincare professional.
- Skin Peels. The idea of a skin peel is to remove the top layer of skin by way of a strong acid. Again, this type of procedure can be performed at home, but if you're not willing to risk the results, seek the advice of an expert.
- Lasers. Laser treatments aren't particularly effective on people with darker skin tones, and people who still have breakouts should avoid them. This method is best for people with lighter skin tones who are trying to remove the signs of old scarring or pigmentation from years gone by.
- Retinoids. Topical retinoids can help reduce discoloration by speeding up cell regeneration. You can purchase retinoids online or in stores, but it's best to get them from an esthetician or dermatologist to ensure the ingredients do what the manufacturer says they'll do. Be sure to wear sunscreen if you're using retinoids , as your skin can become particularly sensitive to the sun.
How do you battle facial blemishes? Do you have a go-to product that's proven itself worthy of your sensitive facial skin? Do you have a remedy that works when you need to keep your hands away from your face? Have you compiled a cleansing regimen that keeps bad bacteria at bay so you don't have to worry about zits? Share your secrets in the comments section below!