There are two levels of acne: surface pimples, whiteheads and blackheads are a definite eyesore, but they’re a walk in the park compared to deep zits and cysts, otherwise known as cystic acne.
No one is exactly sure what causes deep, often painful pimples that lie below the skin’s surface, though many believe hormones called androgens can cause them. “Acne vulgaris,” as it is referred to in the medical community, is more common than you think and involves “blockage and/or inflammation of pilosebaceous units (hair follicles and their accompanying sebaceous gland),” says Dr. Jill Waibel at Miami Dermatology & Laser Institute. This type of acne can present itself on your skin as non-inflammatory lesions, inflammatory lesions, or a mixture of both, Waibel says. Cystic acne mostly affects the face, but it can also pop up on the back and chest.
If left to its own devices, hormonal acne can continue for years and may even cause scarring. At the same time, skincare experts agree on one crucial thing: you shouldn’t even think about putting your hands on your face and popping these deep pimples by yourself.
“The reason you’re not supposed to pop pimples is that anytime you deliberately break skin, you risk creating a scar or getting an infection due to opening skin to the world of bacteria,” Waibel says. Of course, it doesn’t help that deep zits don’t have a head–so, even if you wanted to break the rules and pop this kind of zit, they don’t exactly make it easy.
The minute you feel a deep zit coming on, Waibel recommends to apply warm compresses (a washcloth works wonders) on the aggravated spot several times a day. Try to keep your hands off of the area because the last thing you want to do is spread bacteria. Your next to-do? Start asking friends for dermatologist recommendations pronto.
“See a board certified dermatologist who can prescribe appropriate treatments for acne–sometimes topicals, antibiotics, lasers, facials, chemical peels, or isotretinoin,” Waibel says. “A new treatment for deep zits will hopefully be approved in 2016: Sebashell/Gold nanoparticle and laser, which targets oil gland.”
Until that fateful day when a better solution to cystic acne becomes available, remember the golden rule: hands off!
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