How to pick like a dermatologist
My lawyer won’t leave me alone unless I remind you of my medical-legal disclaimer so here goes, again: Electronic message exchanges to, from, or with Dr. Cook do not constitute medical advice, an evaluation, or consultation and must not be considered a replacement or substitute for a formal evaluation in the office. Information and correspondence in this blog does not form and will not result in a doctor-patient relationship. If you desire an evaluation or consultation, contact our office for an appointment. Recommended changes to your present treatment plan or therapy must be approved by your physician. Explanation and/or discussion of off-label services and/or products, if mentioned, do not reflect endorsement or promotion by Dr. Cook and must not be construed as such.
My lawyer won’t leave me alone unless I remind you of my medical-legal disclaimer so here goes, again:
Electronic message exchanges to, from, or with Dr. Cook do not constitute medical advice, an evaluation, or consultation and must not be considered a replacement or substitute for a formal evaluation in the office. Information and correspondence in this blog does not form and will not result in a doctor-patient relationship. If you desire an evaluation or consultation, contact our office for an appointment. Recommended changes to your present treatment plan or therapy must be approved by your physician. Explanation and/or discussion of off-label services and/or products, if mentioned, do not reflect endorsement or promotion by Dr. Cook and must not be construed as such.
Let’s finish our review of “Dr. Elaine’s so you think you can dermatology quiz”!!
When should I pull the flaky crust off?
- This instant
- When I want it gone so my makeup will go on smoothly
- When I can rip it off with tweezers and get good, fresh blood
- When the edges are lifted but the center is still stuck down
- When it completely lifts off by itself
When skin heals, it heals from underneath and the tissue rises up from the depth of the hole to the surface. When it get absolutely flush with the surrounding skin the cells from the surrounding normal skin start to migrate centrally into and cover the central defect. Epithelial or surface skin cells are really smart and they only want to migrate when they can do so absolutely horizontally. They don’t like to climb down into valleys or climb up hills. If you pick off a scab or crust before the tissue underneath has risen to be absolutely flush with the surrounding skin, the surface cells often won’t go ahead and move centrally to cover the hole. If you keep picking the scab off, they finally give up and say “OMG, alright already I will climb down that hole but you will be sorry because now you are going to have a divot, a depressed scar”. Once the surface cells close over a hole, the base stops rising, so it will never be flush with the skin.
Once the skin cells start migrating centrally under the scab, the crust starts to lift up at the edges as a flake. And yes, makeup makes it look worse. If you pick it off when the center is still stuck down you will see either an oozing hole in the center, or it will be shiny and red. Then your skin sends in more healing factors and it gets redder, and just tries to make another flake or crust. And you have put yourself behind another couple of days.
If you want to try to remove the edges that are lifting up, take a soft washcloth soaked in tap water (no not toner or alcohol or what have you) and gently press it on the crust. Do not rub or scrub. Leave it there 5 minutes and then let the area air dry. Often the edges that are ready to come off will lift off by themselves. Then apply a bland (meaning no glycolic, salicylic, etc.) plain moisturizer dot over it and let it soak in. Gently blot off excess. Then apply your foundation and the flake will be less noticeable.
To cover a pimple or crust/flaky area, do not use concealer. Use a liquid foundation. Apply foundation to your entire face first, if you use foundation. Then put a small dot on your index finger and pat, pat, pat it on the spot. Do not rub. Then, press powder with a sponge over it. Do not rub. The key is to not rub but to press or pat only. If you rub over a healing spot, the foundation comes right back off.
Answer is: When it completely lifts off by itself.
What is the best way to remove those little white beads under the skin?
- Apply Retin-A 37 times over 24 hours
- Squeeze them until they pop through the skin like “Aliens”
- Scrape them off with a fingernail
- Prick the top with a clean, sharp straight pen and squeeze gently. Once
- Do a reverse osmosis high colonic
Those little white beads are usually milia. Milia are little hard cysts under the skin that look like round white beads when they are removed. Usually they just happen, there is no particular reason. Some people get them when they use heavy moisturizers, all day wear foundations, waterproof sunscreens, or apply mineral powder with a brush. Milia don’t have a pore so squeezing them won’t make them come out unless you squeeze hard enough to rupture the skin.
The best way to remove them is to gently prick the surface with a clean, sharp straight pin and gently squeeze them. The ones around the eyes and on the eyelids are often very hard to get out, even for me.
Answer is: Prick the top with a clean, sharp straight pen and squeeze gently. Once. If they don’t come out easily or for those on the eyelids, come in and we will get them out.
What are the possible complications from picking?
- Permanent pigmentation changes
- Delaying treatment of a skin cancer
- Continual harassment from my husband
- All of the above
I can’t tell you how often I see women with bad scars simply from picking. The most common are on the lower face, and are depressed white gouge marks. If you keep picking you will get scars. Often the pigment cells won’t recover and you will be left with a permanent white, depressed scar that doesn’t hold makeup well because there are no pores in the scar. If you have a lot of natural pigment, you may have a depressed scar that is darker than the surrounding skin. If you have a tendency to make keloids or thick scars, it may be raised and thick. None of these is your desired outcome.
Answer is: All of the above. So stop.
How do I know I am picking too much?
- When I have to use medical makeup meant to cover birthmarks and severe burn scars
- When I spot the Intervention production crew talking to my husband
- I keep a 10x magnifying mirror and tweezers at my side 24/7/356
- I keep picking when I know there no chance that it will help
- When Dr. Elaine tells me so
- All of the above
Women are pickers. Some women are major pickers. Every single woman I tell to stop picking already knows they are picking too much and is causing permanent damage. It’s a weird phenomenon. About half the time they are picking because they want to cover it up with makeup and think it looks worse if they don’t pick the scab off. The rest are picking because it is there, or pick when they are stressed or anxious. It is an extremely hard habit to break and I wish I had the answer.
Only two things seem to work. The most effective and best solution is to see your dermatologist and get whatever it is you are picking at treated so there won’t be anything to pick at. Usually it is adult acne. We can treat that. The other is to pick one spot, preferably up in your scalp so the scar won’t be visible and pick at that and then leave the others alone. Good luck with that one.
Answer is: All of the above. We see this all day long, and will commiserate and not judge (though I do tease quite a bit) because we are pickers too. But we are trained, licensed, professional pickers, who know how to do it right and know when to stop, even if it is hard for us to stop picking on ourselves. Come in and we will help you. The best solution is to get what you are picking at treated so you won’t have anything to pick on. Except your husband or significant other.
When should I stop playing junior dermatologist and see a real one?
- When I see scarring
- When I see increased redness, pain, bleeding, or pigment
- When it is not getting better within one week
- For any brown, black, growing, bleeding, or tender growth or persistent sore
- Any growth that I am not absolutely sure is not skin cancer
- When I want the best result possible
- All of the above
Answer is: Hello, all of the above. Class is dismissed. Have a good weekend.
Next: Don’t know. Will have to see what kind of a mood I am in.