We say it all the time, but it’s technically not true: blemishes don’t just “pop up.” By the time we notice a spot in the mirror — or feel a nodule coming on — that blemish has been brewing for a bit.
Every blemish goes through phases: but why are those stages important? Because when you’re dealing with breakouts, understanding what’s happening to your skin is the first step toward a clearer complexion.
Here, blemish expert Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) explains everything you need to know about the 3 stages of a blemish.
How blemishes form
Your skin contains countless pores (news flash) — but do you know what that actually means? Pores are tiny openings in the skin’s surface that contain a hair follicle and a sebaceous (oil) gland.
When skin is functioning optimally, pores release sebum to moisturise the skin. But if there’s a buildup of dirt, oil, and dead skin cells, it can become trapped inside the pore, leading to breakouts.
According to Dr. Lee, there are several factors that contribute to your chances of developing blemishes:
The early stages of a blemish
Before you can even see what’s happening, microscopic amounts of dirt and debris can become trapped inside your pores. The result are micro comedones — undetectable to the naked eye — but essentially, baby blemishes.
The buildup of sebum and dead cells essentially forms a plug that blocks the pore opening, leading to even more buildup. At this point, the blemish becomes a full-fledged comedone:
- Blackhead: comedones are open to the air, which causes oxidation and the characteristic dark color
- Whitehead: comedones are covered by a thin layer of skin and remain light in color
The best way to treat a new blemish
Dr. Lee’s best advice for treating spots? Prevent them from popping up in the first place. Regularly using exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid — found in SLMD Skincare Salicylic Acid Cleanser — will prevent the buildup of dirt, oil and dead cells that can clog pores.
The middle stages of a spot
When a clogged pore becomes infected and inflamed due to bacteria found naturally on your skin, it creates red bulges that may be painful. Thankfully, not every blemish makes it to this second stage — but when it does, there are several forms the spot may take:
- Papules: red, inflamed bumps
- Pustules: red, inflamed bumps with a white, pus-filled center
- Nodules: deep, hard bumps beneath the skin
- Cysts: deep, pus-filled bumps beneath the skin
The best treatment for inflamed blemishes
It’s time to bring out the big guns: Dr. Lee suggests using targeted blemish fighters to treat inflammatory blemishes. SLMD Blemish Prone Skin System is formulated with powerful ingredients that real dermatologists prescribe — like salicylic acid, sulfur and retinol — combined in a simple, 3-step programme.
The final stages of a blemish
While it can seem like forever, most spots start to heal and shrink within a week. Sometimes, healing blemishes cause skin issues like itching, peeling or flaking — all natural symptoms of the surrounding skin repairing itself.
Oftentimes, a healing blemish will poke its way to the surface of your skin, tempting you to pick it — but don’t. Popping spots that contain bacteria and pus can contaminate the surrounding skin, making a bunch of baby blemishes (yikes).
How to help a blemish heal
It’s worth saying again: don’t squeeze/pop/pick those blemishes: you could push the infection down deeper, create more spots, or cause permanent scarring. Dr. Lee tells patients to keep their fingers off their face and let nature take its course.
Even if you leave your blemish totally alone, there’s still a good chance you’ll experience some degree of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH): those pink, red, tan or brown spots that can linger for what feels like forever after a breakout.
The good news: PIH usually fades in time. Speed the process along with SLMD Retinol Serum, which visibly improves skin tone and brightens with retinol and vitamin C.
Dr. Lee’s last word
Effectively controlling your blemishes means managing them at every stage — and preventing breakouts from the beginning. I created SLMD Skincare Blemish-Prone Skin System to give patients a simple, 3 step regimen that really works.
—Dr. Sandra Lee