Excoriated Acne: The Skin Struggle We're Ashamed to Talk About.

Why you need to stop picking your skin

Of all the guilty pleasures, popping pimples must surely be one of the most oddly satisfying. But, as anyone who’s ever had a spot knows very well, it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to squeeze the odd pus-filled pimple when it’s turned into a mini volcano on your face. We kind of know we shouldn’t, but we find ourselves doing it anyway.

In fact, squeezing spots is so satisfying and holds such a fascination for people that there’s a whole niche on YouTube dedicated to videos of people popping giant pimples and pustules. (Don’t Google it unless you have a strong stomach: you’ve been warned.)

But what about when that fascination turns into an addiction, and you find yourself regularly picking at spots that aren’t ready to be squeezed, or even at tiny bumps, blackheads, and perceived flaws in your skin that are so minor no one else would even notice them unless they were pressed up against your face with a magnifying glass? This might be a sign that you suffer from a condition known as “excoriated acne”.


What is excoriated acne?

Excoriated acne (also called “picker’s acne”) is ordinary acne that is aggravated by constant picking and squeezing of acne and even perfectly healthy skin, resulting in self-inflicted wounds on the surface of the skin.

This addiction to picking at skin and squeezing spots can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the person suffering from this form of acne feels dispirited that their skin isn’t clearing up, but is unintentionally causing more inflammation and damage to the skin that keeps the acne active.

When people with excoriated acne squeeze or add any kind of pressure to deep nodular or cystic acne in particular, they can cause red marks and even permanent scars. It’s also important to note that when people pick at or squeeze non-inflammatory acne like blackheads that don’t have any pus in them, they can become inflamed and develop into a papule, pustule, nodule, or cyst that wasn’t there before.

When people with excoriated acne squeeze or add any kind of pressure to deep nodular or cystic acne in particular, they can cause red marks and even permanent scars. It’s also important to note that when people pick at or squeeze non-inflammatory acne like blackheads that don’t have any pus in them, they can become inflamed and develop into a papule, pustule, nodule, or cyst that wasn’t there before.

So why do people do it? Excoriated acne, like many other forms of compulsive behaviour, can be connected with anxiety and depression, and that never-ending vicious cycle of breakout-picking-more-breakouts can lead to—or be connected with—low self-esteem.

 

Signs you have excoriated acne include:

You spend significant amounts of time in front of the mirror every day picking at spots and even healthy areas of your skin

• You regularly use tools like hair pins and tweezers to pick at your skin

• You have several lesions on your skin that are oozing pus and/or blood after you picked them

• You have deep scars and pitting on your face from previous bouts of acne

• Your spots regularly become painful and infected after you aggravated an area of your skin

• You’ve noticed that you often make spots worse by picking at them

• Your skin makes you feel depressed and embarrassed

• Spots take a while to heal because you are too tempted to pick off the scabs before they’ve fully healed.

Remember, you’re not weird: this is a recognised medical syndrome, and for many addressing any underlying anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, or depression and low mood can help them overcome an addiction to picking skin.

 

Should you pop pimples when they are white, and what happens to unpopped pimples?

Okay, so you know you need to stop picking your skin, but what about those really obvious spots that have the raised white tips—aren’t those the exception to the rule? Doesn’t the pus need to be drained from those? And, what happens to them if you exercise vast amounts of self-restraint and manage not to squeeze them? Where does the pus go?

Pus is our body’s natural defence response to the bacteria in clogged pores; by the time pus forms into a visible, raised white head, it’s essentially dead white blood cells mixed with oil and dead skin cells or whatever caused the blockage in the pore in the first place. By this stage the inflammation in the spot should start to subside (unless the area gets infected), as the body’s immune response has been fulfilled.

If you don’t squeeze the pus out, it will usually come out naturally by itself when it’s ready (usually while you’re sleeping and your skin is in contact with your pillow—so make sure you change your pillow cases regularly!), and sometimes it can re-absorb back into the skin.

Sometimes, very occasionally when the pus is concentrated very close to the surface of the skin in a raised white head, careful evacuation of the pus can speed up the healing process without spreading.

 

If I’m addicted to picking my skin, how can I stop?

Acknowledging the problem is a great first step to dealing with it, so if you’re reading this then well done! Getting over excoriated acne or compulsive skin picking has two sides:

1. Take care of your mental health and ask yourself how you can get help or reduce the stress in your life that’s driving the compulsive behaviour.
2. Implement a skincare routine that satisfies your need to take action without doing harm to your skin.

If you can break the vicious cycle, start healing the wounds on your skin, and then introduce some effective anti-acne products into your skincare routine, you’ll put a positive cycle in motion. By building healthier habits to take care of your skin, you’ll start to see some improvements that will encourage you to stick with it and you’ll find it less and less tempting to go back to your old skin picking ways the clearer your skin gets.

 

How can I heal my face from picking?

Many highly-effective acne treatments shouldn’t be applied to broken skin, so you’ll need to heal any open wounds on your face before you can start clearing up your skin properly. Don’t over-wash your face while you have wounds that are developing scabs, and make sure that you don’t rub your skin on a facecloth or towel but just pat it dry. You can also apply an antibacterial ointment to the affected area once a day, to keep it from getting infected and potentially speed up the healing

Once you’ve healed any open wounds (which usually takes a few days to a week if you well and truly stop picking and squeezing), you can then introduce some acne-fighting products into your daily skincare ritual, which will get to work clearing up your acne and any scars, marks, and hyperpigmentation you may have as well.

We’ve chosen the best, most effective products on the market to help you get the clear skin you’re craving as fast as possible: check out our anti-acne regimen sets, here.

And, good luck kicking the picking habit—we believe in you!



Written by Mr Brains and Brawn