There’s something about the actual state of my skin these days that makes it harder to get that taut grip that creates the ideal tension for pushing out the ick. I can’t achieve the satisfaction of confronting an unwanted visitor and watching its glutinous contents get evicted. I’ll try different angles, get closer to the mirror, even switch “tools” (fingertips, knuckles, cotton swabs — I’ve tried everything) only to find that a clearly ready-to-pop zit won’t budge. It’s ridiculously frustrating that, after nearly a lifetime of easily popping zits whenever I damn well pleased, I simply cannot now. Did my skin install some kind of anti-pop device without my knowing it?

According to Divya Shokeen, MD — a Los Angeles-based board-certified dermatologist and an actual expert — I’m not imagining things. The skin changes that come with getting older are absolutely contributing to this newfound unpoppability. “Factors related to skin aging do make it more challenging to pop zits,” Dr. Shokeen told me, confirming that the thinning and loss of elasticity skin experiences as it matures are going to make my bad habit harder to practice.

I asked NYC-based board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, too, and she told me that “as we age, breakouts may be deeper,” which makes them harder to pop or squeeze.

Although neither doctor yelled at me for trying to pop my zits like I was afraid they were going to, they also made it clear that mature skin’s stubbornness is not an invitation to try harder to squeeze out the gunk. In fact, it should dissuade me from popping even more because the consequences we’ve all heard about — inflammation, bacteria being pushed further into the skin, scarring, secondary infections, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, etc. — can be even more pronounced in not-so-young skin.

“[Mature skin] might be less resilient and more susceptible to the damage caused by manually trying to pop a zit compared to younger, more elastic and more collagen enhanced skin,” Dr. Shokeen says, explaining that the aforementioned decreased elasticity and thickness can lead to a higher risk of tearing and scarring. “Additionally, the slower healing process in mature skin could potentially lead to prolonged redness or even increased risk of infection.”

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