Posted October 8, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read

Pimples are small growths on the surface of your skin. They may become inflamed or discolored. Acne typically causes pimples to develop, most commonly on your face, chest, shoulders and upper back.

Causes of Pimples

  • Sometimes, skin gets irritated by things it comes in contact with and pimples develop.

  • Most people think of acne when they think of pimples.

  • Oil glands (sebaceous glands) are located all over your body.

  • Clogs or inflammation in your sebaceous glands cause pimples to form.

Clogs and inflammation can occur as a result of:

  • Increased sebum (oily material produced by the sebaceous gland) production.

  • Abnormal formation of keratin (the protein that helps make your hair, skin and nails).

  • Increased presence of bacteria on your skin that causes pimples.

Symptoms of Pimples

There are many types of pimples, and the symptoms depend on which kind you have. These include:

  • Papules: These are small bumps that may become inflamed (warm to the touch and painful).

  • Blackheads: These are open pores on your skin that contain excess oil and dead skin. It looks like there’s a speck of dirt or a dark spot in the bump. But irregular light reflection off the clogged follicle causes the dark spots.

  • Whiteheads: These are bumps that remain closed by oil and dead skin. They’re white or yellowish in appearance.

  • Nodules: These are rounded or unusually shaped masses. They may be deep in your skin, and they’re often painful.

  • Pustules: These are pus-filled pimples that look like whiteheads surrounded by discolored rings. Picking or scratching your pustules can cause scarring.

  • Cysts: These are pimples filled with a thick, yellow or white fluid composed of dead white blood cells, small pieces of tissue and bacteria (pus). Cysts can cause scars.

Diagnosis of Pimples

  • Pimples are easy to recognize, so you don’t necessarily need a healthcare professional to diagnose them.

  • But your healthcare provider can diagnose pimples during a skin exam.

  • They may ask if you’re undergoing significant stress or if you have a family history of pimples, which are risk factors.

  • If you menstruate, your healthcare provider may ask about your menstrual cycles, as pimple breakouts are sometimes related.

  • Sudden, severe pimple outbreaks in people 50 years of age or older can sometimes signal another underlying disease that requires medical attention.

  • If you have severe pimples (cystic acne), see a dermatologist for treatment.

  • Dermatologists are doctors who specialize in conditions that affect your skin, hair and nails.

Treatment of Pimples

  • Azelaic acid: This is a natural acid found in various grains such as barley, wheat and rye. It kills microorganisms on your skin and reduces swelling.

  • Benzoyl peroxide: This is available as an over-the-counter product (such as Clearasil, Stridex and PanOxyl). Lower concentrations and wash formulations are less irritating to your skin. Irritation (dryness) is a common side effect.

  • Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives): Retinoids, such as Retin-A, Tazorac and Differin help prevent clogged pores. You may notice a change in skin color or peeling. Using retinoids every other day or using them at the same time as a moisturizer can reduce these side effects.

  • Salicylic acid: This is available over-the-counter for pimples as a cleanser or lotion. It helps dissolve dead skin cells to prevent your hair follicles from clogging.

  • Chemical peels: Chemical peels use a mild chemical solution to remove layers of skin and reduce pimples.

  • Laser skin resurfacing: Laser skin resurfacing directs short, concentrated pulsating beams of light at your pimples. The light beams reduce the amount of oil that your sebaceous glands produce.

  • Microdermabrasion: A dermatologist or plastic surgeon uses a specialized instrument to sand your skin. Removing the top layers of your skin frees the clogs that cause pimples.

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