After this weekend my husbands anniversary surprise to me was getting a pilonidal cyst. Its a type of cyst that develops (usually from a ingrown hair) at the base of your spine, above the tailbone. It was kinda a present as I am one of those people who love to lance pimples!
For about a week he thought he had bumped his tailbone at work, it was red and bruised. Then the skin started getting dry and really tight, which I thought was it was dry from being sore, or he was scratching at it. Then 2 days ago it started swelling and I thought it was a pimple, or a ingrown hair(kind of). I was going to get it the next day until it turned into a giant swollen, weepy area which I then knew it was a cyst.
So as Homer has asked many times, is it a pimple or a boil?
But really the most common question is what is the difference?
Let’s start with the small and get to the biggest.
Blackheads are caused by clogged pores (clogged from dirt, sweat, makeup, dead skin, oil and pollution). The part where black comes from is the very top of all that debris gets oxidated and turns black in colour. Though blackheads can still just be clogged pores with the “white stuff” otherwise known as sebum. Sebum is just the excess skin, sweat and oil that collects in your pores naturally, it helps hairs slide out.
If you have piercings you’ll notice you get a build up of that white stuff that smells gross on your rings. This is your skin trying to push out the ring but it also lubes up where the ring sits to keep the hole open.
The best way is to use a non oily or acne cleanser, toner, a light exfoliatant with a pore cleansing mask. Mud, algae or gel masks are best for removing blackheads as they dry out or peel off pulling out the blackheads. Cream masks that don’t fully dry won’t remove the actual blackheads as it is just wiped off easily.
White Heads/ Pimples
Pimples are when the hair follicle or pore which isn’t open, the debris collects under the skin. White heads are very easy to get rid of, most of the time washing your face can get rid of them, or add a light exfoliator to your routine.
Pimples are more when that collection of debris starts to breakdown but because it it trapped, it causes an infection. Pimples grow a bit deeper, bigger and can become painful. Ingrown hairs can also be grouped in here as the hair that is trapped under the skin collects sebum as well.
Continue to wash your face, making sure to use oil free products, and add an astringent or toner and exfoliant to your routine. If the pimple gets big enough and comes to a head, you can then use blemish spot removers which dry out the area, or you can go to an esthetician to get a facial that includes extractions.
Extracting otherwise known as popping pimples is not always recommended because it can cause scars and most people who do this at home are using unclean objects such as finger nails, pins or sewing needles. An esthteitican will know how to properly extract with minimal scaring potential, have one use, popper sized needles, in a sterile medical environment. They are also trained to know about working with infections and blood.
Boils are in the same range and area as pimples, just bigger and sorer. They can be caused by the same things but just where the infection has increased. Boils can form from majorly infected pimples, ingrown hairs, splinters or around other foreign objects.
Recommended is hot packs 3 times a day on the area to bring more blood to fight off the infection, this can reduce them, especially when they are hard. If they are soft and have a head on them, you can drain them the same way you would a pimple.
Cysts are former deeper in the skin tissue and sometimes aren’t painful at all. Some like my husband’s above were. Cysts can grow on and in any tissue membrane in the body, but they are their own little things. They have their own cyst walls that are separate from the surrounding tissues.
Cysts should always be looked at by a doctor and treated by a doctor. When they are infectious and filled with pus and not just gas, sebum or water/fluid they can become abscesses which is the pussy infection spreading into surrounding tissues. They need to be lanced, drained and cleaned properly by using packing or as the local ER Dr told us here that he likes to use drains more than the packing, it’s less messy, and you don’t have to change it. A drain is where they make 2 little holes after the area has been drained, with a sterile little rubber hose gets pulled through and tied so the rest of the pus, blood, and fluids can just weep out into a bandage for about a week.
No gummibears were in contact with puss during this…. though…. I did finish writing this article about and hour ago and got caught up watching cyst, boils and pimple extraction videos.
VICE.com has the answer to why we all can’t stop watching those videos: