Skin Sin #5

Skin Sin #5: Picking Your Skin

Picking at your skin or popping pimples can be almost impossible to resist. Don’t give into temptation! Picking or popping can be dangerous, in fact, it can lead to the spread of bacteria, scarring and can delay your skin’s natural healing process.

I was recently talking with a patient whose face had markedly improved since her last visit. When I asked her what had changed she said, “You were right, and I finally took your advice. That made all the difference.” The advice was.... hid your magnifying mirror!

1. You can make the inflammation worse. When you're dying to pop that pimple, it's usually because of how it looks, right? But unfortunately, picking and poking just make its appearance worse. "When you 'pop' your own acne lesions, you are at risk for more inflammation," says Dr. Julia Tzu. All that pressing and pulling on your pimple just damages the skin around it, causing more redness and swelling in the long run.

2. You can cause scabs. You know what's harder to cover than a pimple? A scab! When you pop a pimple, you're releasing puss (ew), which then scabs over, and tempts you to pick at that scab. It's a vicious cycle! And scabs are almost impossible to cover with concealer. Instead, treat your pimple with acne medication, and use a little makeup to cover it up correctly.

3. You might leave behind scars. "Having a professional help you with your acne lesion is important, because sterile equipment and expertise are utilized to prevent unnecessary scarring," says Dr. Tzu. So, it's not that pimples can never be popped; it's that you shouldn't be popping them, because doing so can result in serious scarring. A derm will make sure the correct pressure is used around all sides of the pimple to minimize it.

4. Picking can cause discoloration. In addition to scarring, your skin can actually change colors around your acne. It's called Post Inflammatory Hyper-pigmentation. PIH is not a scar, but rather a flat area that's a bit darker than the skin around it. The more inflamed the pimple, the more likely you are to develop PIH. Luckily, the discoloration does go back to normal over time, but it can take up to two years.

5. Picking can lead to infection. Dirty hands, dirty tools, and even just a non-sterile space like your bathroom at home can lead to an infection. When you pop a pimple, you're actually tearing at the skin, leaving it open to bacteria.

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