zebra stripes are not fitting for a human.
August 30, 2011 8:17 PM   Subscribe

What did I do to my poor face?

I have had a pea-sized cystic pimple/nodule on my left cheek for a long while (2-3 weeks). This morning it finally dried out, but another one appeared just above it and after applying a little glycolic acid to the new spot (just to nudge it along) I discovered that this bizarre stripe had appeared directly underneath it. Initially it was bright white and now it's that angry red color you can see in the picture.

What did I do to my poor face? :( I have applied Aveno Calming Lotion to the sore and its stripe and I've even gone so far as to ice my poor face since the pimple hurts without me touching it. I only get hardcore pimples like this on my cheek.

Additionally, why do I keep getting the same cyst in the same damn place(s)? Whenever I go to see a dermatologist the pimple is always gone, and it reappears within days of seeing the doctor, so asking them isn't helpful because they don't believe me when I say I'm getting pimples like this.
posted by These Birds of a Feather to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why don't you take a high quality digital photo of it and bring it/send it to the doctor?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:19 PM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Additionally, why do I keep getting the same cyst in the same damn place(s)?

Do you rest your face in your hand when you sit at a desk? Because that'll do it.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:22 PM on August 30, 2011

How often do you clean or switch out your pillow cases? I only get pimples where my face meets the pillow if I'm not vigilant about clean pillow cases. I also stopped the resting of face in hand that oinopapiton mentions.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:27 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do you use a face wash with benzoyl peroxide? If I use it, my face gets red, streaky, and blotchy--sometimes. (Which was just great when I was a teenager and some days it'd be fine and some days I'd go to school looking like I had applied warpaint. I quickly learned not to use benzoyl peroxide.)

Anyway, it's possible it's something like that, and/or that the glycolic acid reacted with it in some way to de-blotch that one area of your skin, causing the stripe to be that much more pronounced.

Seconding oinopaponton on the why is it in the same place thing. You probably have some sort of repetitive touching-the-face-in-that-area habit that you just don't realize. It could even happen while you're sleeping. (Speaking of which, you should be really aggressive about always putting on a fresh pillowcase or laying your head on a clean towel every night. That goes a long way to keeping your skin clear.)
posted by phunniemee at 8:28 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

That looked like more than just a pimple, but looked like a subcutaneous infection (the angry-looking stripe). If you can, you might want to get to an emergency clinic as soon as possible.

I don't know what to say about zits. I generally get them on the nape of my neck, and they're stress-related (muscle tension + hormonal). Washing with a peroxide soap works, as does using a peroxide gel cream.

But what you have now looks more serious.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:36 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

That looks like an infection. I am not a doctor, I am certainly not your doctor. Have a friend take some glamour shots of this one and send them to your doctor.

I suspect that, like me, and others above, you have a habit of touching this particular part of your face. Become extra mindful of that and I bet it'll help a bunch. Beyond touching, wash your shirts and your pillowcases with extra frequency (disregard if you only wear each shirt once, but I know some folks re-wear.)

Finally, wash your face with only water and a soft washcloth. No soap unless you have dirt on your face. I have oily face skin, and was appalled when my doctor told me to stop using the damn soap and facial cleansers. But hey, I did. And now things are so much better. Less oily! Only one or two zits a year! Ask your doctor about this too.
posted by bilabial at 8:45 PM on August 30, 2011

Adding to the chorus of "you're probably touching that area a lot," I've had a history of bad skin and I'm inclined to believe that it's not that you keep getting hardcore pimples on your cheek, it's more likely that you have had the same subcutaneous pimple under your skin, unhealed, for a long time. The pimples are when it flares up, the stripe looks like an infection of the fluid under the skin.

Head to a dermatologist. He or she may give you an injection of cortisone. He or she may also look at your cheek and decide that you need a round of antibiotics first. If you have a cyst, he or she may opt to remove it surgically. You never know; go to a derm to get that checked out. IANAD, but you probably don't need to go to urgent care unless the spot on your cheek is hot to the touch or throbbing (indicating a certain infection).

Take more pictures, including ones using a ruler for scale if you have one, and next to a white sheet of paper and the back of your hand for color comparisons. If you need to take those to the dermatologist, that ought to help.
posted by juniperesque at 8:55 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take a picture, yes - but have a doctor look at this immediately if the red stripe doesn't go away within a few minutes. Seriously - have this checked out.
posted by aryma at 9:55 PM on August 30, 2011

Response by poster: Oh shit, seriously? The stripe's been there for 2 hours now. It's slightly raised, too. I took two Advil, one Benadryl, and have been icing it gently. I'll try to make an emergency appointment with a dermatologist tomorrow morning if it's not gone by them. Fail. :(

FWIW, I definitely touch my face nonstop (part of my trich/OCD habits, huzzah) and I favor my left side when I sleep so that must be contributing to the pore problems on that side. That cheek has had some kind of pimple in the same spot for a year.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:03 PM on August 30, 2011

I'm not a doctor, but to me, it looks like a good-sized infection, possibly into your blood stream now - or, another possibility would be an allergic reaction, but that's not as likely if the spot has actually been there for a long time, just flaring up and going away. It's probably a small cyst which is generally harmless but the area can get infected and the doctor will probably want to remove it. And I'd see a dermatologist - not a regular doctor - because there are a whole lot of things this could be and a dermatologist will figure it out the fastest.

I wouldn't stress about it tonight, but I'd recommend getting it seen ASAP. And DO take a photo of it now so when you go to the doctor tomorrow he can compare the appearance over the time period.

The Benadryl was a good idea.

Don't worry - it'll be okay.
posted by aryma at 10:16 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll try to make an emergency appointment with a dermatologist tomorrow morning if it's not gone by them. Fail. :(

No, you need to go to a walk-in clinic or emergency, the sooner the better. This is close to your nasal cavity, which is close to your brain.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:22 PM on August 30, 2011

Response by poster: No, you need to go to a walk-in clinic or emergency, the sooner the better. This is close to your nasal cavity, which is close to your brain.

That is currently not possible. My urgent care is the only clinic open in my neighborhood, and it has been full for the past 6 hours.

Thankfully there is no pain, no burning. There's just that curved swatch, which, combined with the redness of the two spots above it, now looks like a giant red penis has manifested itself upon my cheek, which is terribly unbecoming and I really hope I don't have to go to class tomorrow looking like I have a penis on my face...
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:52 PM on August 30, 2011

Erysipelas. Or contact dermatitis from that goo you smeared on it. If it's the former, it really won't wait.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 11:31 PM on August 30, 2011

IANYD but I did want to counter the opinions above to say that this doesn't sound like a bloodstream infection, which is usually accompanied by feeling ill and fever/chills, nor does it look like it would be advancing towards your brain anytime soon. That being said, I can't exactly tell from the photo but it might be a small area of skin infection, a 'cellulitis'. you can trace the outline of it with a pen or marker and see if the redness is spreading. If it's not rapidly worsening, an appointment in the morning should suffice.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:33 PM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: It honestly just looks like a sunburn right now. It hasn't changed in size, and the texture is a little smoother than the rest of my skin (not at all ridged, bumpy, or grainy). I feel great aside from a sore throat that I've had since yesterday. I am going to think happy thoughts because lord knows you can make illnesses worse just by focusing on them.

Thanks for all the input.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:37 PM on August 30, 2011

Protocols etc., if you look under the signs and symptoms on your link, the OP doesn't have any of them except the red rash part. They specifically mentioned it's not painful either. Erysipelas is not common. I think it's unlikely. again, with the disclaimer that if it's quickly getting worse, all bets are off.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:37 PM on August 30, 2011

Best answer: I use glycolic acid face cream (cleared my persistent chin zits, yay!) and I know that skin has to get used to it in gradual stages to handle the higher concentrations. Otherwise yeah, my skin gets inflamed and pink on areas that aren't used to it. Who knows, perhaps your GA product did the same thing and you got a bit of a chemical burn from it. It'd require more info on your product and application history.

The ibuprofen and benadryl has already been calming the inflammation. Another possible thing is a slight allergic reaction, which are known to suddenly arise when there was none before. And if you're touching your face constantly, who knows what you might have transferred there. I'd recommend becoming a frequent hand-washer if you can't curb that habit.
posted by lizbunny at 7:29 AM on August 31, 2011

Oh, okay, I've burned my face before after applying cream or using a soap. Maybe that's what it is.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:52 AM on August 31, 2011

Something I haven't seen mentioned in the possible causes above is talking on the telephone, if you use that side and it tends to rest on your cheek. If that's so, hold it away from your face a little bit and/or wipe it down with something frequently.
posted by telophase at 11:28 AM on August 31, 2011

Also guessing contact dermatitis, as it looks like the rash I got when I discovered I was allergic to some chemical in blue and black dyes - I'd wiped my sweaty face with a shirt that had a B&W print of an orca on it, and where the orca touched my skin, it turned an angry red, giving me lovely facial stripes.

My doctor gave me a cream whose directions warned me not to put a diaper on the affected areas, which resulted in much hilarity from my family.
posted by telophase at 11:32 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So... As it happens, I forgot that I'd placed a bandaid on that area of my cheek a few days earlier and that I'd ripped it off somewhat abruptly prior to putting glycolic acid on my face... Basically I gave myself a minor chemical peel and nothing else is wrong.

Thanks for all your advice and input! Doctor says I'm kind of dumb but it happens to people all the time. T__T Sad day.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:27 PM on August 31, 2011

Thanks for updating!
posted by bilabial at 12:59 PM on September 1, 2011

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