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I've always been told, or notice others being told, or hear it in popular media, that squeezing pimples or blackheads is somehow "bad" for you. Certainly, when there is a chance that the skin breaks, we have to worry about introducing infections and a whole host of other things.

What I wish to know is, can squeezing pimples cause any detrimental effect other than the obvious? Can the pimples mysteriously spread? Can one break out in a rash? Can one develop lumps under the skin?

Is there any kind of evidence to support the claim that squeezing pimples is bad for you?

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I got told that it can produce scars. However, it never happened to me. –  Martin Scharrer Apr 12 '11 at 10:45
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Well, I guess if you squeezed so much that you caused a real injury to yourself then it could scar and it would then be bad for you... but that's kinda cheating to answer like that, isn't it? –  Glen Wheeler Apr 12 '11 at 11:08
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@Glen: I wasn't answering but commenting :-) Also what I meant is that I got told, e.g. from my grandmother (old-wive tale alert!), that the normal squeezing of pimples or blackheads can turn them into scars. Tiny round scars I guess. Personally, I don't believe that at all. I just wanted to add an example of "bad for you", because you didn't gave any. –  Martin Scharrer Apr 12 '11 at 11:31
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What about "spreading the infection" that caused the pimple/blackhead? I have heard that wives tale as well. Perhaps expand the question with that aspect? –  Brightblades Apr 12 '11 at 13:56
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I actually think that perhaps not squeezing the pimple can be bad. I think that squeezing it helps to clear up the condition of the skin before other pimples take hold which can further detract from the condition of the skin. I think the net result of detracted skin condition in this case is scarring, since the skin becomes an unlocalised mess (acne). (p.s. I am a spot squeezer, with no facial scars) :) –  Chris Dennett Apr 14 '11 at 16:45

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Acne lesions should NOT be squeezed

It can lead to permanent scarring.

Acne lesions should not be squeezed. Popping of acne spots does make acne less visible temporarily but it is followed by more severe inflammatory lesions in a few days. Squeezing acne spots results in the rupture of the pilosebaceous duct and the contents of the gland and duct are passed into the dermis. Here they incite an inflammatory reaction, resulting in a deeper and more severe reaction. So the temptation to squeeze acne lesions should be curbed.

Dispelling the Myths and Misconceptions of Acne by Zohra Zaidi, Journal of Pakistan Medical Association

Try to resist the temptation to pick or squeeze the spots as this can lead to permanent scarring.

NHS Acne page

Acne scarring

Acne scarring can sometimes develop as a complication of acne. This happens when the most serious types of spots – nodules and cysts – burst and damage nearby skin.
Scarring can also occur if you pick or squeeze your spots, so it is important not to do this.

NHS Complications of acne

What makes acne worse?

[...]

  • Picking and squeezing the spots may cause further inflammation and scarring.

Acne information leaflet, Patient.co.uk

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