agh, my faaaaace....
September 29, 2013 8:56 PM   Subscribe

They're not zits, but they turn into zits. What do I do about them??

I have these little bumps on my face that turn into blackheads, or sometimes whiteheads, but first they hang out there for just about ever being ugly. (They're the same color as my skin, not red.) It’s gotten worse now that I’m back in school and stressed out. They just don't go away, and more of them keep showing up. (This might be due partly to scratching at them...)

I don't currently do anything to my skin besides wash with Dove soap in the shower. Aside from these bumps and a few blackheads (plus a small whitehead or two when I'm on the rag), my skin is pretty good, not excessively oily or dry.

Is there a commercial or natural product you can recommend for dealing with these? I’ve also heard that one can get zits “popped” by a professional. Does that work? (And if so, what is that actually called?)

Any advice is appreciated!
posted by switcheroo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Could it actually be karatosis pilaris? I have KP in lots of places, but just plain ol' zits on my face. I've tried lots of things but I haven't gone in for the coconut oil suggestions due to a scent aversion. (I'm working on it.)

The professional popping is called "extraction" and sometimes it can be legit and other times it can be a total racket. Tread carefully.
posted by Mizu at 9:03 PM on September 29, 2013

Best answer: I started getting those flesh colored bumps that never go away when I started grad school. The only thing that worked for getting rid of them and keeping them away is benzoyl peroxide face wash (a really gentle 2.5% concentration is enough for me) and a Clarisonic face brush.

Professional extractions won't work because these things just keep coming back until you find the right product to keep away whatever it is that causes them.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:34 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: They are blocked pores, skin coloured bumps that may (or may not) become pimples/blackheads/blemishes.

You need a BHA (Salycilic Acid) product to chemically exfoliate them away.

Paula's Choice make great BHA products in a range of strengths and finishes (cream, gel or liquid).

I highly recommend them and use the 2% liquid and the 9% serum myself.

Good luck!
posted by Youremyworld at 9:37 PM on September 29, 2013 [10 favorites]

My mom was weirdly obsessed with my brother's and my zits, and dragged us to dermatologists and put us on all kinds of suspicious meds/wash regimens to fight them. She had mostly run out of ideas by the time my brother was in the thick of it, and actually took him to an aesthetician to get chemical peels and professional extractions. These were all terrible ideas, of course, and we're lucky that none of it permanently screwed us up.

But let me tell you about this professional extraction...I took my brother to one of his appointments and was there with him the whole time.

This was at a nice place (an aesthetician working in an office group of the best cosmetic plastic surgeons in the city where we grew up), so my assumption is that this is as legit as it gets.

She cleaned his face with a few cleansing pads.
Used a warm towel over his face to open up the pores.
Took two cotton swabs and used those to pop the zits/pull out the blackheads.
...that was it.

Fucking cotton swabs, I shit you not. Go in from the sides, be gentle. But seriously, that's all it is. You can do that yourself for approximately zero dollars.

But it sounds like what you've got going on is something else entirely--something for which a visit to the dermatologist would be completely legitimate. I just...the "professional extraction" Don't waste your money on that BS.
posted by phunniemee at 9:39 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Picking and squeezing and scraping your face is not a great thing to do. Squeezing zits, while satisfying, can cause secondary infection and even scarring.

My wife is super careful with her skin (she's Japanese, so summertime for her means to break out long-sleeved shirts, sun-hats and cotton scarves in order to protect her skin).

The key to preventing zits is to use a gentle soap at night to remove bacteria and dirt and whatever. After that, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize (this works for men).

Instead of exfoliating, work on keeping the top layer of skin soft and supple, which can prevent hardened dead skin from blocking pores.

This has helped me prevent ingrown hairs from shaving. In the wintertime the air is colder and drier, which dries out skin, which hardens it, which can cause zits.

If you have zits and want them to go away faster, use a hot compress.

But my wife, who has very beautiful skin (she's a real beauty), thinks scrubbing skin is crazy (always use your hands to avoid damaging your skin) and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:57 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have the same exact problem. I use benzoyl peroxide gel (5%) and a and a Clarisonic face brush (with a benzoyl peroxide cleansing liquid). Only thing that has ever worked. If I stop, I go back to the bumps, then the blackheads, then the pimples.

I tried the no scrub method. It did not work. I tried the gentle cleanser method. No luck. Some people have good skin, some not so good. I fall in the not good to bad skin. I had cystic acne when I was a teen.

I am very leery of the oil cleaning method. I think it is a fad and probably causes more problems in the end.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 10:07 PM on September 29, 2013

Anecdatally, I've noticed dairy consumption, especially cheese, makes all the difference in the world in causing/preventing this. If I don't eat cheese, I don't have to play benzoyl whack-a-mole during the following week.
posted by perhapsolutely at 11:02 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'll second the recommendation to try a product containing salicylic acid, which is available at any drugstore. If what you are describing is the same thing as the little bumps under the skin that I suffered from for years (e.g., so that my forehead was rarely smooth, and every once in a while a bump would turn into an actual zit), then salicylic acid was the only thing that worked for me to get rid of them.

I think this condition is called "congestion" and what salicylic acid will do is help chemically exfoliate the outer layer of skin so things don't get all plugged up.

This is my current favourite SA-containing treatment cream.

I hope it (or similar) works for you.
posted by Halo in reverse at 4:19 AM on September 30, 2013

Steam your face, then exfoliate with a gentle scrub.

You can steam your face over a basin of hot water with a towel draped over your head, like if you were congested. Add some fragrance to the water if you like, eucalyptus (I did this a lot as a kid for congestion) or lavender.

After the scrub, wipe with witch hazel (super cheap and super gentle). Finish with a light moisturizer.

If you enjoy that sort of thing, Biore strips can be fun. In fact, Biore has a line that I'd try if I had the skin issues you're describing.
One thing I learned was that foundation isn't just make up, it keeps impurity out of your pores. I like BB creams for day. They even your skin tone, protect it from the sun and offer a light moisturizer. I use Garnier. No need to go nuts. Maybellene makes one with no oil.

And keep your hands off your face! Never squeeze your pores or blackheads.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:28 AM on September 30, 2013

Best answer: As you improve the cleaning regimen on your face, don't forget that you need to change your pillowcase frequently, to make sure you don't get dirt build up from the fabric getting back on your clean face
posted by CathyG at 7:56 AM on September 30, 2013

Best answer: I also endorse the BHA suggestions above. I suggest not following Ruthless Bunny's advice in any of its particulars other than the not picking. A chemical exfoliator (glycolic or salicylic acid) will be better for your skin than a physical scrub, because it won't give you irritating micro-tears, and it will also help preserve the acid mantle of your skin. Steaming, witch hazeling, essential oils, etc. won't help with your little bumps, and you say that your skin is happy otherwise -- don't mess with what's not broken.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:40 AM on September 30, 2013

Response by poster: Woo, thanks for the suggestions! I will try the benzoyl peroxide since I can get that easily, and if that doesn't work I'll give salycilic acid a go. Thanks everyone!
posted by switcheroo at 10:12 AM on September 30, 2013

Late to the party...

Use the benzoyl peroxide sparingly - only on the affected area and discontinue when it finishes its job. Long term use is not recommended.

Personally I find salicyllic acid weaker than benzoyl peroxide, so I'd use that one first.

Finally, you could try dropping some money on microdermabrasion and a glycolic peel which will do wonders for your face. (Stay out of the sun for a week afterwards though.)

Yes clean pillows are a must.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:53 PM on September 30, 2013

Adding my two cents, also because I'm hoping to get advice as well.

When these bumps first started to show up en masse, winter two years ago, I used salicylic acid face wash 2x day, followed by salicylic acid "toner" (Neutrogena) on trouble spots, followed by 10% benzoyl peroxide cream. Every day. Bumps went away/kept to a minimum.

Now, since early this summer, it no longer works...maybe I've abused the benzoyl, but I've noticed that quitting the face wash helps--I "wash" with cold water only, and use eye makeup remover, but removing the peroxide means the bumps get worse. It's like this horrible game where the baseline used to be no bumps; now it's some bumps, all the time, just worse if I stop using what I'm using. UGH

Anyways, to sum up: in my case salicylic acid makes it worse. I do not use oil-containing products, but last summer I did use a small amount of shea butter (straight up unrefined, no water added) right out of the shower on damp face skin and that worked really well. Maybe I should go back. I currently do not moisturize since that tends to block ze pores.

Would love to hear how others moisturize.
posted by ArgyleGargoyle at 3:04 PM on September 30, 2013

If you're looking for a good non-greasy moisturizer you should check out NaPCA, the sodium salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid. It occurs naturally in skin as a primary hydrating factor that draws water out of the air to your skin. There are a few brands around, pretty widely available, and it works great if hygrophilia is your thing.
posted by perhapsolutely at 3:44 PM on September 30, 2013

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