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Which pimples should you absolutely not pop?

There is a lot of information circulating about the possibility of popping certain pimples yourself, such as whiteheads. But is this really the case? Are there pimples that we can pop, and others that we cannot? This article provides some answers.

Summary
Published January 22, 2024, by Kahina, Chargée de la Communication Scientifique. — 6 min read

The "danger triangle," the facial area where one should absolutely not pop pimples.

Generally speaking, the act of popping a pimple oneself is strongly discouraged. Moreover, the consequences are exacerbated if this pimple is located in the "danger triangle", a facial area extending from the corners of the mouth to the bridge of the nose. The cavernous sinus, a network of large veins connected to the brain, is situated just behind this area.

Popping a pimple within this triangle poses significant risks, particularly in terms of infection. The cavernous sinus serves the function of draining blood to the brain. The open wound caused by the burst pimple can thus create an almost direct connection between the outside and the brain, and is at risk of becoming infected by bacteria, which can then lead to complications.

  • Gangrene due to hemolytic streptococci, associated with a bacterial infection (Streptococcus), is invasive and deadly, characterized by tissue necrosis. Its occurrence on the "danger triangle" makes it lethal to operate.

  • Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis (CST)is a potentially fatal condition caused by a bacterial infection. It involves the formation of a blood clot in the cavernous sinus, which can lead to complications due to the spread of the thrombosis deeper into the venous drainage of the cavernous sinus, leading to an alteration in brain function. The corresponding symptoms are fever, headache, paralysis of the eye muscles, and swollen eye contours.

  • Meningitis, where a study has shown that popping pimples in the "danger triangle" area can lead to a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain, potentially fatal.

A pimple located on the "danger triangle" should therefore not be touched, as there is a risk of an infection spreading to the brain and the bloodstream.

But don't worry too much. Although it's technically possible, it's also extremely unlikely.

Overall, no pimple should be popped.

Popping a pimple on the skin does indeed have significant consequences.

  • There is a risk of pushing bacteria, dead cells, and sebum deeper into the skin, which can cause swelling and redness in the affected area.

  • Bacterial infections can occur, making the area red and painful, and leading to further complications. This is the case if the pimple corresponds to cystic acne for example. There is also a risk that the pimple is already infected: once the pimple is popped, the infected fluid may spread on the skin, and cause a stronger acne outbreak.

  • Applying pressure to a pimple can lead to the formation of scabs, which can then give way to scars, sometimes permanent. A study has shown that squeezing an inflammatory acne pimple (papules, pustules, nodules, cysts) can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation of the skin.

Whether it's a blackhead, a whitehead, a boil, a cyst, or a cold sore, it's wise not to touch it, regardless of its size. While blemishes often disappear on their own, there are simple measures to speed up the process and ensure good healing, such as keeping the skin clean using a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser, staying out of the sun and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, or applying skincare products suitable for your skin type and "non-comedogenic". Indeed, certain active ingredients like salicylic acid and zinc, will minimize the appearance of blemishes day by day.

At the slightest doubt, if the pimples do not disappear or if a worsening occurs, consult your dermatologist so they can prescribe the appropriate treatments.

Sources

  • MAES U. Infections of the dangerous areas of the face: their pathology and treatment. Annals of Surgery (1937).

  • ARADHYA S. & al. Post acne hyperpigmentation : a brief review.Our Dermatology Online (2011).

  • BRATSIS M.E. Acne : myth vs fact. Washington (2017).

  • BEN-JOSEPH E.P. Should I pop my pimple? Nemours TeenHealth (2018).

  • SU J. & al. A case report of hemolytic streptococcal gangrene in the danger triangle of the face with thrombocytopenia and hepatitis. BMC Pediatrics (2018).

  • NGAUY V. & al. Unique presentation of septic cavernous sinus thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in the setting of reusable face covering. Case Reports in Infectious Diseases (2022).

  • SCHLEEHAUF B. & al. Acne : tips for managing. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2022).

  • GUPTA M. & al. Cavernous sinus thrombosis. StatPearls (2023).

  • MESFIN F.B. & al. Neuroanatomy, cavernous sinus. StatPearls (2023).

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