We’ve all been there. There is a giant pimple on your face, just begging you to pop it. It’s taunting you, calling you just to give it a quick squeeze, but according to dermatologists, it’s best not to mess with it!
When you give in to the temptation and pop that pimple, several events occur. The pus that oozes out of the pimple typically ends up on other pores and can lead to even more pimples. When you pick and prod at your pimples, you are actually forcing the bacteria deeper into your skin and introducing all kinds of new bacteria into the area. The picking also inflames and irritates the skin and makes the pimple appear worse.
What the expert says
“It is never a good idea to pop your pimples,” said Dr. Christina Mitchell from Dermatology Specialists of Gainesville. “Every time a pimple is squeezed, there is a chance that the pimple could rupture into the dermis and subcutaneous fat, creating an abscess which can, in turn, cause a scar.”
If you are able to leave the pimple alone, it will typically heal in three to seven days, but when you mess with could take weeks to heal and could potentially cause scarring.
According to Mitchell, acne is caused by four factors. It is caused by abnormal follicular keratinization, or sticky skin cells; hormones that contribute to sebum production; bacteria that thrive
in a sebum rich environment and can build up in the pores and inflammation; and the body’s response to free fatty acids and ruptured hair follicles.
Acne typically starts during puberty between the ages of 10 and 13 due to the hormonal changes that occur and tends to be worse in people who have oily skin. Acne occurs in both genders and is prevalent over a period of five to ten years. However, teens aren’t the only ones who suffer from acne. A recent clinical study found that between 40 and 55% of adults, ages 20 to 40, are diagnosed with low-grade persistent acne. Thankfully, research shows there are a number of factors that can help control and even prevent acne.
“We have reason to believe that simple sugars/carbohydrates and dairy (particularly when containing foods and drinks) contribute to acne,” Mitchell said.
A healthy diet is essential in controlling acne. Certain foods can raise your blood sugar more quickly than others and cause your body to release insulin. When there is excess insulin in the bloodstream, oil glands produce more oil, which increases the risk of acne. Foods that increase insulin levels are called “high-glycemic” carbohydrates and are foods such as pasta, white rice, sugar and white bread.
In contrast, low-glycemic index foods, such as legumes and unprocessed fruits and vegetables may reduce acne lesions. Foods that contain antioxidants, zinc and vitamin A and E may also be beneficial for your skin because they reduce inflammation. Some of the best foods for your skin are tomatoes, nuts, salmon, blueberries and yellow and orange fruits, so look out for those next time you’re at the grocery store!
Even with all of this knowledge, fighting the temptation to pop the next pimple will probably still be a struggle because the urge to pop is instinctual. There are many theories on why we have such a hard time keeping from popping our pimples. Picking at a pimple can give people an immediate sense of gratification which then releases the neurochemical dopamine. People with OCD tend to have a harder time staying away from picking because the urge to go back for that gratification is stronger. There is also an inherent compulsion to keep the skin smooth. Popping pimples often offers temporary relief from stress and anxiety and can become addicting.
“It is hard to ignore a bad pimple,” Dr. Mitchell said. “Anyone who has walked around with a big zit can tell you that it can be distracting and thought consuming (especially if they hurt). I like to joke with patients that 95% of my patients are “pickers,” and the other 5% are liars… admitting is the first step to recovery.”
Popping your own pimples is one thing, but with the introduction of Dr. Sandra Lee or Dr. Pimple Popper’s YouTube channel, the obsession of watching other people pop pimples has grown at a rapid rate. The channel has more than 5.5 million subscribers, and people have strong opinions about her videos displaying popping pimples, slicing cysts and extracting blackheads. Whether that is people loving the videos or hating it, the reactions people have to the videos are what makes the channel so popular!
Watching pimple popping videos is like popping your pimples by proxy without doing any of the damage to your skin. Some people have also compared it to watching a scary movie or riding a roller coaster; there is a sense of excitement and euphoria when you watch an especially satisfactory extraction.
More than 50 million Americans have acne, and almost all of them have the desire to pick and prod at their pimples! However, remember to keep those hands off of your face, and if you are struggling, try tuning in to Dr. Sandra Lee.