What Causes Pimples?

Pimples (also known as Acne or Zits) is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point. It causes spots, oily skin and sometimes skin that's hot or painful to touch.

What causes Pimples

Pimples most commonly develops on the:

  • face – this affects almost everyone with pimples
  • back – this affects more than half of people with pimples
  • chest – this affects about 15% of people with pimples

Types of spots

There are 6 main types of spot caused by pimples or acne:

  • blackheads – small black or yellowish bumps that develop on the skin; they're not filled with dirt, but are black because the inner lining of the hair follicle produces pigmentation (colouring)
  • whiteheads – have a similar appearance to blackheads, but may be firmer and won't empty when squeezed
  • papules – small red bumps that may feel tender or sore
  • pustules – similar to papules, but have a white tip in the centre, caused by a build-up of pus
  • nodules – large hard lumps that build up beneath the surface of the skin and can be painful
  • cysts – the most severe type of spot caused by pimples; they're large pus-filled lumps that look similar to boils and carry the greatest risk of causing permanent scarring

What can I do if I have pimples?

The self-help techniques below may be useful:

  • Don't wash affected areas of skin more than twice a day. Frequent washing can irritate the skin and make symptoms worse
  • Wash the affected area with a mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water. Very hot or cold water can make pimples worse
  • Don't try to "clean out" blackheads or squeeze spots. This can make them worse and cause permanent scarring
  • Avoid using too much make-up and cosmetics. Use water-based products that are described as non-comedogenic (this means the product is less likely to block the pores in your skin)
  • Completely remove make-up before going to bed
  • If dry skin is a problem, use a fragrance-free, water-based emollient
  • Regular exercise can't improve your pimples, but it can boost your mood and improve your self-esteem. Shower as soon as possible once you finish exercising, as sweat can irritate your pimples
  • Wash your hair regularly and try to avoid letting your hair fall across your face

Although pimples can't be cured, it can be controlled with treatment. Several creams, lotions and gels for treating spots are available at pharmacies. If you develop pimples, it's a good idea to speak to your pharmacist for advice. 

Treatments can take up to 3 months to work, so don't expect results overnight. Once they do start to work, the results are usually good.

When to get professional advice

Pimples isn't usually serious and can be treated by a pharmacist or see a Dermatologist. If your pimples is severe or appears on your chest and back, it may need to be treated with antibiotics or stronger creams that are only available on prescription. Your pharmacist can advise on whether you need to see your GP for further treatment.

If you develop nodules or cysts, they need to be treated properly through your GP or Dermatologist Near Me to avoid scarring. Try to resist the temptation to pick or squeeze the spots, as this can lead to permanent scarring.

Why do I have pimples?

Pimples is most commonly linked to the changes in hormone levels during puberty, but can start at any age.

Certain hormones cause the grease-producing glands next to hair follicles in the skin to produce larger amounts of oil (abnormal sebum).

This abnormal sebum changes the activity of a usually harmless skin bacterium called P. pimpless, which becomes more aggressive and causes inflammation and pus.

The hormones also thicken the inner lining of the hair follicle, causing blockage of the pores (opening of the hair follicles). Cleaning the skin doesn't help to remove this blockage.

Other possible causes of acne or pimples?

Pimples is known to run in families. If both your mother and father had pimples, it's likely that you'll also have pimples.

Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy, can also lead to episodes of pimples in women.

There's no evidence that diet, poor hygiene or sexual activity play a role in pimples.

Read more about the causes of pimples, including some common pimples myths.

Who's affected?

Pimples is very common in teenagers and younger adults. About 80% of people aged 11 to 30 are affected by pimples.

Pimples is most common in girls from the ages of 14 to 17, and in boys from the ages of 16 to 19.

Most people have pimples on and off for several years before their symptoms start to improve as they get older. Pimples often disappears when a person is in their mid-twenties.

In some cases, pimples can continue into adult life. About 5% of women and 1% of men have pimples over the age of 25.

You might want to look at the Acne Treatment Pack 

Pack of Six or Three

ACNE-Prone Treatment Pack

For more, please find our Acne Blog

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