To Pick or Not to Pick: The Truth About Spots

Skincare | | 5 minute read.

Beauty is about letting your inner confidence shine through, but finding that confidence when you’re struggling with spots is never easy. And trust me, I get it. You just want to squeeze those spots into oblivion, but that’s not always the quick fix you believe it is.

People think that a burst spot is a problem solved, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The act of picking can actually exacerbate the issue and transform a transient spot into a lingering problem. So while you might enjoy a brief moment of relief, your problems are just getting started. 


The problem with picking

As the ‘queen of extractions’ (really, I’m famed for it), you might think I’m all for picking those pimples – but dealing with extractions in a clinical setting is very different from tackling them by yourself at home. 

When we succumb to that oh-so-tempting urge to pick, we lay out the welcome mat for bacteria. This can cause infection, and even lead to more advanced forms of acne, such as nodular or cystic variants, which are notoriously stubborn to treat. But that’s not where our problems end.

When you squeeze a spot, your body literally sees it as an injury (ouch!) and kickstarts the inflammatory response to repair the damage. While that might sound like a good thing, prolonged cycles of damage and repair can create scars and post inflammatory pigmentation – ranging from subtle, flat marks, to more pronounced, deep-set indentations.


Emergency spot treatment

If you shouldn’t pick your spots, what should you do when a blemish threatens to put a downer on your day? Spot treat!

As a skincare consultant, I would always recommend seeing a trained professional for tailored advice on healing your skin; however, if that’s not an option for you right now, there are products that you can buy (or make) to help combat inflammation and expedite the healing process. 

Drying the skin out to excess can create real issues, so instead, I’d recommend: 

  • Hydrocolloid patches to absorb fluid from your blemish and protect your skin from infection.
  • A super gentle, pH-balanced cleansing milk that protects against dryness, flakiness, redness and sensitivity (my personal recommendation is this Dermaviduals DMS Cleansing Milk).
  • A gloriously brightening, cleansing, and rejuvenating face mask for beautiful, glowy skin. And guess what? You can easily make your own with a little expert guidance!


Longer-term spot treatment

For particularly stubborn spots, professional intervention really is your best course of action. You can find out more about how I treat inflamed skin at my North London clinic, or through my bespoke product recommendations

I’d also recommend turning your attention to lifestyle factors, such as:

  • A balanced diet 
  • Regular exercise 
  • Stress management and mitigation (meditation for the win!) 


Looking at the different areas of your life will ensure your skin is not only equipped to combat current breakouts, but resilient enough to prevent future ones.


Preventing future spots

It’s not always possible to stop spots from forming, but your best chance is to understand the unique dynamics of your skin and cater to its specific demands. I’ll say it again: consultation with a skincare specialist will always be your best bet, but at the very least, you need to develop a steadfast routine that encompasses regular:

  1. Cleansing
  2. Desquamation
  3. Moisturising

This will help to keep pores unobstructed and limit excessive oil accumulation. 

You should also think about:

  • Eliminating dairy and spicy foods
  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods
  • Double cleansing after wearing makeup or suncream
  • Showering immediately after sweaty exercise 
  • Trying LED therapy (total game-changer!!) 


Skincare heroes 

 In your quest for flawless skin, there are certain key ingredients that could prove to be valuable allies. 

Salicylic acid can deeply penetrate pores and dissolve the debris to avert potential blockages, while retinoids promote swift skin cell turnover to keep your skin fresh and rejuvenated. 

But remember that skincare is only one part of the solution. What you feed your body reflects on your skin, so you should aim to nourish your body with a wholesome diet that’s brimming with antioxidants, while keeping processed foods at bay. This can also help to manage hormonal fluctuations that often fuel acne (as can incorporating regular exercise into your lifestyle and keeping stress to a minimum).

Periods, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause can all wreak havoc on your skin, so if you do breakout and decide to try new products, introduce these one at a time and monitor how your skin reacts. 


Understanding the root cause of spots 

Before we go, let’s take a look at what causes spots in the first place.

I’m a firm believer that what’s going on inside your body shows on the outside. That’s why I always start my clients’ journeys with an in-depth consultation. Everything from medication and health issues to stress and diet can impact your skin – meaning there is no one-size-fits-all solution to a radiant complexion.

As well as hormonal upheavals, bacteria, and excess oil production, spots are the product of a dynamic interplay between all four bodies:

  1. Emotional
  2. Spiritual
  3. Mental 
  4. Physical 

Now hear me out. I’m not going full-on woo-woo here. Skin health really is about elemental equilibrium. When any one of your elements is out of sync, it shows on your skin. Any skincare consultant worth their salt should be looking at what’s going on in your mind, nervous system and gut, mapping out your skin ecosystem, and using that knowledge to figure out what’s contributing to your skincare concerns.

Even when you think you’re doing everything right, disruptions to your skin’s natural ecosystem can happen very unexpectedly (particularly when hormones are at play). Understanding your own triggers is also really important in learning how to prevent spots – which is why consultations are so important. 


To pick or not to pick? That is the question…

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that popping spots really isn’t the way to go. If you need to scratch that particular itch, stick to watching Dr. Pimple Popper – because your skin deserves so much better than a quick squeeze!

However, if you do insist on picking, this is how to do it in a way that minimises damage: 

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with an antimicrobial soap like Hibiscrub
  2. Pop on some sterile gloves
  3. Wipe over the spot and surrounding skin with clinisept antimicrobial cleanser
  4. Gently squeeze the spot with your gloved fingers and a soft sterile gauze
  5. Stop as soon as the pus is removed – and only squeeze if it’s a juicy spot that’s eager to pop!
  6. Wipe over the squeezed spot and surrounding area with a clean cotton pad and clinisept 
  7. Apply a hydrocolloid patch to prevent infection and promote healing – OR dab with a Q tip or cotton pad with clinisept until bleeding subsides
  8. Allow to air dry, and be careful when applying skincare because it is an open wound 
  9. Sleep on a CLEAN pillowcase


For more skincare tips you can download my brochure, or book a virtual or in-person consultation with the Queen of Extractions. 


Ingrid Raphael