In Praise of Pimple-Popping

WARNING: Some people may find the topic of this post to be gross, obviously. You may prefer to not read it. I certainly wouldn’t blame you!

As I get older, my biggest regret – aside from all the missed opportunities of my youth, the slow breakdown of my body, and the grimly inevitable march toward death – is that I get fewer pimples. Or more precisely, that I get fewer rich, creamy whiteheads. Now, I may still get ugly red bumps on my neck from overzealous shaving, but that brings me no pleasure. On the other hand, those white gold-filled fun nuggets are becoming more and more rare, and I’m really starting to miss them.

When I started getting acne, as a teenager, it was nothing to enjoy. It covered my face and added greatly to the toxic cocktail of psychological issues that ground my teenage self-esteem down to a fine powder. I took Accutane, the horrifically strong anti-acne medication that can cause birth defects in pregnant women, and it bludgeoned my sebacious glands to within an inch of their life. I emerged from this, somehow, with fairly clear skin.

After that, acne became, well, fun. Whereas my face used to be covered with painful red lumps that would have to slowly heal on their own, my adult experience with acne was more like an exciting game of whitehead whack-a-mole. Whiteheads could be squished and squirted to death in seconds, and a dab of isopropyl alcohol would dry them up into a tiny red dot within a few hours.

With my face finally clear, I would mostly get acne on my neck – it’s taken me 20 years to learn how to shave properly, and I feel like I’m just about there. As a younger man with whiter heads, the aftereffects of a rough shave were far more enjoyable. When I popped the whiteheads on my neck, their proximity to my ears rewarded me with an extremely audible¬†glorp!¬†sound. I’m not sure how anyone could miss it, but some have assured me that they know nothing of the vivid auditory sensation of a popping pimple. I pity their lives of emptiness and drudgery.

And then there was that greatest of all portmanteaus, backne. The whiteheads on my back were always the most special. They were awfully painful to pop, but the pain somehow just increased my satisfaction – like I had overcome a fearsome obstacle and received a creamy white reward. The fact that they seemed to contain a larger volume of the white stuff didn’t hurt, either.

Sometimes I’d get them somewhere unusual and unexpected, like on my finger. Not much satisfaction in terms of volume, perhaps, and also quite painful, but still memorable in their own way, like receiving a three-legged dog for Christmas.

For as long as I’ve been popping acne, I’ve been warned that my hobby was a dangerous one. It can lead to scarring, they’d say. It can lead to infection, they’d say. Well, the only acne scarring I’ve ever gotten was around the corners of my mouth, and I don’t think I was popping many pimples there. I’ve received permanent scars from a cheese slicer and two scooter crashes in Southeast Asia, but not too many from acne.

I’ve also gotten an infection after staying overnight in a house with nine dogs, with the environment triggering such a ferocious allergic reaction that I scratched my foot raw. I had to take antibiotics for a week before it would close up again, but I’ve never had an infection from popping a pimple.

So, to hell with the pimple-popping party poopers! This life is filled with suffering and spectacular feats of cruelty, but there is one small consolation: our body can be a funhouse, in so many ways. Between the end of traumatic teenage acne and the middle-aged dessication of the sebacious glands there is a brief period in life when pimples can brighten your day and put a smile on your face. Embrace it, love it… and pop it!

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