The 'Triangle of Death' Is Where You Should Never, Ever Pop A Pimple

Seriously, though, you should keep your hands away from zits in this region.

You've been told over and over and over again to avoid popping your pimples, no matter how tempting they might look. That advice goes for your entire face, of course, but healthcare providers say that there's a particularly dangerous area on your face—colloquially referred to as the "triangle of death"—that you should definitely keep your hands off of.

Here's what you need to know about what the "triangle of death" is, why you should avoid popping pimples in it, and how (if at all) you can pop pimples on your face safely, according to dermatologists.

What Is the 'Triangle of Death'?

It takes a bit of imagination to identify the "triangle of death" on your face, but it's there: "The area of the face connecting the nose to the corners of the mouth is thought to be a particularly dangerous area of the face because of their close connection to the brain," said Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai in New York.

The best way to see this triangle is to form one with your fingers—connecting the tips of your thumbs, and then the tips of your pointer fingers. On your face, the tip of your triangle is on the bridge of your nose, and the base of your triangle starts at either corner of your mouth and extends across the bottom of your upper lip.

Why Is It Dangerous to Pop Pimples in the 'Triangle of Death'?

The phrase "triangle of death" might sound a bit extreme when we're talking about pimple popping, but you definitely shouldn't take the threat lightly.

"The cavernous sinus is the name of a large vein that drains blood to the brain, creating a connection from our outside to our inside," Dr. Zeichner said. In other words, the infection in a pimple on your nose has a somewhat clear path to your brain. For this reason, "any infection in that area is a little bit higher risk," said Alok Vij, MD, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic.

"In the event that you pick a pimple and an infection develops, the worst-case scenario is that the infection spreads from the skin through this sinus [and] has the potential to infect the brain and even spread through the bloodstream to the entire body," Dr. Zeichner said.

Therefore, picking at or scratching pimples on that area isn't wise since it can allow bacteria to enter and can cause infection, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Another reason to keep your hands off that particular region is because it's more likely to scar, Dr. Vij said.

How Do You Treat Pimples?

It isn't recommended that you pop your own pimples, according to the AAD. If you do, you may push the contents of the pimple deeper into the skin which can result in permanent scaring, more painful and noticeable acne, or infection.

To clear up a pimple, it's important to keep your hands away from your face, according to the AAD. You can treat your acne with over-the-counter medicine or consult a dermatologist if your at-home treatments aren't showing any improvement after 4–6 weeks.

But, that may be easier said than done. Sometimes, flattening a juicy pimple on your chin is all too rewarding. That said, while popping your zits still isn't recommended, there are a few ways to make the operation less high-risk.

Is There a Way to Safely Pop Pimples?

First of all, if it hasn't been made abundantly clear yet, just stay away from pimples in the triangle of death region. Anytime you reach for a big zit on your nose, remember the words "potential brain infection."

But if you're absolutely determined to pop a zit that's, for instance, on your chin, consider your timing. "If you are going to pop your pimples, do not do it right before bed when you are tired. Think of it like a sterile surgical procedure," Dr. Zeichner said.

In other words, this operation needs your full attention. Before you do the actual popping, thoroughly wash your hands, Dr. Vij recommended. Dr. Vij added that you should make sure the spaces underneath your fingernails are clean since bacteria are good at hiding there. Better yet, Dr. Zeichner recommended cutting your nails before you decide to take down a zit.

Next, you should clean the skin of your face, and Dr. Vij recommended applying some warm compresses to it before you begin the picking process. You shouldn't pick the top of the zit off with your nails, Dr. Zeichner said. Instead, "apply even, downward pressure around the pimples," Dr. Zeichner said. You should do this with one of two instruments: a cotton swab or the soft part of your fingertip.

Of the utmost importance is realizing when to stop. "If the blockage does not come out easily, abort the mission," Dr. Zeichner said, adding that after-care is another crucial part of any successful pimple-popping quest. "After picking, apply a topical antibiotic ointment like bacitracin to any open skin," Dr. Zeichner said.

Summary

Popping your own pimples anywhere on your face is not recommended. But this is especially true for the area on your face known as the "triangle of death." If you pop a pimple in the "triangle of death," you risk an infection that could travel to your brain and bloodstream. While popping pimples is tempting, it just isn't worth the risk for pimples that are in that area.

If you have a pimple, be sure to avoid touching your face, try over-the-counter treatments, or consult a dermatologist if your acne isn't clearing up, according to the AAD.

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