“The urge to pop a pimple, in spite of knowing the damage it can cause, is sometimes simply overwhelming,” says noted clinical psychologist and dermatologist, Richard Fried, MD, Ph.D. “The question one has to ask is why do something to yourself that could have such a bad outcome?”
In Dr. Fried’s practice he regularly sees these negative outcomes and as a clinical psychologist offers insights to this compelling and sometimes “addictive” behavior. “Along with the passionate desire to make the pimple disappear, there is often a form of psychological release,” he explains, “that comes with popping. The problem is that many of us find it difficultor impossible to stop squeezing or picking once we begin. Overzealous manipulation can damage and permanently mar the skin. In the extreme, the behavior can be a form of self-mutilation. Sometimes having this awareness can help stop it, especially if it’s habitual. The question is, ‘why do you want to hurt or disfigure yourself?’ Popping a pimple may feel great while you’re doing it, but everyone knows that the destruction you leave behind is difficult to conceal and may not have ‘completed’ the job.”
Ways to Help You Gain Control
If popping acne blemishes is an activity in which you indulge regularly, it may be time to consult a dermatologist for treatment of your acne. The doctor can treat your entire complexion, talk to you about your individual triggers, i.e., stress, hormones, etc., and help put you on a clearer path. If your acne is mild to moderate, it can be effectively treated with a topical tretinoin gel such as Atralin® (tretinoin) Gel 0.05%. This is a great choice because Atralin® Gel may help you achieve clearance and may cause less irritation and be easier to stick with than other acne medications. It features an aqueous gel formulation containing moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, collagen and glycerin and you only need to use it once a day, preferably at night.
Dr. Fried also offers some behavior modification tips to help you stop popping:
- Identify high risk areas i.e. bathroom, car mirror, etc., and set a limit for how much time you spend there. Using a real timer may help.
- Blow it off. Breathing techniques are powerful methods of control. Very deep, full breaths followed by smooth and controlled exhalations release tension, enhance a sense of control and create an overall feeling of well-being. The resulting sense of control and choice can help to avoid squeezing and otherwise manipulating the skin.
- Touch if you must. While avoidance of pimples is probably the best choice, some of us “need” to touch the pimple. Gentle pressure or even circular massage can alleviate the urge and tension.
- Practice Alternate Behaviors. Activities such as makeup application, exercise, yoga, Tai Chi, and self hypnosis all can redirect energy and impulse. Leave your home when the urge to pop is very strong. It’s a pretty good bet you won’t pop in public.
- Scar Scare. Use imagery wherein you visualize the damage that squeezing or picking produces, i.e., scarring, redness, or pitting of your skin.
Getting professional help is important for two reasons,” says Dr. Fried. “The first is that your complexion will begin to look better and fewer breakouts will result in less self-treating. Second, you will feel as if you have an ally and a dermatologist can actually help you get rid of those big blemishes that are calling out to be popped, on the spot. Treating your entire complexion will also help you feel empowered.”
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