this is what you get for picking at it
August 9, 2011 7:26 PM   Subscribe

Embarrassing question somewhere between skincare and first aid.

I have sensitive skin, and in this humid weather I have been breaking out like a teenager, sometimes within 20 minutes of the last time I looked at a mirror. I have doubled my face-washing and started using salicyclic acid pads again, but there it is. I am a born fidgeter and terrible about fussing with breakouts -- we all know you're not supposed to, but we also all know that if you do it right, the problem goes away instantly instead of hanging on for a week. So now I have the kind of thing that I think is called acne excoriee: several weeping sores with clear to bloody fluid, warm to the touch. This is not classy at work.

My question for you is: should I use salicylic acid first to draw out the moisture, or use a topical antibiotic like Neosporin? Or mix them? Would plain rubbing alcohol be better? What is the best thing to do for it before I leave it alone?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Wash it with cool clear water.

No chemicals. No scrubbing. No wash cloth.
posted by bilabial at 7:32 PM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm with bilabial, should add that means no soap, either. just water splashed on your face and patted dry as gently as you can. if they're really open and you're worried about infection, go ahead with an antibiotic.
posted by Lady Li at 7:38 PM on August 9, 2011

Can you go to a sort of super-pharmacy, somewhere that carries a lot of medical supplies, and score yourself some 3M Tegasorb Hydrocolloid Dressing?

Here is a little explanation of the uses of such a dressing. ("...Tegasorb technology who thrives on sucking out maximum pus...") You can buy just one, cut it into pieces. It will keep it clean while letting it drain.

If you can't find the Tegasorb, treat it as you would a scrape. Wash very gently, antibiotic cream, bandage -- bandage overnight, at least.
posted by kmennie at 7:39 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have the same problem. Washing with Benzoyl Peroxide soap helps me quite a bit when my skin breaks out, and helps clear up the sores a little quicker if I pick at it.

A good preventative is using some sort of face cream. Cocoa butter also helps the skin heal, and helps manage acne.

I never use a washcloth on my face. I also only use soap at night, followed by skin cream.

I'm a guy, btw.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:42 PM on August 9, 2011

If you think it is acne excoriee, have you seen this page? Acne Excoriée: Self Care (link via NLM and HONCODE).

My personal opinion is if it's weeping or open & inflamed, you don't want to put anything harsh on it like rubbing alcohol or salicylic acid. If it's weeping but not too open, maybe try something oil-free that would help soothe it like Neosporin or aloe vera. If it's open, seconding bilabel.

If you go to a pharmacy - see if the pharmacist has any recommendations. If you are getting this regularly, go see a doctor. It may be additionally heat rash, eczema, shaving rash, or you may need a prescription for something that prevents deep acne from forming. I'm on Differin and it helps me a lot. I've also had bad (leg) shaving rash, and I was recommended a combo antibiotic/hydrocortisone type thing to help clear that up.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 7:45 PM on August 9, 2011

I'm confused, so did you have some zits that you tried to pop, and now they won't heal up?

This happened to me recently on the side of my nose, where I had a nasty cystic acne type deal that I tried to pop before it was ready (what can I say, it was hurting). Pus kept gathering under the skin and an icky scab formed. After a few days of this, I got rid of the scab and put on some neosporin, with a bandaid over it when I was at home. I reapplied the neosporin every few hours. It started healing up really quickly, like within a day.

So if that's the situation you're in, I recommend blotting it well, then applying neosporin. If it's some other kind of skin condition, I don't know. Also, I only wash my face with water, but this summer with the heat and the humidity I also have had more breakouts than usual.
posted by cabingirl at 9:43 PM on August 9, 2011

Maybe not something you can do at work, but when I have the open weeping sores I've found that hydrogen peroxide helps. (The basic brown drugstore/grocery store bottle, not the highly-concentrated kind.) I use a tissue to draw out the moisture at first, followed by a Q-Tip to dab/drip some hydrogen peroxide on each sore and watch it fizz the bacteria away.

It isn't instant but I've noticed sores clear up faster. I'll usually do the hydrogen peroxide at night and then use a glycolic acid treatment on the rest of my face.

YMMV based on your sensitive skin. (Mine isn't sensitive, I just still break out like a frickin' teenager.) It could sting and it may cause irritation/peeling in the skin immediately around the sore, especially if it's left on the skin for a while. Make sure you wipe off any excess, and once it has finished fizzing I dab it off with a tissue. I'd test on a Friday night so you have the weekend to see how it goes.
posted by scarnato at 9:55 PM on August 9, 2011

Never use neosporin on acne. Neosporin should not be used for more than about three days in a row on any part of the body because of the risk of a hypersensitivity reaction, which is quite common. I agree with the recs to wash with water +/- a mild soap (like Dove or Cetaphil) and if you feel that it is infected, a topical antibiotic like clindamycin may be indicated.
posted by robstercraw at 8:09 AM on August 10, 2011

Salicylic acid won't draw out moisture; it is effective for acne because it is a keratolytic agent. It can make your skin more sensitive as it can be an irritant at higher concentrations or with overuse.

bilabial is right- you need to stop being so harsh to your skin, and you need to stop touching your face. If I were going to put anything on the blemishes, it would be 5% tea tree in jojoba, or just jojoba. Dried out skin does not cure acne because your skin produces more oil to compensate. If you are a fusser you are constantly transferring bacteria to your face with your hands, as this is also problematic.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:19 PM on August 10, 2011

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