How to safely pop a zit
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:10AM
Most have heard the advice: Leave zits alone.
And most ignore it, especially when a big event approaches and a zit appears.
Picking and squeezing zits can traumatize and scar the skin. Even worse, it can force bacteria down into the skin and cause a soft tissue infection, especially if the zit is near the nose.
But since we’re creatures of habit and we can’t leave well enough alone, it’s important to learn safe ways to remove a zit. For persistent or severe acne, see a dermatologist, who can inject steroid medication into the blemish. This typically makes it vanish within 24 hours.
When dealing with the occasional bothersome zit, a home remedy is fine. Some of those include:
• Applying a warm washcloth over the zit for five to 10 minutes at a time, several times a day, to encourage the zit to come to a head.
• Dabbing an over-the-counter Benzoyl peroxide preparation in the center to dry up the zit.
Some people find similar success with toothpaste, but I’ve never experienced it. Others prefer antibiotic creams. In some cases, the cream heals the zit; in others, its greasy, petroleum jelly base makes the acne worse.
Acne occurs when an oil gland becomes plugged with sebum and old skin cells and then becomes inflamed. The resulting inflammation blows out the oil gland. Different types of acne include:
• Comedones: blackheads and whiteheads. These form the beginning “plugged” stage. Exposure to air causes a chemical reaction that gives blackheads their characteristic appearance. Whiteheads are “closed” to air when reaching the surface, which is why they remain white.
• Papular acne: the plug has become a bump, but with only slight inflammation.
• Pustular acne: the plug is very red with a white center.
• Cystic acne: plugging occurs deep within the glands and produces painful eruptions similar to boils.
Acne tends to run in families. While most teens will battle a few whiteheads and blackheads, anything more than that may be genetic. A child has a 20 percent chance of experiencing acne at some time in his life if one parent has a history of acne and a 40 percent chance if acne affected both parents.
Acne is not just an adolescent issue. Not all teen acne disappears once an individual becomes an adult, and some adults don’t experience acne until their 20s. Hormones can also influence acne’s appearance. Girls may see more breakouts during menstruation; women may notice them as they approach menopause.
There is also a difference between adult acne and rosacea, formerly known as adult acne. Rosacea is not true acne, but an inflammatory process not related to the “plugging” characteristic of acne. There is some confusion because, at times, the red lesions associated with rosacea can have papules and pustules.~.
Dr. Scott L. Zahner is a dermatologist who treats patients at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital.