Why popping acne around the nose and top lip could lead to serious infection and even death: dermatologists give their top treatment tips

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acne, retinoids

Never pop a zit in the “triangle of death,” dermatologists say, no matter how tempting it is.

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The triangle of death is the area of skin that starts at the middle of your eyebrows, includes your nose, and ends at your top lip. You can identify it by creating a triangle with your hands and touching the tip formed by your index fingers to the middle of your eyebrows and the bottom corners to the corners of your mouth, according to dermatologist Dr Corey L. Hartman.

Hartman said people should proceed with caution when treating acne in this area because DIY extractions can lead to serious infections and even death.

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“Theoretically, it can lead to meningitis and other infections of the central nervous system since there is proximity to the brain,” Hartman said.

acne, retinoids

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Popping pimples at home is generally frowned upon by dermatologists. Photo: Shutterstock

What makes the ‘triangle of death’ so dangerous?

At-home pimple popping is generally frowned upon by dermatologists, as it can lead to scarring and more acne. But what makes squeezing zits in the triangle of danger so much riskier has to do with its location.

“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,” Dr Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai in New York, told Health.

The area underneath the triangle contains major sinuses that connect to the brain. Popping a pimple above these sinuses can create a chain reaction of infection that leads to the brain, Hartman said.

Hartman said the deeper the pimple and more infected it is, the more likely it is to lead to severe infection or death, though death is still rare.

acne, retinoids

A skincare routine that includes acne-fighting ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, hydroxy acids and retinoids is best. Photo: Shutterstock

Instead use benzoyl peroxide and retinoids to prevent acne

Addressing acne in this area of the face should be handled with care.

Hartman recommends using preventive measures, like a skincare routine that includes acne-fighting ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, hydroxy acids and retinoids. If the pimple persists, resist the urge to squeeze it. Instead, seek professional advice.

“Seek the help of a board-certified dermatologist or licensed aesthetician to extract, inject or otherwise treat problematic pimples that prove to be persistent and resistant to topical therapies,” Hartman said.

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