Pimple-popping videos have captivated the internet lately, but one woman’s story about the aftermath of her experience will make the process seem anything but alluring.
Katie Wright, a 21-year-old from Austin recently shared on Twitter that she tried picking at a blemish near her eyebrow in order to alleviate discomfort. Instead, she ended up making things worse, resulting in pain so bad it kept her awake at night.
“The pressure and heat was unbearable,” Wright told HuffPost. “Imagine a hot coal trying to burst out of your skin, that’s what it felt like.”
What Wright assumed was a pimple actually ended up being a case of cellulitis, a staph infection where deeper tissues beyond the surface layer of the skin are affected that can, in severe cases, lead to organ failure or even death.
Thankfully, after going to the hospital and receiving treatment for four days, Wright’s doctors were able to heal the infection.
Cellulitis can be severe if the infection spreads, according to Dr. Jessica Krant, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center.
“Once the infection crosses from skin into the bloodstream, or along tissue layers that reach deep, it can get into the eye socket, brain, sinuses, joints or bones,” Krant told HuffPost. “In these areas, infections can be hard to treat and cause a lot of damage.”
The condition often can be confused for regular pimples, according to Krant. That can make identifying it and treating it trickier than some other skin issues.
“Cellulitis is not always easy to recognize. For this reason is it often under-diagnosed, or even over-diagnosed, by many health care providers,” she said. “What’s important to know is to maintain a high level of suspicion if there is an unusually deep or painful swelling, especially anywhere on the face.”
How to properly take care of blemishes on your face
Okay, so cellulitis is scary and you should avoid popping something that seems a little bit different than your average pimple. But what if it seems so obviously like a zit? That’s fine, right? Not so fast, according to Krant.
“Popping a pimple is always a risk. Always,” she stressed. “If a pimple has a small soft white tip and you can gently break it, that may be okay. But squeezing any deeper pimple anywhere on the face or neck is honestly asking for trouble.”
The fact is that popping any sort of lesion increases the risk of spreading bacteria beyond one contained area, Krant explained. This could release “harsh inflammatory substances into deeper tissue, setting up risk for cellulitis,” she said.
Below are some ways to properly treat blemishes when they pop up, according to Krant:
- Apply some heat. Gently steam the pimple to loosen up some of its, er, contents, Krant advised.
- Use medication. This could be over-the-counter topical ointments or something prescribed by your dermatologist, she said.
- Do. Not. Pick. No matter how big or tempting. If it’s truly cumbersome, chat with your doctor. “If there is a painful, deep pimple forming, see the dermatologist for a small gentle cortisone injection, which can help reduce inflammation,” Krant explained.
Additionally, Wright also stresses the importance of keeping any face products clean. She attributed the severity of the infection to using an unclean makeup brush on her face at the time.
“If you take one thing away from this, please see how crucial it is to thoroughly wash your brushes and tools,” she told HuffPost. “I urge everyone to take an extra step in your cleaning routine to prevent yourself from a horrifying, painful and potentially life threatening infection.”