We’ve all done it: squeezed, picked, prodded and squeezed again. Getting the gunk out is so utterly satisfying – but more often than not, it ends up worse than before. We ask the pros, what happens when you squeeze your spots…
Why do we get spots
Hormones and genetics play a huge role here, but lifestyle choices can also impact on the skin. Many believe that dairy, for example, is inflammatory, and dirty phone screens touching our faces aren’t great either.
Katie Brindle is the founder of Hayo’u Method. “Your skin can be sabotaged for any number of reasons – stress, inflammation, toxic overload, pollution and poor circulation. Chinese wisdom holds that stress and lifestyle can both contribute to heat in the body, causing redness, itchy, dry and scaly skin and obstructing blood flow to the skin.”
She goes on, “the Chinese philosophy has always been that skin problems stem from digestive issues. Acne is often caused by too much heat in the stomach and lungs – which will usually present as acne on the face with oily or shiny skin. Or, you can get acne due to a buildup of phlegm and poor circulation – this type is dark red and appears in clusters.”
Why you shouldn’t pop them
“Before you start popping pimples, you should consider what’s happening under the skin,” says Dr Pam Benito. There’s plenty of bacteria in the area, and squeezing can push this bacteria deeper into the skin, “which might cause more swelling and redness.” She goes on, “it can also lead to infection, it makes blemishes worse and it increases your chances of developing acne scars. So patience is key. Leave it alone and your pimple will disappear on its own”.
Dr Adam Friedmann, consultant dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic, agrees. “Dermatologists usually recommend not squeezing spots as it can make the skin red and inflamed and can actually push bacteria deeper into the skin,” he says. Plus, “it also increases the risk of scarring.”
Basically, when you squeeze a spot, you make it much worse, further irritating the skin and prolonging the inflammation – aka, ensuring that giant red spot sticks about even longer.
What you should do instead
Taking steps to lower your stress levels, calm the heat and restore your circulation will almost certainly help, Katie says. Plus, you can go down the Chinese medicine route of clearing the internal source of the heat. “In Chinese Medicine the skin is controlled by the lungs; which is why acne is commonly a sign of heat in this area. It’s a good place to focus your attention first. Gua sha directly onto the chest area – allow it to go red and sha to come up.” And, while she doesn’t recommend gua sha on acne itself, “it can be effective to lessen the marks left by an acne outbreak. Never treat broken skin, and don’t use oil on congested skin.”
“Most spots resolve after a few days, however if it is a more painful ‘under the skin’ cyst that can last for a few weeks, I would advise seeing a specialist,” says aesthetic and dermatology nurse Emma Coleman.
So there you have it. But when you really, really can’t stop yourself having a squeeze, try to go to a dermatologist for it, or at the very least, wrap your fingers in tissues and gently press either side of the spot, rather than going all in with dirty fingers and full pressure. If nothing comes out, back off.
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