To squeeze or not to squeeze - does popping pimples really have a damaging impact?
Advice from our GP Dr Nina Byrnes on the impact squeezing your spots has on your complexion.
Q. I’ve been telling my teenage son not to squeeze his spots, but he doesn’t believe me that it will damage his skin in the long term. Who’s right?
Dr Nina replies: Acne occurs in over 90pc of people at some stage. For many it is associated with the occasional break out or cluster of spots and pimples. For others it results in years of painful cysts, pimples and redness that can cause permanent scarring. Acne is most common between the age of 14 and 17 in girls, and 16 and 19 in boys. It disappears in most adults into their 20s, but persists beyond the age of 25 in 5pc of women and 1pc of men. Acne occurs most commonly on the face but can occur on the neck chest and back also.
In those with acne the sebaceous glands can become blocked by plugs of keratin and sebum, and this initially leads to a small spot, which is white if it is below the skin surface. If it comes to the surface the pigment turns black, creating blackheads. As the sebaceous glands become increasingly congested, there is local inflammation in the deeper layer of skin, which causes a red bump to appear on the skin called a papule. Local bacteria, which normally live on the skin, can invade this. The inflammation and infection leads to the development of pus. This causes the papule to rise to the surface causing the common spot or pimple.
Bacteria in the pores can make the situation worse but acne is not a condition of poor hygiene. It is important to clean the skin daily but over-cleaning can irritate the skin and make the situation worse. Acne may be a chronic problem but regular treatment that involves clearing the hair follicles, reducing inflammation, and treating infection, can help. It may be very tempting to squeeze spots but in the long run this may do more harm than good. You may end up pushing bacteria deeper into the skin causing further inflammation. Squeezing spots also increases the risk of scarring which may be permanent.