I don’t find it difficult to comprehend the idea that we evolved from apes.
We have a lot of similarities. Along with laughing out loud and begging for food, grooming each other is a natural instinct. So much so, it’s almost compulsive—and undeniably satisfying. I don’t know about you but I take pleasure in plucking hairs out of place, hunting for head lice and above all, popping zits. And according to the millions of viewers of Youtube’s “OMG popping huge zit” videos, I’m not alone. But unlike the other beauty must-dos, pushing a pimple won’t always have you feeling better off—especially when you’re left with a scar.
Speak to any dermatologist and they’ll warn you against popping pimples. By applying pressure to the spot, the skin bursts causing trauma and inflammation. The wound is then exposed to dirt and bacteria in the air and on the skin and hands, which often results in a vicious cycle of pus and popping as it’s unable to heal. However, since you’re probably going to pop them anyway, you should know how to do it safely, what it does to your skin and how to treat it.
We spoke to Integrative Medical Practitioner, Dr Charlotte Middleton to find out more. She recentlyjoined Bio-Oil (a product proved to help treat scars) to discuss skin issues including scars, stretch marks, and uneven skin at an event in Sydney. Here’s what she had to say.
What happens to your skin when you pop a pimple?
“When an injury to the skin occurs, the body acts as quickly as possible to repair the affected area, devoting its energy and resources to healing quickly rather than perfectly. As a result, there is an overproduction of collagen at the site of the wound which leads to scarring. Depending on the size and depth of the wound, scars can take up to two years to fully form. Even at this stage, the healed wound only has 70-80% of the original strength of the skin.”
There are roughly six different types of scar categories:
1. Common Scars
These scars appear inflamed and dark in the beginning but become flatter and paler over time resulting in a fine line scar.
2. Atrophic Scars
These scars cause depressions or indentations below the surface of the skin. Examples are scars from acne or chickenpox.
3. Hypertrophic Scars
Hypertrophic scars are raised above the surface of the skin. They are characterised by excessive amounts of collagen, but always remain within the boundaries of the wound.
4. Keloid Scars
Keloids are raised scars that spread beyond the boundaries of the wound. They continue to grow over time and usually recur after excision.
5. Scar Contractures
Scar contractures often develop when scars cross joints or skin creases at right angles. They often occur following burn injuries.
6. Stretch Marks (STRIAE)
Stretch marksoccur in periods of rapid weight gain (teenage growth spurts, pregnancy) when the body expands faster than the skin covering it, causing internal tears in the skin tissue. When these tears heal, they form the characteristic scars that are known as stretch marks.
What factors contribute to how well wounds heal and scars fade?
“Working in both general practice and maternity I see a lot of different causes of scarring. With more than a third of births being via caesarian section, this type of abdominal scarring is common. However, outside of maternity, it is estimated that, of all new scars formed, most can be attributed to everyday cuts, grazes and minor burns (34%). The remaining causes of new scars include hospital surgery (20%), trauma (15%), elective surgery (15%), mole removal (6%) and cosmetic surgery (10%).
When it comes to problem scars, compared to Caucasian skin, Hispanic skin suffers 5 times as much, Asian skin 10 times as much and African skin 20 times as much. This is thought to be due to the increased melanin in darker skin, with different genetics and hormones also playing a role.”
“While you can’t do a lot about your skin type, genetics, age or family history when it comes to scarring, you can optimise your skin condition and its elasticity to help wounds heal as optimally as possible. Keeping the skin soft and supple with regular application of creams or oils, well hydrated by consuming good amounts of water and well nourished by eating a diet rich in vitamins A, C and E – will all reduce your risk of problem scarring. Prevention is obviously the best medicine, so try not to pick at scabbed wounds or squeeze pimples, as this will increase the likelihood of scarring.”
Can you ever get rid of scars? If so, how?
“It’s never too late to treat scars, but obviously the longer you have them, the more difficult it will be to fade or erase them. Treatment options include topical creams and oils, radiotherapy, laser therapy, dermabrasion, injectables and in some cases, surgical removal. If you have any concerns about scarring, you should seek the advice of your GP.”