Blog The Big Squeeze - How to pop a spot!
Love them or hate them, we all get spots from time to time. Generally the advice is to leave them well alone, but unless you are some kind of saint or you don’t possess a mirror there are some spots that simply can’t be ignored. If you really need to pop or extract one, the following blog gives you all you need to know to be able to do so safely while still looking after your skin.
As discussed in my previous blog (http://bit.ly/1bfOASE) the only type of spot that you should attempt to pop is a pustule with a yellow or white head on top. However, if your spot does not clearly have a head on top of it, you can try to encourage this to appear with a variety of methods.
Firstly you can try to sweat it to the surface by applying heat either with the back of a spoon heated in hot water or by applying a wash cloth soaked in hot water and wrung out. These should be as hot as possible without burning your skin. You could also visit a steam room or steam your face over a bowl of hot water while covering your head with a towel.
Another way to draw a spot to a head is by massaging the area around the spot. Ensure that you have clean hands before doing this and try not to push down on the spot itself. The more blood you can encourage to the area through massage, the more white blood cells will collect in the pore and the more likely a head will appear.
The final way of changing a papule into a pustule is to use a product to either exfoliate the surface or to draw out the impurities.
By exfoliating layers of dead skin cells from the surface of a spot, the head underneath is more likely to appear. You are best off doing this with either a chemical or enzymatic exfoliant rather than a manual scrub which may tear the skin and lead the impurities in the spot to leak onto the surface. Products containing either salicylic or glycolic acid, or the enzymes papain or bromelain are ideal. If you would like some more information about non-manual exfoliants, please refer to my blog (http://bit.ly/1AGbzfs).
The final way of encouraging a blind spot to come to a head is to use ingredients that have a drawing effect. You could use a face mask that has Bentonite clay as an ingredient. This clay is highly absorbent and therefore draws liquids towards it. The theory is that the liquid within the spot will be drawn to the surface where the clay is. Please be aware however that any clay mask will be very drying on your skin and so should not be used on anything other than an oily skin type or applied only to the spot itself.
There are also some self-heating face masks on the market that will help to open the pores and encourage any impurities to the surface. A good facial steam will probably have equally good a success though, so you may be better off trying that first.
The essential oil of neroli is said to have drawing properties and can help to regulate your sebum/oil production. Decleor claim that their Neroli Face Balm can be used to draw impurities from your skin, including the occasional spot. Personally I’ve never had much success with it but that’s not to say it doesn’t work for everyone.
Once you have a head on top of the spot, it is still essential to prepare the skin and the spot before you go in for the squeeze. Ensure that the skin is warm so that the pore is open the skin around it is supple. Probably the best time to squeeze spots is when you first come out of the bath or shower.
Ensure that both the skin in the area to be squeezed and your hands are scrupulously clean. Any additional bacteria that gets into the pore will only cause more problems. Anti-bacterial soaps are great on your hands and you can wipe the area with the spot with an alcohol based cleanser. Try to keep the application of this localised to the affected area or you will end up drying out the surrounding skin.
Once you are assured that you are clean, you want to ensure that you only use either your finger pads or knuckles and NEVER nails. Nails will cause too much damage to the skin, are difficult to clean thorougly and have the potential to scar. The soft pads of your fingers are much easier to clean but if you feel that you need more pressure, use your knuckles. You can wrap your fingers in tissue if you wish, although I then find it more difficult to get any purchase on the skin.
If you wish to break the skin on top of the spot before you squeeze, you can do so with a needle but, as with your fingers, this needs to be completely clean. The best way to do this is to burn the end of the needle with a flame and then to wipe it with an alcohol based cleanser. Insert the needle across the head of the spot (rather than downwards into the skin) and then pull the needle upwards. You can watch a demonstration of this at http://bit.ly/1tZ6Yqa but it’s not for the faint hearted!
If you do not wish to use a needle, the first thing you need to do is stretch the skin across top of the spot so that it is taut.
Now (whether or not you are using a needle) put pressure down on either side of the spot, but none on top of the spot itself. Once you have pressed down as far as possible, bring your fingers together so they are now underneath plug that is blocking pore. Now bring the fingers up so that blockage is moved upwards and out through the pore opening with the minimal amount of debris being forced down into the pore. If it is being stubborn you can try wiggling your fingers as you move them upwards or changing the position of your fingers around the spot.
If nothing happens after two attempts - STOP!
If you only get watery fluid or blood from the spot - STOP!
If this is the case, the spot is clearly not ready to be extracted and continuing to try will simply damage the skin. Go back to the start of this blog and try the drawing techniques again. Most importantly - step away from the mirror - the more you look, the more you’ll pick.
Once you are satisfied that you have cleared the plug from the spot, give the area another clean with the alcohol based cleanser. If you want to put anything else on the spot to dry it out make sure that you are applying this only to the spot and not the surrounding area but I would largely recommend leaving it well alone and simply dabbing with a tissue.
Calming the Redness
Afterwards, you can remove some of the inflammation around the area using some ice but be careful to keep the ice cube moving over the area so that it doesn’t stick and take off any healing skin.
To ensure that any area of skin heals as quickly as possible, including spots, make sure that you keep the area well moisturised and supple. Dry or dehydrated skin does not have the appropriate nutrients to rebuild itself and is more likely to develop into scar tissue. Once the wound has closed, you can also use gentle massage (with clean hands!) to encourage efficient healing.
Removing Other Types of Spots
A well trained beauty therapist should be able to extract other types of spot for you, including blackheads and milia. There are also pieces of equipment specifically made to help extract blackheads that can be purchased in places like Boots. If you would like to watch these being used effectively (or if, like me, you simply enjoy watching this kind of thing!) you might want to check out this video of a dermatologist extracting a multitude of comedones with several different extraction tools...... http://bit.ly/1ByYMuH
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