Pimples, pimples, pimples – never a welcome addition on the skin, be it on the face or any other part of the body. Understanding them thoroughly has become essential in the current scenario as the market is flooded with unproved information and acne treatment products with tall claims. Read this article to know why pimples actually occur and what causes them. We shall also discuss popular and effective treatments available and some tips that can help you to prevent them.
What Is A Pimple & Why Does It Form?
A pimple forms when the skin’s pore gets blocked. This blockage occurs to the overproduction of natural oil (sebum) by the skin and the dead skin cells that have not shed from the skin properly get stuck to this oil. As a result, the pore gets clogged and develops into a pimple. Such clogged pores also attract dirt and prove to be beneficial breeding grounds for bacteria like Propionibacterium acnes (P.acnes) that are naturally present on the skin’s surface. The bacteria multiply in the clogged pore and cause inflammation, redness, and even pus formation.
Studies have proven that genetics does play a role in the incidence of pimples. A 2002 study published in the Journal Of Investigative Dermatology analyzed hundreds of sets of twins to understand the prevalence of acne and found that in 81% of the case, genes played a significant role. Another study that was published in the British Journal Of Dermatology proved that having a parent, sibling, or child (first-degree relative) who is affected with pimples increases your chances of developing these pesky spots by four times. Your genes control the oil production, your cell turnover cycle, and your sensitivity towards the bacterial infection. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this cause of pimples.
- Teenage Pimples
Teenagers experience various changes in their hormonal levels during the growing years. These hormones control skin processes like oil production and the shedding cycle of skin cells. Due to the variation in their levels, the skin in teenagers is prone to developing pimples. Usually, these pimples start to improve with age.
- Hormonal Acne
Apart from teenagers, even adults can experience hormonal changes due to various reasons, for example, the menstruation cycle in women. As these hormones partake in essential skin processes, they can make the skin sensitive to acne formation. Adult acne due to hormonal changes can often be brought under control with the right medication.
Also Read: Effective Treatments For Acne/Pimple
Underlying Causes Of Pimples
The increased production of sebum, accumulation of dead skin cells, and being prone to bacterial infection can be due to any underlying cause given below –
- Sensitivity To Testosterone
Men and women both have testosterone (a type of androgen) in their bodies in the required amounts. When this level increases, it can cause your oil glands to produce more sebum and lead to acne. Medicines such as spironolactone are available in the market to counter this excess androgen and act like a pimple treatment.
- Medicines Cause Pimples
Medicines like lithium, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, DHEA, etc. possess the unwarranted side effect of causing pimples. Pimples on the back and chest are common with pimples on the face being rarely seen because of these medicines. They affect the body’s hormonal levels and trigger acne. Stopping their usage and using alternative medicines solves the pimple issue.
Other Generic Causes
While most of the underlying causes can be treated if identified correctly, certain generic causes of pimples should also be kept in mind when you are looking for pimple solutions.
- Dead Skin Cells Build Up – The skin, in its regular cycle, sheds dead cells. When these fail to shed normally, they accumulate on the skin’s surface and can clog pores to give rise to pimples. Gentle exfoliation using methods like chemical peels can help your skin to get rid of this build-up easily.
- Bacterial Growth – Plugged pores that contain dead skin cells and dirt make a suitable environment for the acne bacteria to grow. These bacteria multiply in the cells and produce a compound that initiates an inflammatory response by the body. This makes the pimples swell up and become red as well. Most doctors prescribed an antibiotic to counter this bacterial growth.
- Oily Skin – For various underlying reasons, the sebaceous glands tend to produce more oil than that is required. In such cases, this excess oil makes the skin look slick and greasy, and also easily clogs the skin’s pores. Blocked pores equal to pimples. Certain cosmetic treatments and topical creams can help control the oil production and balance out the skin’s pH levels.
- Dairy Products And High Glycemic Foods Cause Pimples – These products increase the inflammatory compounds in the body and can trigger acne. They make the skin also prone to bacterial infection. Cutting them down in your diet is an easy way to prevent to pimples from cropping up because of them.
- Oily Food – Such type of food, for example, samosas, kachoris, poori, etc. are not just bad for overall health but also for your skin’s health. Avoid eating them too often and eating a healthy diet instead.
Also Read: List Of Foods That Cause And Fight Acne
- Skin Care Products – Products like moisturizers and sunscreens that are not meant for your skin type (such as greasy moisturizer for oily skin) or contain skin-damaging chemicals can cause pimples by clogging your pores. Use the right products as advised by a dermatologist to prevent them from causing breakouts.
- Traveling – With travel comes the disadvantage of the skin getting exposed to different pollutants, water, and humidity levels. This change can trigger a response by your skin in the form of pimples. Having a good skin care routine can help you avoid such breakouts.
- Stress – When under stress, the body releases certain hormones that can promote the oil glands’ function. More oil is produced that can plug the hair follicles and cause acne. De-stressing with techniques such as yoga and meditation is a great way to deal with this.
- Not Removing Makeup – When you go to bed with your makeup still on, you are giving it the chance to seep into your pores and block them. Before you turn in for the day, make sure to remove all makeup thoroughly.
- Friction Or Rubbing Skin – Commonly seen in athletes, acne due to friction is due to the rubbing motion trapping sweat on the skin, which can easily clog the pores. It starts out with a rash that eventually develops in large pimples. Opting for breathable fabric and maintaining hygiene before and after any sweat-producing activity is recommended.
- Heat – Just like the rubbing motion trapping sweat, it also traps heat and leads to an inflammatory response by the skin in the form of acne. Apart from this heat, the heat in the environment due to the weather conditions can augment oil production by the skin and cause acne too. Keep your skin hydrated with moisturizers and plenty of water intake, and also use a good sunscreen to minimize the chances of heat-related acne from developing.
- Pollution – Pollutants in the atmosphere can clog pores and lead to pimples flaring up. It is important to cleanse your face twice a day to get rid of these pollutants from the skin’s surface.
Classifications Of Pimples & Their Symptoms
Pimples can be classified into three major types based on their severity. These are further divided into different sub-types.
(I) Mild Pimples
This type of acne does not have any associated redness and is divided into the following sub-types –
- Whiteheads – They look like white spots or bumps with the openings being closed. They can appear on any part of the face or body but are commonly seen around the nose and on the chin, cheeks, and forehead.
- Blackheads – When the whiteheads form an opening, the surface of the pore becomes black due to atmospheric oxidization forming black bumps on the skin. Blackheads are most commonly seen on the nose and around it.
(II) Moderate Pimples
These pimples are inflamed and usually have redness around them. Picking at them or popping them can leave behind scars. These are the sub-types of moderate acne –
- Papules – Inflamed pimples with associated redness and are sensitive to touch. Pimples on the forehead, on the cheeks, nose, and chin are seen in the form of papules.
- Pustules – Infected papules become filled with pus (white or yellow in color) to form pustules. Commonly affected areas include forehead, scalp, chin, cheeks, etc.
(III) Severe Pimples
Moderate pimples can set deeper into the skin to form severe pimples. They cannot be treated at home and need a dermatologist to get rid of them. Here are the sub-types –
- Nodules – When the infected pimples go deeper into the skin, a nodule is formed.
- Cysts – As the nodules set even further into the skin, they reach the deeper layers and become cysts. Cystic acne is painful to touch and have pronounced redness around them. They signify a severe level of infection of the hair follicle.
Who Gets Pimples?
Pimples can affect people of all age groups and genders. Their incidence is the highest in the teenage years and up to the 20s. With age, they do become more scarce. However, they can crop up in people as old as 40 too.
Also Read: Causes Of Acne On Chin & How To Cure It?
Are Pimples Deadly?
Pimples, directly, are not deadly. Although, popping them can leave behind long-term scars and increase the chance of infection. An uncontrolled infection can cause serious effects on your health.
Dermatologist Treatments To Get Rid Of Acne
If you are looking for a solution to the question “How to get rid of pimples”; here are different pimple on face treatments you can explore under the guidance of a dermatologist.
(A) Treating The Underlying Cause With A Pimple Doctor
A dermatologist can help you to identify the root cause of your pimples by thoroughly analyzing your skin, your medical history, and your lifestyle and eating habits. A precise identification can help to devise an apt treatment plan that will give the best results. Doctors can prescribe you with oral and topical medications depending on how severe your pimples are. Isotretinoin and antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed medications. For mild to moderate pimples, even chemical peels may be recommended by the doctor to remove the dead skin cells build-up and exfoliate the skin well. For cysts and nodules, medications such as isotretinoin along with medicated cleansers and moisturizers are recommended by dermatologists.
(B) Use An Over-The-Counter Cream
Consult a dermatologist for the best over-the-counter cream that will clear your pimples. Here are the frequently used creams –
- Benzoyl Peroxide – It works as an antibiotic and kills the pimple-causing bacteria. It also helps to bring down the excess oil production.
- Salicylic Acid – It exfoliates the skin and removes the dead skin cells, thus preventing clogging of pores by them.
- Sulfur – A cream containing this reduces the oil levels and helps in easy removal of dead skin cells.
- Retin-A – This is a type of retinoid that is used to treat and reduce pimples. It also promotes the healing process after the pimple has disappeared.
- Azelaic Acid – This is used to reduce the inflammation and redness seen with moderate and severe pimples.
Also Read: Facial Peels For Acne Cure
(C) Think About Taking A Course Of Antibiotics
Antibiotics primarily work by killing the bacteria that has infected the hair follicles and made the pimples severe. While topical formulations are also used, generally an internal course of antibiotics is suggested by dermatologists to combat the pimple infection better. Some examples of prescribed antibiotics for pimples are tetracycline, erythromycin, and trimethoprim.
(D) In Case Of Severe Pimple, Consider Isotretinoin Treatments
When the pimples start to set deeper into the skin in the form of pustules or progress into nodules/cysts, a course of isotretinoin works well in most people to reduce the intensity of the pimples and eventually, stop them from popping up. It works on multiple levels to treat pimples – reduces the size of the oil glands, reduces oil production, prevents cells from dividing rapidly in the follicles and clogging them, and alleviates the inflammation. The dose and course of isotretinoin intake varies from person to person. This medicine should only be taken under the supervision of a dermatologist.
(E) If You Are Female, Think About Using Oral Contraceptives
Oral contraceptive pills act as hormone regulators, and this property can be utilized to regulate the hormonal imbalance seen in pimple-affected women. Females who suffer from acne can consult their dermatologists and see if a course of these pills can help to treat the pimples in their case.
Also Read: How To Remove Pimples From Face?
(F) Find Out More About Professional Treatments
Professional treatments administered by a certified dermatologist can work towards removing your pimples and also preventing them in the long run.
- Laser Therapy – When your acne leaves behind scars, then laser therapy is your best friend to get rid of them. Effective results are produced for different types of acne scars with laser acne treatment.
- Light Therapy – Blackheads, whiteheads, and some moderate pimples can be treated by exposure to different wavelengths of visible light.
- Chemical Peels – These work by exfoliating the skin to remove the dead skin cells and unclogging pores. They can also help to normalize the natural oil production by the sebaceous glands.
- Microdermabrasion – Another type of exfoliating treatment, a diamond-tip device is used to remove the top layers of skin and unclog pimples.
How To Prevent Pimples In The Future?
While taking any treatment, the dermatologists suggest some skin care tips to improve the healing process and to prevent pimples.
- Wash Your Face Twice A Day – A clean face will prevent the dirt and pollutants from clogging your pores. Washing with a cleanser also removes excess oil.
- Use A Non-Comedogenic Moisturizer – Such a moisturizer is specially formulated to not enter the pores and block them.
- Avoid Popping Pimples – This can lead to permanent scarring which is even more difficult to get rid of than just the pimples.
- Use Exfoliating Treatments – Use treatments such as chemical peels to help the skin in its renewal process and prevent pore blockage by accumulated dead skin cells.
- Avoid Overloading Your Skin With Products – Anything in excess is not good for your skin. A simple skin care routine that includes a suitable cleanser, toner, and moisturizer is all you need.
- Protect Your Skin From The Sun – Do not forget to include a good sunscreen in your skin care regimen to protect the skin from sun damage.
- Eat Well – A healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can go a long way in maintaining a flawless skin.
- Drink Plenty Of Water – Water helps to remove toxins and keeps the skin hydrated. This can prevent the oil glands from over-producing sebum.
- Exercise – De-stressing and improving blood circulation are excellent effects of exercising that your pimple-prone skin can benefit from.
- Sleep Well – It is while you sleep that your skin renews and rejuvenates itself. Sleep 6-8 hours in a day for glowing, blemish-free skin.
- Avoid Smoking – Smoking can constrict blood vessels and impair the delivery of nutrients to the skin. Thus, it interrupts the normal cell cycle and can aggravate acne.
- Avoid Alcohol – Alcohol has similar effects to smoking and can impact your skin’s health negatively.
Pimples are a nuisance, and many people prefer using home remedies for pimple removal. Some of these remedies even claim to remove pimples overnight. This is far from the truth, and there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. On the other hand, professional treatments that are recommended and administered by dermatologists along with the prescribed medications are supported by strong scientific evidence. It is best to opt for something that has been proved to work!