Why Can't We Squeeze Acne?
There are many different types of acne lesions, some more noticeable than others. Whiteheads and blackheads, the two types of acne comedones, are generally less conspicuous, presenting in the form of skin-color bumps or small blackened pores. The pustule, a dome-shaped lesion with a pus-filled cap, is one pimple that begs to be popped. But medical experts from the American Academy of Dermatology and Mayo Clinic advise that no matter how much you're tempted, it's best to avoid squeezing acne lesions.
The AAD lists four factors that contribute to acne lesions. Excess oil produced by the sebaceous glands is one. Dead skin cells shed within the hair follicle is another. Then there's the bacteria, P. acnes, that resides on the skin. When pores become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, bacteria trapped inside the follicle compounds the problem, reproducing and causing inflammation and infection. The AAD states that most pustules heal without progressing to the more severe form of acne, like cysts and nodules, which form deeper beneath the skin's surface.
A common myth is that squeezing acne will cause the pimple to heal faster. Some argue that pimples can be popped "safely" using the tip of a sterilized needle and then applying pressure to the each side of the lesion with the fingertips, gently massaging the white material out of the pimple core. However, if you do this, the AAD and Mayo Clinic warn that the lesion may become more deeply infected. Your skin may even scar.
Squeezing acne lesions can force infection deeper into your skin, warns the AAD, and this applies to whiteheads and blackheads too. Additionally, you can further injure your skin by manually picking at acne lesions, causing it to become infected with other types of bacteria, such as staphylococci or streptococci. Mayo Clinic experts advise not resting your face on your hands and keeping your hair away from your face as well. Even placing your face against a phone receiver can exacerbate acne, as can wearing hats and caps, which trap sweat.
Deep cysts may require surgical drainage and excision during an in-office procedure so that they don't rupture on their own. However, it's never advised to squeeze these types of lesions, warns the AAD, as cystic acne is more likely to cause scarring. The AAD notes that physical procedures to treat acne should be performed by a dermatologist using sterilized instruments. Comedone extraction using a small pen-shaped device may be warranted to get rid of blackheads and whiteheads.
Every case of acne can be treated, assures the AAD, but complete resolution won't take place overnight. While milder cases of acne may go away simply by using acne medications purchased from the drugstore, more resistant acne often requires the use of a stronger prescription topical cream or oral medication. Consider see a dermatologist to discuss these options.
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