Pimples (acne vulgaris, or acne for short) are a common skin condition characterized by chronic or recurrent development of papules, pustules, or nodules on the skin. Pimples are common among adolescents and young adults but can occur at any age.
While it may be tempting, dermatologists generally do not advise people to pop, pick, or squeeze pimples. Popping pimples can cause problems:
- Can push bacteria deeper into the skin, resulting in more redness and swelling due to infection
- There is also the risk of bacteria on your fingers getting into pores
- May cause more painful acne
- May cause acne to be more noticeable
- Causes the pimple to take a longer time to heal
- Increased risk of permanent scarring and pitting
It is best to leave pimples alone and let the skin heal naturally. If you wish to have a pimple “popped,” see a dermatologist. They have several methods to help physicians get rid of acne, such as:
- Acne extraction: involves using sterile instruments to get rid of blackheads and whiteheads
- Not usually a first-line treatment because it takes time and can be expensive
- Corticosteroid injections
- Used to get rid of deep, painful acne cysts or nodules
- Relieves pain and inflammation quickly
- Usually used for a single, painful cyst or nodule and not used to treat multiple blemishes at the same time due to possible side effects
- Incision and drainage
- Used to remove a large pimple or painful acne cyst or nodule
- Involves using a sterile needle or surgical blade to open the blemish and remove what’s inside
What Home Remedies Can Get Rid of Pimples?
Instead of popping them, pimples can often be treated with self-care at home. Home treatments for acne include:
- Wash twice daily and after sweating and rinse with lukewarm water
- Use gentle, non-abrasive cleanser and apply with fingertips
- Avoid washcloths and sponges, which may irritate the skin
- Don’t scrub skin
- Use gentle products on the skin
- Use products that are alcohol-free
- Avoid products that can irritate skin because this may aggravate acne
- Look for products that don’t cause acne – check labels for the following words:
- Oil free
- Won't clog pores
- Don’t use too many products at once, because this may worsen acne
- Regularly wash all items that touch acne-prone skin, such as pillowcases and hats
- Change sheets at least every week and pillowcases two or three times a week
- Avoid the sun and tanning beds
- Ultraviolet (UV) light damages the skin
- Some acne medications make the skin sensitive to UV light
- Shampoo oily hair daily
What Medications Can Get Rid of Acne?
Medications to get rid of acne include:
- Topical (on the skin) medications
- Benzoyl peroxide to decrease bacteria
- Salicylic acid, to ease inflammation and unclog pores
- Retinoids, such as adapalene gel, to unclog pores and reduce oily skin
- Azelaic acid
- Antibiotics such as clindamycin
- Combinations of benzoyl peroxide plus a retinoid or a topical antibiotic
- Birth control pills or patches approved to treat acne
Can Lasers Treat Acne?
- Laser or light therapy may also be used to help clear acne. It works best combined with other acne treatments.
- The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using an acne treatment for at least 4 to 6 weeks to give it time to work. If you don’t notice improvement after that time, add a second product to your treatment regimen.
How Is Acne Diagnosed?
Acne is diagnosed by a dermatologist with a skin examination.
Other skin conditions may resemble acne, but are not, and treatment is different. It is important to be properly diagnosed by a dermatologist to rule out conditions that resemble acne, such as:
- Perioral dermatitis
- Ingrown hairs
- Hidradenitis suppurativa (also called acne inversa)
- Keratosis pilaris
- Sebaceous hyperplasia
- Basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer
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