Have you seen those Dr. Pimple Popper videos? Gross, right? Yet, weirdly satisfying to watch.
Like more than a million people tuning in regularly to watch the gnarliest, ooziest, and strangely cringey-satisfying pimple-popping videos she posts on the regular, you can probably guess what business Dr. Sandra Lee (the titular pimple popping doctor herself) is in.
But unlike the many zit and cyst poppers proliferating online, Dr. Lee is a real dermatologist with more than a decade of expertise under her belt, so Women’s Health engaged her with some acne-related questions nearly everyone who’s going through puberty, and those whose skin seems to want to be in that pimple-ridden state forever, have:
“I have had chest and back acne for the longest time!!! And I don’t even drink soda or eat dairy!! I’m so confused on why I have it and others don’t, even when they eat unhealthy. It’s ruining everything for me and I’m starting to feel like I have a problem. What should I do??” —Yohana L.
Dr. Lee says that there’ s no conclusive evidence that soda or other fizzy drinks makes your acne worse; and that there’s only ‘a limited’ connection between acne and dairy.
“Acne is really mostly related to our hormones and our genetics. And what you get on your back and chest is the same acne that appears on your face. However, that means that you can treat chest and back acne with the same kinds of ingredients that you’d use on your face—with a few modifications,” she advises.
Dr .Lee says to look for acne-fighting ingredients in products that are designed to cover a larger area of the body—like Stridex pads with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid that you can swipe on your chest, or body washes with salicylic acid that can better clean the affected areas.
“The skin on these parts of the body is less sensitive than your face, so it’s less likely to become irritated or dry from a stronger topical medicine like retinol and benzoyl peroxide,” she said.
But watch out! Benzoyl peroxide can stain clothing and sheets, so Dr. Lee recommends doing the treatments at nighttime with a shirt you don’t mind getting ruined.
“I’ve been getting painful bumps between my eyebrows! They come back monthly. Sometimes they reveal themselves as zits and sometimes they stay under my skin. It has only been happening the last few months. Help!” —Ragen P.
“I’m guessing you may be getting small acne cysts that are under the skin (but I can’t say for certain unless I examine you myself!). Sometimes they come to the surface and your body expels the inflammation. These appear as painful red bumps that slowly rise to the surface and become pustules before they resolve—the classic “pimple,”” says Dr. Lee.
As a lesson, Dr. Lee says pimples are actually the physical manifestation of your body combating the acne cyst, which is why it’s filled with that white pus — it’s white blood cells working to destroy the bacteria in the zit! Gee, thanks body!
However, when they don’t reveal themselves as pus-filled zits and stay under the skin,
Dr. Lee says this is because this cyst didn’t get irritated or inflamed.
“Your body didn’t try to destroy it but is letting it coexist. Try to ignore them if you can feel them under the skin but can’t see them (I know, easier said than done!). But if you manipulate them, this can cause more trouble than it’s worth,” she said.
Dr. Lee adds that most dermatologists can prescribe antibiotics for a short time to prevent those bumps in the future (most commonly doxycycline or minocycline); to help prevent bacterial buildup and give those small bumps “a chance to resolve in as small and inconspicuous of a way as possible.”
“I’m 34, and after two kids and recently going off birth control, I’m breaking out badly. I’ve had three microdermabrasions and three chemical peels thinking it would help, but my acne seems to be getting worse and is leaving scars. I’ve also tried DIY masks and am about to attempt hydrogen peroxide just on my acne (going to do a spot-test first). I have sensitive, oily-to-dry skin. Any insight would help!” —Jamie V.
“You should stop spending money on all of these expensive and time-consuming procedures. None of them will resolve your breakouts because none of them can treat the actual cause: your hormones,” says Dr. Lee.
Fluctuations in your hormone levels caused by taking — and then stopping — oral contraceptives can cause breakouts, and the easiest remedy would be to start taking them again.
But Dr. Lee admits that’s not always an option for many people, so she suggests working closely with your derma to seek alternative methods to steady your hormone levels without needing to take oral contraceptives again.
“One option I’d recommend is spironolactone, a drug which is actually a diuretic (water pill) but has the added benefit of being an anti-androgen, meaning it helps to curb fluctuations in hormone levels. It is not for everyone but there are many people who swear by the benefits of this medication. This medication requires a prescription and monitoring by your physician,” she said.
Hopefully, the questions sent in here can help you with your similar problem, but as always, treating your body right from the inside is one of the first steps to prevent acne breakouts.
Drink your fluids, avoid too much junk and processed food, and work closely with a professional for the most extreme cases!