Everyone is guilty of being a zit popper at some point. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), “acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting approximately 40 to 50 million Americans annually.” While it’s incredibly common, it can also be really painful, uncomfortable and traumatizing. Our teenage self is nodding in agreement, probably piling on the cover up and zit cream. So what exactly is acne? And what causes those pesky pimples we hate so much? The AAD explains that acne is defined as “a chronic inflammatory skin condition, [that] is characterized by comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), pimples, and deeper lumps (cysts or nodules) that occur on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, and upper arms.” Your zits could be caused by everything from hormonal changes to stress to genetics.
As anyone who has ever had an embarrassingly large pimple knows, it is oh-so-tempting to squeeze that sucker until it pops. Not only is it a satisfying way to get out your frustration (about your acne or maybe about your day) but it also seems like a simple way to eradicate that pimple for good. Or at least, so you think. While there may be a channel of zit-popping videos on YouTube—yes, you heard that correctly—the frightening reality is that popping zits is a bad idea. If it is done correctly (aka, by a dermatologist) it can have the desired effect of helping a zit heal faster. But done wrong, popping a pimple can have serious repercussions. Here are 5 horrifying reasons to stop being a zit popper now.
1. Makes it Worse
While you think that popping a zit will make it go away faster, you might actually be making the problem worse. Sure, you might relieve the pressure caused by your pimple, and you may make the puss disappear, but that relief will be temporary. Squeezing pimples is aggravating the blemish more than it is healing it. In fact, Georgetown University Health Education Services reports, “soon after popping, a pimple will reappear, often with increased redness or irritation.” So while you think you’re doing yourself a favor, you’re actually making that zit more noticeable and more irritated. Bleeding may occur, which is not pretty, and in general that zit will stick around a lot longer than if you had just left it alone in the first place.
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2. Scarring Can Occur
Dermatologist, Jeanine B. Downie, M.D., explains that popping pimples is never a good idea, because “it usually exacerbates the problem and can leave you with scars.” The scarring occurs because when you pop a zit you are actually breaking your skin in order to let the puss and gunk out of the zit. Like any other scrape or cut, when you break your skin you could cause redness and irritation, which could lead to permanent pocks and marks. And while we’re sure you don’t really want a mortifying pimple, we’re also certain that a scar that lasts forever is worse.
3. You Could introduce Bacteria to Your Skin
Being a zit popper means you are literally ripping your skin in an effort to get rid of what lies beneath the zit’s surface. You are not making that pimple better, but instead you are damaging your skin and opening the affected area wider, which makes it pretty easy for bacteria to sneak in. Popping zits, “can push pimples deeper into your skin, causing more inflammation,” explains Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., dermatologist in New York City.
4. You Could Suffer from a Serious Infection
Most infected zits are unfortunate to look at, uncomfortable and annoying to wear around all day. But in some rare cases, if you pop a pimple in the “Danger Triangle” of your face (the skin around your nose and upper lip) you could do far more damage than a little inflammation. Dermatologist, Cynthia Bailey, M.D., explains, “the blood vessels here communicate directly with blood vessels in your brain. If the pus of an infected zit goes down into your skin instead of coming out to the surface here, you could have a much more serious problem than just acne–the deeper tissue infection can spread to the brain, where it can lead to a very rare condition called a cavernous sinus thrombosis.” It sounds scary and it is. This serious infection can lead to loss of neurological damage and even death in very severe cases. It’s incredibly rare, but still something to be aware of.
5. Your Skin Could be Permanently Damaged
As far as the surface damage of incorrectly popping a pimple, you could suffer permanent scars and pock marks that last far longer than your teenage awkward years. Even if you take really good care of your complexion, popping a pimple wrong could cause unflattering marks that are irreversible. No one wants to look in the mirror and see reminders of their time spent squeezing the heck out of their face. When you see a zit and you want to attack that sucker, resist the urge and think about the big picture and the future of your beautiful face.