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Which spots should you absolutely not pop?

There is a wealth of information circulating about the possibility of popping certain spots ourselves, such as whiteheads. But is this really the case? Are there spots that we can pop, and others that we cannot? This article provides some answers.

Summary
Published January 22, 2024, by Kahina, Chargée de la Communication Scientifique. — 6 min read

The "danger triangle", the facial area where one must absolutely avoid popping pimples.

Generally speaking, the act of popping a spot oneself is strongly discouraged. Moreover, the consequences are exacerbated if this spot is located on the "danger triangle", an area of the face extending from the corners of the mouth to the bridge of the nose. The cavernous sinus, a network of large veins connected to the brain, is situated just behind this area.

Popping a spot within this triangle poses significant risks, particularly in terms of infection. The cavernous sinus has the role of draining blood to the brain. The open wound caused by the burst spot can thus create an almost direct connection between the outside and the brain, and risks becoming infected by bacteria, which can then lead to complications.

  • Gangrene caused by haemolytic streptococci, associated with a bacterial infection (Streptococcus), is invasive and lethal, characterised by tissue necrosis. Its occurrence on the "danger triangle" makes it lethal to operate on.

  • Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis (CST)is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by a bacterial infection. It involves the formation of a blood clot in the cavernous sinus, which can lead to complications due to the spread of the thrombosis deeper into the venous drainage of the cavernous sinus, leading to an alteration in brain function. The corresponding symptoms are fever, headache, paralysis of the eye muscles, and swollen eye contours.

  • Meningitis, where a study has shown that popping pimples in the "danger triangle" area can lead to a bacterial infection that results in inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain, potentially fatal.

A spot located on the "triangle of danger" should therefore not be touched, as there is a risk of an infection spreading to the brain and the bloodstream.

But not too much worry. Although it is technically possible, it is also extremely unlikely.

Overall, no spot should be popped.

Popping a spot on the skin does indeed have significant consequences.

  • There is a risk of pushing bacteria, dead cells, and sebum deeper into the skin, which can cause swelling and redness in the affected area.

  • Bacterial infections can occur, making the area red and painful, and leading to further complications. This is the case if the spot corresponds to cystic acne for example. There is also a risk that the spot is already infected: once the spot is burst, the infected fluid may spread on the skin, leading to a more severe acne outbreak.

  • The pressure applied to a spot can lead to the formation of scabs, which then give way to scars, sometimes permanent. A study has shown that squeezing an inflammatory acne spot (papules, pustules, nodules, cysts) can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation of the skin.

Whether it's a blackhead, a whitehead, a boil, a cyst or a cold sore, it is wise not to touch it, regardless of its size. While spots often disappear on their own, there are simple measures to speed up the process and ensure good healing, such as keeping the skin clean using a gentle and non-abrasive cleanser, staying out of the sun and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, or even applying skincare products suitable for your skin type and "non-comedogenic". Indeed, certain active ingredients like salicylic acid and zinc, will minimise the appearance of spots day by day.

At the slightest doubt, if the spots do not disappear or if a worsening occurs, consult your dermatologist so they can prescribe you the appropriate treatments.

Sources

  • MAES U. Infections of the dangerous areas of the face: their pathology and treatment. Annals of Surgery (1937).

  • ARADHYA S. & al. Post acne hyperpigmentation : a brief review.Our Dermatology Online (2011).

  • BRATSIS M.E. Acne : myth vs fact. Washington (2017).

  • BEN-JOSEPH E.P. Should I pop my pimple? Nemours TeenHealth (2018).

  • SU J. & al. A case report of hemolytic streptococcal gangrene in the danger triangle of the face with thrombocytopenia and hepatitis. BMC Pediatrics (2018).

  • NGAUY V. & al. Unique presentation of septic cavernous sinus thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in the setting of reusable face covering. Case Reports in Infectious Diseases (2022).

  • SCHLEEHAUF B. & al. Acne : tips for managing. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2022).

  • GUPTA M. & al. Cavernous sinus thrombosis. StatPearls (2023).

  • MESFIN F.B. & al. Neuroanatomy, cavernous sinus. StatPearls (2023).

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