BACKGROUND: WHAT’S GOING ON DOWN THERE?
In For the Nasty Results
If you have ever been to traffic school, you may have seen the film, Red Asphalt. It describes in gory detail the results of dangerous driving complete with all the blood and guts. This next section is the equivalent for pickers. It is not a pretty topic, but you must know the consequences and risks associated with going against nature’s plan for healing.
We already discussed how when you pick and squeeze you can enlarge, extend or distort a pore so that you have set yourself up for further problems down the road. Let’s see what else you can look forward to if you keep picking.
In For the Nasty Results – Scarring
One of the things that gets me depressed now that I am a recovering face picker, is the scars left on my face. They are subtle, but when the light hits my skin just right I can see the craters and small indentations where countless picked zits used to be. I could never see them before because I was so concentrating on the pimple and breakouts. Now that my skin has cleared up, the scars are a little more visible. And I suppose that with aging, they come out more as well. So even if you think you are not scarring your skin now, you probably are.
Let’s start with talking about scarring or ‘acne keloidalis’. Hypotrophic pitted scars, hypertrophic scars or acne keloids are caused by an unnatural change in the size and amount of cells. This occurs when the keratin, that fibrous protein found in the dermis layer of skin is altered from its original shape due to undue pressure.
I never thought that the mild picking was doing anything to my face. I always pressed as far down on (into) my skin so as to avoid making the pimple pop internally. Once in a while I failed and could hear the barely audible sound of the infection bursting below the surface. It would scare me a little when that happened, because deep down I knew that was bad news. And sometimes it made me stop my ‘session. But often I would go into denial and work on the other side of my face. Once in a while it would burst out onto the mirror with a spurt of pus and blood which I would quickly wipe up lest someone else would discover what I had done. Although the bleeding spot on my face was proof enough. I still felt the need to cover up.
I felt especially victorious when a little piece of hard material came out with the ooze, because then I knew my I had successfully completed my mission. If I did not get that hard sebum, I might work on it longer often getting out a pin or needle or x-acto knife to help dig it out. I never realized what I was actually digging into. I just knew there was something to be released and my body wasn’t doing it fast enough. I felt I was justified, because I felt my body had malfunctioned and I was going to fix it. I thought that my body didn’t know what it was doing, because it broke out in the first place, right?
And when I was done working on my face there were always ingrown hairs to look for. And then there were always my cuticles later…
I was always careful when a pimple looked like it was healing with a pock or hole to pick it some more so that it would heal ‘more flatly’. I would extend the range of the scab to even it out with the rest of my face and thought I was so clever for figuring that out. Then one day I caught my reflection in a mirror that had a different light source from my usual bathroom mirror and saw them. They weren’t deep, but they were there. A whole network of uneven surface. Little sunken circles all over my cheeks. I had scars. No they weren’t the typical deep pit, crater, ‘pock’ scars, but they were there nonetheless. Next time you have a chance, try to look at your complexion with light coming from the side or behind you and see what you see. I hope that if you do experience what I did you will have the sense enough to stop right then and there at that point. I didn’t.
I know an older lady who experienced a traumatic acne breakout as a young woman when she had an open picked pimple. Grease paint makeup got into pore and caused a very bad infection. This infection spread across her entire face causing huge and painful nodules. Because of a lack of understanding on the part of doctors in those days, she was never treated and to this day has very deep scars across both sides of her face. This lifetime blow to her self esteem must have been quite unbearable. Currently 50 years later she is looking into dermabrasion treatment, but as yet has been unable to afford this costly procedure.
If you do end up with scars, think of all the hassle and additional medical bills you will incur, not to mention the pain and de-humanizing process of going through any medical treatment. Old fashioned and very painful dermabrasion or sandpapering has given way to the newer iontophoresis using either Tretinoin or Retinyl acetate (cis-retinoic acid) where you can’t go out in the sun and it may cause birth defects if you are a woman.
And then there are chemical peels. We’re talking trychloracetic ACID here. Do you really want something with that kind of name burning and eating away at your face? There is also a Carbon Dioxide flush which resurfaces your face through the use of lasers and Cross hatching scarification where they cut up your face with tiny scratched lines to create additional scarring that will mask or camoflauge the scarring you’ve already created. To fill up deep pocks you might go through Punch and Suture or drill and Gelfoam process. And all of the above treatments can result in additional scarring, not healing.
In For the Nasty Results – Skin Pigmentation
In addition to dimensional pitted scarring there is also the issue of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Those are the red spots that are left on your skin long after the pimple is gone. This pigmentation can last for months and even years.
Every time you squeeze at your face you are bruising the minuscule veins and capillaries that feed your skin. Have you ever seen an older person that has spidery red and blue lines across their face. These are broken capillaries. Caused both by high blood pressure AND potentially by picking. And by the way – never pinch a youngster’s cheeks – no matter how cute they are, please.
In For the Nasty Results – Infection and Poisoning
Frequent picking of pimples and scabs will often result in chronic infected eruptions. A chronic condition means you have gone from something that happens once or twice to something that will keep coming back over and over again.
Septicemia or blood poisoning can develop quickly anytime the skin is broken and bacteria is present. It is a very serious condition because most of the bodies defense system is focused outside of the bloodstream. It first appears as a rash under the skin which look like tiny red spots anywhere on the body. When left untreated the spots spread and begin to look like fresh bruises due to the excess bleeding under the skin.
Staphylococcal (Staph) Infections can be confused with P. Acnes infections because they both start at the skin level. “Staphylococci are normal inhabitants of the nose, skin and hair follicles of most healthy people. A staph infection can begin with a single infected hair follicle called folliculitus. What forms next is what looks like a single pimple or a furuncle or a cluster of linked pimples or carbuncles. The staph bacteria is a cause of many common skin or wound infections, but have more serious consequences. When staph spreads it can cause extensive tissue degeneration and lead to more serious infections in other body systems such as pneumonia.
In For the Nasty Results – Cancer
Yes, you could possible risk cancer by picking. One of the ‘alert’ signs for cancer is a sore that doesn’t heal. If you continue to pick at the same area, you are asking the cells in that area to repair the same wound over and over again. This could set you up for future overproduction of cells in the area or ‘carcinoma”. Basal cell carcinomas that affect the epidermis begin right in the hair follicles. And there have been links between squamous cell carcinoma (cancer of the epidermis) and picking a particular kind of cyst (seborrheic keratosis). Sure it’s a long shot, but do you really want to risk it?
In For the Nasty Results – Aging
Now that I have reached that 30 something range, I am beginning to pay more attention to the aging issue. If you have been using any kind of drying agent on your skin in the hopes of drying that scab or quickly clearing up that mess you made, think again. Every time you try to dry it up, you are aging your skin.
AND every time you damage the skin by squeezing or picking you are creating future wrinkles by breaking down the vital collagen and elastin. Remember those complex proteins in the lower papillary layer which give skin its support and elasticity? When you physically pressure the skin, you break down the chemical bonds between the molecules and the cells themselves. Over time this effects your skin’s resiliency and eventually will lead to wrinkles.
In For the Nasty Results – What’s Next?
This chapter included a lot of highly technical information. Don’t expect to remember everything written, but as we move through the remaining chapters, if you need to – reread this section so that you have a very clear understanding of everything that is happening inside of you.
Having this kind of technical information is a great start, but it is not the only thing you need to know… One of the conclusions I came to after doing all of this research is that obsessive picking is certainly not just the result of or response to a physical or medical condition. Insanity is loosely described by Alcoholics Anonymous as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results! So habitual picking is a serious emotional disease with intense psychological ramifications.