Should I Pop My Pimples?

Resist the temptation to pop these juicy

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Many people are tempted to pop their pimples because their acne bumps are red, painful, and noticeable. Rather than making the bumps go away faster, squeezing will likely cause more harm to your skin.  

Popping pimples may temporarily make the bumps less noticeable, but a more severe inflammation is likely to happen within a few days. When a pimple is squeezed, poked, or pricked, the pressure causes the oil and hair glands to rupture. When this happens, the gland’s contents,  keratin, sebum, hair, bacterial material, and yeast material, are spilled into the surrounding skin.[1] As a result, you could introduce new kinds of bacteria from your finger to your pimple.

The body’s immune system then tries to clean up the spillage by bringing a deeper and more severe inflammatory reaction.[1] The inflammation tells the body to repair the damage by forming more collagen, [2,3] a fibrous protein that forms scars. However, repaired skin is never the same as undamaged skin.

During skin healing, the body may produce too much collagen, and form a firm, bumpy scar called the hypertrophic or keloid scar.[2,4] More commonly, there is an overall loss of tissue under the skin, causing a depressed or atrophic scar.[2,4] 

 

What Else Can Happen if I Pop My Pimples?

Inflammation resulting from pimple popping may  cause skin pigment changes, even after the skin has healed,. This is known as post-inflammatory pigmentation. The skin can  be darker, lighter, or redder than the adjacent skin,[5,6] and may take weeks or months to fade away. This is especially bothersome to those that have darker skin and tend to make more pigment. Additionally, when the inflammation cannot adequately clean up the debris from acne spillage, inflammatory cells try to form a “wall” or cyst to prevent further spillage. Cysts typically do not resolve on their own, and may become inflamed again in the future creating more scarring.[7,8] 

If popping inflamed acne bumps are not good for you, how about squeezing white heads and black heads?White heads and black heads are called comedones. They form because the oil glands are clogged and the oil content is not able to release through the pores. In fact, comedones are often early stages of a pimple.

White heads and black heads are called comedones. They form because the oil glands are clogged and the oil content is not able to release through the pores. In fact, comedones are often early stages of a pimple.[9] If you squeeze comedones, the contents may spill out, and go through a similar process as squeezing acne bumps. This results in turning a comedone into an inflamed pimple, which may cause more scarring. Using  a comedone-extractor, a tool used to remove blemishes, may cause bruising and pigment changes on the skin. And if the tools are not properly cleaned, they can introduce microbes and cause skin infection.

 

What Options Are There for Stubborn Pimples?

Leave your pimples alone and do not squeeze them.. Most of the time, acne lesions will heal  within 3-7 days. If popped improperly, a pimple can linger for weeks and cause more scarring. Over the counter benzoyl peroxide or tea tree oil preparations can be applied to pimples to help them fade faster, although the tea tree oil may work a little slower.[10] 

 

What Are Some Tips for Acne Scar Prevention?

  • Resist the temptation to pick or squeeze pimples.
  • Avoid using tools at home to “treat” your pimples
  • Do not pick a scab off a wound before it is ready, because this will cause the wound to take longer to heal. 
  • Even with the most careful treatment and prevention, you may still develop acne scars. Studies have shown that the longer and more severe the inflammation, the higher risk for scarring. Therefore, avoid popping pimples and treat early inflammation in acne lesions to help prevent scarring.[3] Talk to a qualified healthcare practitioner early about acne treatments to prevent scarring.

 

* This Website is for general skin beauty, wellness, and health information only. This Website is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. The information provided on this Website should never be used to disregard, delay, or refuse treatment or advice from a physician or a qualified health provider.

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References

​1.    Kurokawa I, Danby FW, Ju Q, et al. New developments in our understanding of acne pathogenesis and treatment. Exp Dermatol.2009;18(10):821-832; PMID: 19555434.

2.    Jacob CI, Dover JS, Kaminer MS. Acne scarring: a classification system and review of treatment options. J Am Acad Dermatol.2001;45(1):109-117; PMID: 11423843.

3.    Holland DB, Jeremy AH, Roberts SG, et al. Inflammation in acne scarring: a comparison of the responses in lesions from patients prone and not prone to scar. Br J Dermatol.2004;150(1):72-81; PMID: 14746619.

4.    Fabbrocini G, Annunziata MC, D'Arco V, et al. Acne scars: pathogenesis, classification and treatment. Dermatol Res Pract.2010;2010:893080; PMID: 20981308.

5.    Kundu RV, Patterson S. Dermatologic conditions in skin of color: part I. Special considerations for common skin disorders. Am Fam Physician.2013;87(12):850-856; PMID: 23939567.

6.    Davis EC, Callender VD. A review of acne in ethnic skin: pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and management strategies. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol.2010;3(4):24-38; PMID: 20725545.

7.    Oberemok SS, Shalita AR. Acne vulgaris, I: pathogenesis and diagnosis. Cutis.2002;70(2):101-105; PMID: 12234155.

8.    Winston MH, Shalita AR. Acne vulgaris. Pathogenesis and treatment. Pediatr Clin North Am.1991;38(4):889-903; PMID: 1831256.

9.    Cunliffe WJ, Holland DB, Jeremy A. Comedone formation: etiology, clinical presentation, and treatment. Clin Dermatol.2004;22(5):367-374; PMID: 15556720.

10.    Bassett IB, Pannowitz DL, Barnetson RS. A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne. Med J Aust.1990;153(8):455-458; PMID: 2145499.