It’s safe to say everyone has had some sort of experience with acne and it can often be hard to get rid of pimples. Big or small, scarce or clustered, they can be annoying either way.
From blackheads to pustules, there are different kinds of pimples and different remedies for each.
In this article, we’ll cover the basis of what causes pimples, what pimples are, the 6 types of pimples and how to get rid of pimples.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not replace professional medical advice. Neither Localsearch nor the author are responsible for any misuse of any information within this article. Results of any medical treatment will vary depending on the person. For advice specific to you, please speak to your dermatologist.
Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash.
What are Pimples?
A pimple is a small pustule or papule.
Papules are small bumps on the skin, usually flesh-coloured and can also be pink. They develop as a result of excess oil, skin cells and/or bacteria clogging a pore. This type of pimple doesn’t have pus, but it usually will within a few days, and it will then become a pustule.
Pustules are papules containing pus.
What Causes Pimples?
Pimples can be caused by many things, but sometimes the cause is unknown. Generally, they occur when oil glands (sebaceous glands) are clogged and then infected, which leads to inflamed pimples that are filled with pus.
Pimples is the broad term for various types of pustules and papules and are also a part of acne. While pimples occur during puberty for most people, they can ‘pop up’ at any age.
The 6 Different Types of Pimples and How to Treat Them
The below information is from Marie Claire.
A comedo is a pimple or blemish on the skin caused by sebum (oil produced from the skin’s glands) in a skin pore or hair follicle. Comedones are either closed (whitehead) or open (blackhead).
Whiteheads (closed comedo).
How to get rid of whiteheads:
- If whiteheads don’t disappear after a few months, then it may be worth extracting them via a dermatologist, or using a gentle retinol which may remove them.
Blackheads (open comedo).
Blackheads are small, dark, open pimples. They are pores clogged by oils, dead skin and bacteria, which oxodise (combine chemically with oxygen) due to being open and exposed the the air. This causes them to look dark, which is why they are often mistaken for being dirt-related, which is not the case.
How to get rid of blackheads:
- It’s generally best to leave blackheads alone. Skin will naturally push the components out after a few weeks to months. If blackheads last longer than this, it’s best to get a dermatologist to remove them for you.
- Don’t squeeze blackheads with too much pressure, this may cause skin to swell up and can stretch skin pores.
- You can use salicylic acid-based toners, which help clear clogged pores. This can be used nightly which generally shows results after 4 weeks.
Papules are small, dense bumps, often pink in colour. Papules are the initial step, before they become pustules, which takes a few days.
How to get rid of papules:
- Use warm water and gentle cleansers when washing your face.
- Allow papules to get as much air as possible.
- Don’t irritate skin by scrubbing or putting other lotions or makeup on top.
Important note: If a papule is particularly painful and swollen, it may actually be an acne nodule, which is best treated by a dermatologist for relief and scar prevention.
Pustules are what people imagine when they hear the word pimple. They are blood cells which have been trapped under a thin layer of skin, leaving a red bump with a yellowish tip, filled with pus.
How to get rid of pustules:
- Since pustules rupture on their own, it’s not surprising many people pop these themselves. However, it’s recommended not to, as this can cause scarring and bacteria spreading. It often has the same outcome, however it’s important to try to not inflict excess pressure which may cause skin to swell or even scar.
Pop at your own risk. Make sure to wash your hands and face before engaging. Gently push on the pustule with two fingers (wrap them in tissue), but don’t continue if it doesn’t rupture after the first attempt.
Tip: Hydrocolloid bandages help remove more of the pus, which you can put on after popping the pustule.
Nodules is the term used for blemishes under the skin’s surface, which are larger than 1cm in size. Similar to papules, nodules are similar in framework, but more severe as they are larger in size and further under the skin’s surface. They can sometimes be painful and are tricky to extract, with a higher risk of scarring.
Cysts, or ‘cystic zits,’ are large balloon-like zits, filled with oil and pus. To make it even worse, they’re not connected to the skin’s surface, meaning they can’t be popped by scratching or pinching them. This means that messing with them will cause more issues, irritating and inflaming the area and even possible scarring.
How to get rid of cysts:
Luckily, dermatologists can help you with getting rid of cystic pimples. You can get a cortisone injection, which can take down swelling within a day, but will cost you around $100.
5 General Tips to Get Rid of Pimples
For a general rule of thumb, washing your face twice a day with a soft cleanser, or an acne face wash, can help deter acne. If there are a lot of papules present on your face, it may be helpful to seek a professional opinion from a dermatologist.
If you have dry skin and want to use a moisturiser, try a non-comedogenic, fragrance-free moisturiser after cleansing your face. By avoiding moisturisers with fragrance or other unnecessary additives, it will be less likely to irritate your skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) advises to wash your face when you wake up, before sleep and when your face gets sweaty. Ensure you look for products that are non acnegenic, non comedogenic and oil-free. These types of products are recommended for sensitive skin and won’t aggravate acne.
Four steps for a good cleansing routine:
- Clean your face regularly.
Ensure you look for products that are non acnegenic, non comedogenic and oil-free. These types of products are recommended for sensitive skin and won’t aggravate acne.
Tip: Use non-comedogenic and oil-free products for everything that has to do with your skin, such as shampoo and body wash.
- Face mask.
Use a face mask which can help draw out sediment in your skin’s pores. This can help your pores breathe and get more air, with potential of faster healing.
Use a gentle exfoliator to help remove dead skin cells and other matter which may be clogging your pores.
2) The AAD also recommends against engaging with your acne (touching, popping, picking).
We know it’s tempting, but if you can resist touching acne and any pimples on your face, it is likely to heal faster. Rather, you can practice a healthy cleaning routine and good hygiene to help relieve clogged hair follicles.
Your hands will have bacteria on them from touching different surfaces and items during the day. Although we often don’t consider it, our hands can often be quite dirty, so you can imagine how touching our faces may clog pores when bacteria ends up there. Washing your hands regularly and minimising contact with your face can help reduce pimples caused by contamination.
Additionally, it’s important to acknowledge pimples don’t need to be popped. Squeezing them can lead to scarring, bleeding or infection. If you are going to pop them anyway, it’s recommended to make sure your hands and face are clean, and wrap your fingers in tissue so the ruptured pimple won’t spread to other pores.
3) Understand your skin.
Understanding your skin type is beneficial to understand how to reduce acne, in the same way you need to understand a problem before you can find the solution. Although acne and pimples can happen to anyone, skin type can determine cause and treatment.
Oily skin types are the most likely to get pimples, because it’s more likely that the excess oils (sebum) will fill more pores. Those with oily skin may need to wash their face more often to prevent this from happening. By using non comedogenic products, this may reduce pores from being blocked and causing pimples.
4) Stay hydrated.
Although this seems like an easy task, a lot of people don’t realise how prominent hydration is to healthy skin. Dehydration can cause your skin to be more oily, dull and/or red. Eight glasses a day is recommended for healthy adults, although it may vary depending on height and weight and you might need more than this if you’re exercising, in a hotter climate, etc.
5) Healthy diet.
Although you’ve probably heard this before, changing to a healthier diet can have a parallel effect on your skin. Some ways to benefit your skin through diet are:
- Try reducing or going without dairy (may see results in 2-12 weeks).
- Consume an adequate amount of vitamins A,D and E.
- Eat less junk food, more natural food.
- Track your food in a food diary, so you can share it with a dermatologist.
It makes sense that eating healthy can lead to healthier skin, but where do you start? You can start by cutting out processed and overly sugary foods. By eating fresh, natural and organic meals your skin may be less aggravated. When you first change your diet or skin routine, your skin may break out and acne may be worse for a bit, but this is often just your skin’s reaction to a change in routine.
Additionally, cutting out dairy may also help, as dermatologist Sarika Snell explains:
“Cutting dairy improves skin texture, skin tone, and acne.”
Some even explain they noticed results in a month after removing dairy products from their diet, as Christian Allaire explains in his Vogue article: I Gave Up Dairy—And My Adult Acne Vanished in Under a Month.
6) Minimise makeup.
This can be a hard step for some, as we often get trapped in this loop; ‘I want to put on makeup to cover up my acne, but at the same time it’s aggravating my acne.’ Although it may feel weird to not put on makeup like primer, foundations, concealers, etc., makeup can often do more harm than good.
By minimising makeup, your skin has more air and at the same time, your pores aren’t being clogged by unnecessary products. If you do still want some sort of coverage, you can get light, natural products to help reduce impact on your skin.
Looking for expert advice on your skin? You can find your local dermatologist on Localsearch.com.au.