Why Is Pimple Popping So Addictive?

Have you ever noticed that when you have a pimple, it’s so incredibly hard NOT to pop?

Like, there’s such an intense urge to watch it gush.

But why?

Dr. Sandra Lee, MD, a dermatologist in Upland, CA, says:

“I think watching popping is similar to seeing a scary movie or riding a roller coaster for some. You get a rush of euphoria and excitement.”

But, despite the intense urge to pop, we all know that popping, squeezing, and even picking a pimple can really do some serious damage and could possibly make problems even worse. 🙁

But… some of us just can’t seem keep our hands off.


Here’s why:

Why Are We SO Hands-On With Our Skin?

According to Amy Wechsler, MD, a dermatologist and psychiatrist in New York City, when you have the biggest zit ever, the reason why you simply can’t leave it alone is because “In the moment, people feel like they have to do something,” she says.

“The occasional popper or picker thinks they’re making themselves better — they think they’re helping.”

So…essentially we’re trying to be problem-solvers — better yet, control freaks.

Popping a zit provides immediate gratification.

Just seeing puss ejected from your pores feels productive. Gross! But so true.

According to Heather Berlin, PhD, a neuroscientist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, we gain satisfaction by popping a pimple, which actually releases dopamine, which then activates the brain’s reward center.

“There’s a cycle of anxiety or arousal before the act and a sense of relief after.”

Simply put, there’s a physical release of pressure from the extracted blackhead/whitehead/pimple, as well as a mental sense of calm and gratification.

So, how could you honestly fight that deathly combo?

When Popping Pimples Actually Become A Problem

So let’s get the straight before we dig in (no pun intended).

Picking isn’t a total and complete crime.

In fact, it’s freaking normal!

But the problem arises when we treat popping and squeezing like a drug habit – making it incredibly hard to stop.

Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. says:

“The problem is that when you don’t see the result you want, it’s easy to keep going — and that’s when the damage happens.”

And this could possibly lead to the worst-case scenario: causing an open wound or infection.

When that happens, you’ve now prolonged the healing time and have possibly set yourself up for scarring and potentially more breakouts. 🙁

So before you start popping, it’s important to know that the clogging/inflammation that actually causes the pain/swelling lies deep inside the pore.

Dr. Zeichner reveals that “Squeezing can cause more inflammation, push dirt and debris further down, and rupture the follicle — you’re causing collateral damage.”

And inflammation, from the original breakout or from squeezing, ultimately causes damage and scarring. Ek!

Dr. Zeichner explains “Your body creates a ‘patch’ to address any skin damage. You produce new collagen, but it’s not organized and smooth — it’s thick and disordered. It doesn’t look like normal skin, and looks like a bump or depression.”

And in an attempt to protect your skin from additional damage, your body will create pigment in response to inflammation.

“If you have more red pigment in your skin, you’ll have more residual redness,” Dr. Lee says.

“If you have a darker skin tone, you’re more at risk for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.”

But there’s honestly no way to predict exactly just how your skin will respond.

So the only way to avoid scars is to be hands-off! No really….

How To Handle Pimple Popping Urges

Want to resist the urge all together?

Seek a professional to help you figure out a solution on how to clear up your skin.

Also, ditch that magnifying mirror. No one looks normal under a magnified mirror. End of story.

You can also opt for some behavior modification, meaning limiting your time in the bathroom/looking in the mirror.

If you need something a little more extreme, wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it when you have the urge.

Also when applying a spot-treatment cream, cover the area with a Band-Aid when they are at home to remind yourself not to pick.

Why Is Pimple Popping So Addictive?



Romana Hai

Founder, CEO & Editor-in-Chief

Romana Hai started blogging full-time in 2013 . Fashion Ambitions is more than a blog and more-or-less acts as a portfolio containing brands/collaborations and achievements. Although Romana was born and raised in New York, she currently resides in the Financial District of Boston, MA. Romana attended Penn State University and graduated in 2010 with two degrees: Economics from the Smeal College of Business and Telecommunications from the College of Communications. You can reach Romana at romana@fashionambitions.com.

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