Ask the Derm: What Is Skin Gritting?! Can Your Skin Get Addicted to Steroids?

Playing What Is ‘Skin Gritting’ and Is It Safe?

Dermatologist expert Dr. Sonia Batra answers viewers skin-related questions submitted online. The first viewer wrote in asking if “skin gritting” to remove blackheads really works and if so, wants to know if it’s safe.

Dr. Batra explains skin gritting is a technique gaining popularity from an online message board of people who love skin care. Skin gritting involves taking facial oil and massaging it into the skin for a couple of minutes. Then, using a clay mask, and after, again massaging the face with facial oil. People have posted photos of their hands with little black specs on them, claiming they are the blackheads extracted from using this technique. However, Dr. Batra has some bad news: that’s not what blackheads look like!

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Dr. Batra explains while the tops of blackheads are black, the base is usually white. She says she doesn’t think using skin gritting is harmful as long as you’re not too abrasive and rupturing capillaries. However, if you’re prone to blackheads, you may want to rethink rubbing oil all over your face! Using steam to remove a blackhead is a much better method!

The next question is from a viewer who wants to know if your skin can become addicted to anti-itch creams. She says she read a story about a woman whose entire body turned red and flakey after discontinuing the use of her skin creams.

The Doctors share some photos of the woman the viewer mentioned, and it’s true, after using steroid prescription creams for 25 years for eczema and stopping cold turkey, her skin went through a protracted and difficult steroid withdrawal process. 

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Dr. Batra explains the woman experienced red skin syndrome also known as topical steroid addiction. While steroids can be used for inflamed skin due to eczema for a week or two, Dr. Batra says they are not meant for long-term use. Using them constantly will result in the skin becoming tolerant and used to it and when abruptly stopped, the skin will go through withdrawal leading to red skin with cracks and fissures.  

Dr. Batra advises people with eczema to stick with scent-free dye-free detergents, cleansers, moisturizers, etc. and to not constantly use a steroid cream.