Unfortunately, we are all occasionally greeted by some unwanted guests on our faces and in the hopes of getting rid of them quickly, we seem to share the urge of popping. For some, spot picking and popping is not only an impulse but also an obsession, with many even classing themselves as “popaholics”. The internet is brimming with viral videos of individuals extracting the gooey fluids from their spots (yuck), with the likes of Dr. Pimple Popper (Dr. Sandra Lee) having a humungous following of over 2 million, and even having her own TV shows dedicated to the craze.
Popping spots is often the go-to method for speeding up the healing process, but does it in fact cause more harm than good? It may seem like a quick-fix but the possible short-term benefits can often come with long-term damage. Within this article we will discuss what causes spots in the first place and what happens when you pop them. We spoke to skincare expert, celebrity facialist and founder of Mortar and Milk, Pamela Marshall to get her professional wisdom and advice on this.
What causes spots?
A spot tends to form when a pore becomes clogged with excess sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria. There are several factors that can trigger this occurrence such as hormones, naturally produced oils, skin conditions, allergies, and bacteria from external sources such as air pollutants. When a pore is blocked, the area of the skin becomes inflamed and is often filled with a pus-like substance (which is what can make the popping process so satisfying!)
Should you pop your spots?
As tempting as it may be, dermatologists recommend avoiding the urge to pop your spots, as it can cause scarring and increase the risk of infection. Pamela Marshall says “ideally, you shouldn’t pop your own spots. But I completely recognise the little spot popping fairy in your head that says “do it”. So I often teach clients the proper “Pam way” - which starts with Clinisoothe+ and ends with Clinisoothe+! I always have clients soak the spot in Clinisoothe+ pre and post picking.”
What happens when you pop your spots?
When it comes to spot popping, there can be both immediate and long-term effects. When a spot is squeezed, the bacteria and pus is often pushed even deeper into the skin, which may cause more swelling and redness. You may also introduce more bacteria from your hands into the effected area. Pamela adds that squeezing your spots may also cause more permanent visible damage. “You not only increase your risk of infection and scarring, but it may also potentially cause cluster breakouts.”
The dangers of spot poppingSome of the potential dangers of squeezing a spot can include:
- Acne scarring: The pressure from popping your spot can cause permanent damage to the skin tissue underneath which can lead to scars developing.
- Hyperpigmentation: This is when a dark patch develops in place of a healed blemish. For those with lighter skin, red patches may develop instead. Hyperpigmentation can sometimes take months or years to fade.
- Infection: When you pop a spot, you are opening up the affected area, making it more vulnerable to bacteria. This can lead to infection which is often painful and irritating. An infection may even require antibiotics.
- Worsened blemish: A popped spot can often come back with a vengeance! It may re-appear angrier, redder, and more noticeable than before, and it may bring some friends along too - referred to as a ‘cluster breakout’.
Alternatives to spot poppingThe key to treating a spot is to be patient! It’s also essential to take care of your skin daily. Here are some approaches you can take:
Refrain from touching your spot and always wash your hands before touching your face.
Apply a clean cloth-covered ice pack over the affected area to help reduce redness and inflammation.
Apply a warm compress to soothe the spot and help it to heal - the warmth from the compress helps to draw out the trapped oil and bacteria.
- Be consistent with your skin care routine. Washing your face twice daily can help to keep spots at bay and prevent them from worsening. Check out our article on double cleansing here.
Pamela Marshall’s top tips for treating spots
“Always cleanse with a milky cleanse and remove with a flannel. Always wash your face after shampooing, conditioning, and brushing your teeth. Always cleanse all the way down your neck and chest, not just the face. And always always use Clinisoothe+. Try to also stay away from using too many AHA’s. They compromise your skin barrier function and can lead to more acne.”
Find out more about your skin barrier and how to protect it over in our other recent article here.
As Pamela mentioned, Clinisoothe+ is a great product for spots - when it comes to prevention as well as treating them. It is a skin purifier which helps to protect your skin from external pollutants and impurities, preventing breakouts and promoting rapid recovery. The high purity hypochlorous formula has a unique oxidising method of action which cleanses and provides purifying antimicrobial protection, but is also gentle on the skin: it doesn’t harm, irritate or sensitise the dermal layer. Clinisoothe+ is ideal for acne prone skin and can be applied anywhere on the face or body where any irritation, breakouts or redness occur. Spritz or apply using a cotton pad twice daily after cleansing.
If you really can’t resist the popping temptation, ensure to keep the area clean and apply Clinisoothe+ before and after. The procedure is best performed by a skin care professional in a sterile environment. If you have frequent outbreaks, painful cystic acne, or acne that never seems to go away, consider seeking advice from a skin care professional.
Try Clinisoothe+ Skin Purifier, a gentle product to add to your skincare routine. Simply spritz your skin after cleansing and allow the product to soothe redness or irritation.
Clinisoothe+ Skin Purifier £14.95/100ml