Jump to content


Page semi-protected
Listen to this article
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Other namesZit, spot
A pimple (center) evolved into the pustule stage

A pimple or zit is a kind of comedo that results from excess sebum and dead skin cells getting trapped in the pores of the skin. In its aggravated state, it may evolve into a pustule or papule.[1] Pimples can be treated by acne medications, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories prescribed by a physician, or various over the counter remedies purchased at a pharmacy.


Sebaceous glands inside the pore of the skin produce sebum. When the outer layers of skin shed (a natural and continuous process, normally), dead skin and oily sebum left behind may bond together and form a blockage of the sebaceous gland at the base of the skin. This is most common when the skin becomes thicker at puberty.[2] The sebaceous gland continues to produce sebum, which builds up behind the blockage, allowing bacteria to grow in the area, including the species Staphylococcus aureus and Cutibacterium acnes, which causes inflammation and infection. Other causes of pimples include family history, stress, fluctuations in hormone levels, hair and skincare products, medication side effects, and un-diagnosed or underlying medical conditions.[3] Pimples can be part of the presentation of rosacea.[4]

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that adults with acne use products labeled as "non-comedogenic", "non-acnegenic", "oil-free" or "won’t clog pores", as they are "least likely" to cause skin irritation or acne.[3]


Over-the-counter medications

Common over-the-counter medications for pimples are benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, adapalene, and antibacterial agents such as triclosan. These topical medications, which can be found in many creams and gels used to treat acne (acne vulgaris), induce skin to slough off more easily, helping to remove bacteria faster. Before application, the face should be washed with warm water or a topical cleanser and then dried.

A regimen of keeping the affected skin area clean, plus the regular application of these topical medications is usually enough to keep acne under control, if not at bay altogether. The most common product is a topical treatment of benzoyl peroxide, which has minimal risk apart from minor skin irritation that may present similar as a mild allergy.[6] Recently, nicotinamide (vitamin B3), applied topically, has been shown to be more effective in treatment of pimples than antibiotics such as clindamycin.[7] Nicotinamide is not an antibiotic and has no side effects typically associated with antibiotics. It has the added advantage of reducing skin hyperpigmentation which results in pimple scars.[8]

Prescription medication

Severe acne usually indicates the necessity of prescription medication to treat the pimples. Prescription medications used to treat acne and pimples include isotretinoin, which is a retinoid, anti-seborrheic medications, anti-androgen medications, hormonal treatments, alpha hydroxy acid, azelaic acid, and keratolytic soaps.[9]

Historically, antibiotics such as tetracyclines and erythromycin were prescribed. While they were more effective than topical applications of benzoyl peroxide, the bacteria eventually grew resistant to the antibiotics and the treatments became less and less effective. Also, antibiotics had more side effects than topical applications, such as stomach cramps and severe discoloration of teeth. Common antibiotics prescribed as of 2001 by dermatologists included doxycycline and minocycline.[10]

Isotretinoin is used primarily for severe cystic acne and acne that has not responded to other treatments.[11][12][13][14] Many dermatologists also support its use for treatment of lesser degrees of acne that prove resistant to other treatments, or that produce physical or psychological scarring.[15] It is teratogenic, and requires strict prevention of pregnancy during its use.


Expression, the manual bursting of pimples which have evolved into whiteheads with one's fingers (colloquially, "popping"), can allow bacteria to be introduced into the open wound this creates. This can result in infection and permanent scarring. Thus expression is generally recommended against by dermatologists and estheticians in favour of allowing pimples to run through their natural lifespans.[16][17][18][19][20] Some dermatologists offer incision and drainage services to sterilely drain the pimple.[21]


  1. ^ "pimple" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  2. ^ Anderson, Laurence. 2006. Looking Good, the Australian guide to skin care, cosmetic medicine and cosmetic surgery. AMPCo. Sydney. ISBN 0-85557-044-X.
  3. ^ a b "Adult acne! American Academy of Dermatology". www.aad.org. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  4. ^ Tüzün Y, Wolf R, Kutlubay Z, Karakuş O, Engin B (2014). "Rosacea and rhinophyma". Clinics in Dermatology. 32 (1): 35–46. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2013.05.024. PMID 24314376.
  5. ^ Plewig, Gerd; Melnik, Bodo; WenChieh, Chen (8 June 2019). Plewig and Kligman's Acne and Rosacea. Springer. p. 64. ISBN 978-3-319-49274-2.
  6. ^ "Understanding Benzoyl Peroxide". Archived from the original on 23 February 2012.
  7. ^ Siegle RJ, Fekety R, Sarbone PD, Finch RN, Deery HG, Voorhees JJ (August 1986). "Effects of topical clindamycin on intestinal microflora in patients with acne". Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 15 (2 Pt 1): 180–5. doi:10.1016/S0190-9622(86)70153-9. PMID 2943760.
  8. ^ Handfield-Jones S, Jones S, Peachey R (May 1988). "High dose nicotinamide in the treatment of necrobiosis lipoidica". The British Journal of Dermatology. 118 (5): 693–6. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.1988.tb02572.x. PMID 2969260. S2CID 37912645.
  9. ^ Ramos-e-Silva M, Carneiro SC (March 2009). "Acne vulgaris: review and guidelines". Dermatology Nursing. 21 (2): 63–8, quiz 69. PMID 19507372.
  10. ^ Morrison A, O'Loughlin S, Powell FC (February 2001). "Suspected skin malignancy: a comparison of diagnoses of family practitioners and dermatologists in 493 patients". International Journal of Dermatology. 40 (2): 104–7. doi:10.1046/j.1365-4362.2001.01159.x. PMID 11328390. S2CID 29620121.
  11. ^ Merritt B, Burkhart CN, Morrell DS (June 2009). "Use of isotretinoin for acne vulgaris". Pediatric Annals. 38 (6): 311–20. doi:10.3928/00904481-20090512-01. PMID 19588674.
  12. ^ Layton A (May 2009). "The use of isotretinoin in acne". Dermato-Endocrinology. 1 (3): 162–9. doi:10.4161/derm.1.3.9364. PMC 2835909. PMID 20436884.
  13. ^ "Roaccutane 20mg Soft Capsules - Summary of Product Characteristics". UK Electronic Medicines Compendium. 1 July 2015.
  14. ^ US Label (PDF) (Report). FDA. 22 October 2010 [January 2010]. Retrieved 1 June 2017. See FDA Index page for NDA 018662 for updates
  15. ^ Strauss JS, Krowchuk DP, Leyden JJ, Lucky AW, Shalita AR, Siegfried EC, Thiboutot DM, Van Voorhees AS, Beutner KA, Sieck CK, Bhushan R (April 2007). "Guidelines of care for acne vulgaris management". Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 56 (4): 651–63. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2006.08.048. PMID 17276540.
  16. ^ "What to Know Before You Pop a Pimple". WebMD. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  17. ^ "The 10 Most Satisfying Pimple Popping Videos Of 2016". Men's Health. 29 December 2016. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  18. ^ "Should I Pop My Pimple?". kidshealth.org. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  19. ^ Merlin, Design: Wolfgang (www.1-2-3-4.info)/Modified. "A14. What should I do after popping a pimple?Skinacea.com". www.skinacea.com. Retrieved 3 April 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ "How to Pop a Pimple - Instructions from Acne.org". www.acne.org. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  21. ^ "Pimple popping: Why only a dermatologist should do it | American Academy of Dermatology". www.aad.org. Retrieved 3 August 2019.

External links

Listen to this article (3 minutes)
Spoken Wikipedia icon
This audio file was created from a revision of this article dated 26 April 2010 (2010-04-26), and does not reflect subsequent edits.
  • The dictionary definition of pimple at Wiktionary