By Kerri Winick, GALTime.com
Last week I woke up to an unwelcome visitor: acne. There it was, a small cluster on my forehead, taunting me as I stared in the mirror. An ugly, evil stepsister I needed to kick to the curb. Maybe it was the stress of work. Maybe it was a product in my beauty arsenal. Who knows? All I know is that I couldn't pull myself away from picking and prodding my face.
Admit it. You've bullied a blemish, too! (It can be our little secret.) But here's something good to know: You're not alone!
Dr. Andrew Alexis with the American Academy of Dermatology says adult acne is still the most common condition he treats, and the urge to attack blemishes "hands-on" can be overwhelming.
"I think part of the issue is the need for quick results…instant gratification of trying anything you can to resolve a pimple as fast as possible."
Dermatologist and clinical psychologist Dr. Richard Fried agrees.
"Almost every single patient I have who has any blemish on their skin has an urge to pop it. It's very difficult to leave the house with something that you really feel will be the center of attention for everybody you're interacting with."
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Dr. Fried says popping also provides a psychological release.
"Some people actually do feel this buildup of tension. They really feel this sense…almost like they're going to explode. They pick or pop and it's almost like deflating a balloon."Dr. Fried says this behavior can be downright addicting. Think of it as a cycle. Once grown-ups start to pop, many can't stop!
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"They look in the mirror and they realize they've created more red. They've created more inflammation. That often makes them more upset and they often pick again."
Not only can that picking take up precious play time, it can also do a tremendous amount of damage…ranging from dark spots and redness to scarring and more. Dr. Alexis says it can even cause the acne to spread.
"While the goal is to get what's inside the pimple outward, you can inadvertently spread some of the contents the other way, deeper into the skin."
The good news? These days, there are plenty of acne treatments that make the grade. Over the counter products containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or retinol can help. If not, or if you see things like scarring, open wounds, or "ice pick" indentations, it's time to head to the dermatologist. He or she can put you on a prescription-strength plan.
"One might end up getting chemical peels, micro-dermabrasion, lasers, and other surgical, in-office procedures for scars," said Dr. Alexis.
But remember, treatment takes time and patience.
"The best over the counter, the best prescription product, is going to be one to three weeks before we see any significant improvement," says Dr. Fried.
In the mean time, back away from the mirror. Pronto! Here are some key strategies to stop the pop. (PS: They work for teens, too!) :
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