How To Get Rid of Pimples
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If you’re being pestered by problematic pimples, we can help. Blemishes in any shape or form are never fun to deal with, and a nasty breakout can encumbers both complexion and confidence. Your acne might be newly formed, following the onslaught of hormonal changes, or it could be a residual problem that just won’t go away.
In any case, we’re here to break down the ins and outs of pimples, including what they are, how they form, and the best ways to get rid of them. New or old, mild or severe, this article can benefit your complexion by teaching you how to get rid of acne once and for all. Let’s get started.
Acne comes in many shapes and sizes, and the first step to creating an effective skin care routine is identifying which type of acne troubles you.
Blackheads appear as small black dots on the skin. They usually occur on the face – especially the nose and T-Zone – but can also be seen on the back, neck, chest, shoulders and arms. Blackheads are one of two types of comedones, or acne lesions caused by clogged pores. Blackhead comedones are open versus closed, leaving the plug at the top of the clogged pore exposed to air on the skin’s surface. It’s this exposure to oxygen that accounts for their color, which can not only be black but also gray, yellow or brown. When melanin – a pigment produced by oil glands and found within sebum – makes contact with air, it oxidizes and turns dark. Blackheads are a mild, usually painless form of acne, as there’s less inflammation associated with this type of lesion.
Whereas blackheads are open, whiteheads are closed comedones. They appear as small, white, round bumps on the skin’s surface. Whiteheads form when a clogged pore is trapped by a thin layer of skin leading to a buildup of pus. They range in size – from virtually invisible to large, noticeable blemishes – and can appear on the face or all over the body. Whiteheads are generally painless and non-inflammatory, so they don’t exhibit redness or swelling. Although they are unsightly, this type of pimple is generally considered a mild form acne.
When blocked pores become increasingly irritated or infected, they grow in size and go deeper into the skin. If pimples get trapped beneath the skin’s surface, they can form papules: red, sore spots which can’t be popped (please don’t try! Squeezing the oil, bacteria, and skin cell mixture can result in long term scars that may be unresponsive to acne treatments). They’re formed when the trapped, infected pore becomes increasingly inflamed and irritated, and they usually feel hard to the touch. Papules are small (less than 1 centimeter in diameter) with distinct borders; when clusters of papules occur near each other, they can appear as a rash and make your skin feel rough like sandpaper. Because they’re inaccessible, they’re a bit more difficult to treat, and are therefore considered moderately severe acne.
Pustules are another form of moderate acne very similar to papules. The difference is that pustules are filled with liquid pus, giving them a white or yellowish appearance akin to blisters. They’re accompanied by surrounding inflammation and are usually tender and hard (but not as hard as papules). Pustules appear when white blood cells attempt to fight off infection within a given area.
A nodule is an abnormal tissue growth which can either develop just below the skin or anywhere within the skin’s three layers (the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue). Nodules commonly form in regions such as the face, neck, armpits, and groin, although they can also develop on internal organs such as the lungs, thyroid, and lymph nodes. They create solid, raised lumps that are more than 1 to 2 centimeters in diameter, with the potential to reach up to the size of a hazelnut. Nodules are hard and firm to the touch, unlike cysts whose pus makes them softer to the touch. This type of severe acne should be consulted by a doctor, as it might be indicative of a more serious condition.
The type of pimples you see in your complexion can be indicative of what type of acne you have. Understanding your acne is crucial to learning how to get rid of zits, so read up on these various conditions before finding your best solution:
Hormonal acne is exactly what it sounds like: breakouts that are tied to fluctuations in hormones. If your skin flares up at the same time each month, tends to occur in the same spot (chin, cheeks, jawline), and is characterized by pimples that are deep and cystic, your acne might be hormonal. Hormonal acne is usually due to a sensitivity to androgens, which are a specific type of hormone. With respect to acne, the androgen in charge is testosterone. Testosterone (and estrogen) are produced and needed by both sexes, but women are sensitive to extraneous amounts since it’s unnecessary for their typical functioning. The excess androgen has to go somewhere, and is usually purged via the skin’s androgen receptor cells which creates breakouts. While testosterone remains in the bloodstream, it increases sebum production and can make breakouts worse.
This type of acne is most common and can either be inflammatory or non-inflammatory. It’s characterized by open or closed comedones, inflamed papules, pustules, and nodules. It usually affects areas of skin with the most sebaceous follicles, including the face, upper part of the chest, and back.
Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne vulgaris and can be caused by a variety of factors. This type of acne sees painful lesions develop deep within the skin, which could result in permanent scarring or hyperpigmentation. Cystic acne is easily diagnosed due it its pronounced, inflamed lesions. However, you should consult a dermatologist to rule out other skin conditions which might mimic acne such as rosacea, psoriasis or perioral dermatitis.
Whereas acne vulgaris clogs pores from the bottom up, acne inversa (or hidradenitis suppurativa) is a form of acne that clogs pores from the top down. It’s caused by excessively rapid skin growth, occluding the mouth of pores with shed skin cells. When the pores are blocked and clogged, they become inflamed and can create pimples and acne lesions. This form of acne is usually observed in intertriginous skin, where two skin areas may touch or rub together. Induced or aggravated by heat, moisture, maceration, friction and lack of air circulation. Examples of these areas include underarms, folds of the breasts, and between buttocks cheeks.
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If you’re experiencing hormonal acne, acne vulgaris, cystic acne or acne inversa, you should learn the potential sources of your problem. By understanding the cause of your acne, you’ll be better equipped to proactively prevent its formation, rather than just treating it ex posto facto. Watch out for these key acne-inducing factors and their relationship to skin:
In the simplest sense, acne is caused when pores containing hair follicles and sebaceous (oil) glands become clogged. The sebaceous gland is responsible for producing sebum, an oily substance necessary for skin to stay hydrated and soft. However, too much sebum can plug the opening at the top of the pore, trapping a buildup of oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria leading to acne lesions.
Acne is at least in part due to hereditary factors. Those whose parents have a history of acne are likely to struggle with the same condition. Your genetic makeup can determine how to get rid of pimples, how sensitive your skin is, how reactive you are to hormonal fluctuations, how quickly you shed skin cells, how you respond to inflammation, how strong your immune system is to fight off bacteria, how much oil your sebaceous glands produce, and the list goes on and on. All of these determinants can cause acne to develop more easily and determine what’s good for pimples in your complexion.
Hormonal fluctuations and an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone levels have proven to be a direct cause of acne. For this reason, many experience an onslaught of breakouts during puberty and pregnancy. The brain releases a GnRH hormone when an adolescent begins puberty, which in turn signals the pituitary gland to release two additional androgens. Androgens make the sebaceous glands produce more sebum, causing it to occupy too much space within the pore and preventing the full expulsion of dead skin cells and debris. Fluctuations in hormones also cause many women to experience acne during pregnancy and a worsening of breakouts during menstrual cycles.
There has been a long-observed link between higher stress levels and the incidence of breakouts, and studies have shown that stress can worsen acne’s frequency and severity. Sebaceous glands contain receptors for stress hormones, making them upregulated and kicking sebum production into overdrive. Unfortunately, those with stress sometimes fall victim to a vicious acne cycle. Anxious types have a tendency to pick their skin and pop pimples under stress. This bad habit can exacerbate blemishes by pushing the buildup deeper into the pore, inducing cellular damage, rupturing cellular walls, and spreading bacteria. In extreme cases, sometimes people become so worried or embarrassed about their skin that they compulsively pick at every little thing that shows up. This condition is called acne excoriee, and can turn mild acne into severe scars.
Depression and acne can go hand in hand, and one often leads to the other. In cases where acne occurs first, it’s not uncommon for people to want to withdraw from the world. Whether it’s internal embarrassment or external bullying, acne can lead to an extreme loss of confidence and low self-esteem. How to get rid of a pimple may seem impossible, and the emotional toll of acne can impact anyone at any age, and as depression worsens so too does the acne. In some cases, an individual without skincare issues who becomes depressed could incidentally develop acne. Depression can lead to poor hygiene habits, and failing to wash your face contributes to buildups within clogged pores. Depressed people may also experience poor sleep, which can lead to acne by inhibiting your body’s natural, night-time keratinization process.
The verdict on smoking and its relationship to acne is still undecided. The evidence goes back and forth; while many studies seem to prove this theory, other studies contradict such research. For example, research published in 2001 by the British Journal of Dermatology concluded that out of 896 participants, smokers tended to have more acne in general; the more they smoked, the worse their acne felt and appeared. Confusingly, a study published just five years later in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology offered opposing research; nurses interviewed over 27,000 men within a span of 20 years and found that active smokers showed significantly lower severe than non-smokers. Although smoking’s relationship with acne vulgaris is undetermined, smoking has proven effects on acne inversa. It also disrupts hormonal balance, lowers vitamin E levels (an essential antioxidant in skin), induces higher instances of psoriasis, decreases oxygen flow to skin cells, and slows the healing process of open sores. Acne aside, smoking promotes wrinkles and premature aging. Did we mention it’s also deadly? Kick this habit to the curb; your skin will thank you.
Another vice that can lead to worsened acne is alcohol. As we mentioned, your diet and acne are related. One glass of wine won’t trigger a breakout – even contains beneficial antioxidants! – but excessive alcohol consumption can alter your hormone levels. Making matters worse, many people drink due to stress, which also affects acne-inducing hormones. Alcohol impairs the liver’s ability to purify toxins, and if the liver is compromised, toxins are expelled through different channels such as your skin. It’s full of that sugar we just warned you about and weakens your immune system, which inhibits your body’s natural ability to fight off P. acnes bacteria. If you pass out after a night of drinking without washing your face, your pores are more likely to become clogged and create pimples. Almost everyone enjoys indulging in a drink every now and then, but moderation here is key.
There’s much to be said on the relationship between your diet and acne. Although it doesn’t directly cause acne, certain foods can make pre-existing conditions worse, while others can help clarify your complexion.
Processed Foods: Ingredients found in processed and junk food such as chips, breakfast cereals and white bread are acne-inducing villains. Preservatives and additives can trigger hormonal fluctuations, and greasy fast food leads to inflammation all over your body – including your face. Refined grains are quickly broken down and turned into sugar, which creates a terrible effect on skin by aggravating acne.
Sugar: For starters, sugar can use up your valuable acne-fighting minerals, particularly zinc because it’s used to process the sugar you consume. Sugar also causes a spike in blood sugar level, leading to high insulin levels, which creates increased sebum production and blocked pores. Additionally, studies show that sugar also has an inflammatory effect which can worsen existing acne. Steer clear of sweets like cookies and cakes, but don’t worry – chocolate is considered safe for skin.
Carbohydrates: Diets with a great deal of either refined or whole grains supply the body with an abundance of carbohydrates. Carbs are broken down into sugar, and too many might lead to an insulin resistance, which can cause your body to produce even more insulin and result in excessively oily skin.
Trans-fats: Trans-fats are a health nightmare and do no favors for your acne. They trigger huge inflammatory responses by activating a response in the immune system, causing blemishes to swell and redden. When consumed regularly, the inflammation becomes chronic.
Dairy: Dairy products – especially milk – contain androgen precursors which can easily be converted to testosterone if exposed to particular enzymes. Pores within the skin contain said enzymes, and can therefore lead to the formation of pimples. Milk also contains the hormone IGF-1, which in excess can result in additional sebum production.
Vegetables: Adding more leafy greens to your diet benefits all aspects of your health, including the quality of skin. They deliver essential minerals, vitamins (such as vitamin A), and antioxidants. Antioxidants lessen the amount of time breakouts last, and can make pimples smaller and less painful.
Seafood: Oily fish like salmon and sardines have highly saturated levels of omega 3 fatty acids, which have major benefits for skin, including inflammation reduction. Some types of fish also contain carotenoid antioxidants which also improve skin quality. Omega 3 can also be found in fruits and nuts.
Green Tea: Green tea delivers a multitude of benefits, including lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol levels, improved bone density, improved memory and even the prevention of cancer. With regards to your skin, its anti-inflammatory properties can help fight acne when consumed orally, but its treatment is more effective when applied topically directly onto skin using BioClarity’s three-step process.
As you can see, acne is primarily caused by hormones, genetics, and lifestyle choices. Although you don’t get a say in the genes you inherit or the hormones your body produces, you do have control over your diet and stress management. Start there, and then read on for additional treatment solutions for how to get rid of pimples.
When it comes to how to remove pimples, there are generally three different treatment routes. Some can be performed in conjunction with one another, while others require exclusive usage (as in the case of strong prescription medications). If you’re in need of a skincare solution to clarify your complexion and an answer for how to get rid of pimples, consider the benefits and drawbacks of these various options:
- Topical Treatment: This refers to acne medications which are applied directly onto the skin, such as creams, gels, serums and ointments. Topical treatments can be found over-the-counter (OTC) or at a pharmacy when prescribed by a doctor. If you’re shopping for topical treatment solutions, look for products that contain acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and glycolic acid that can penetrate pores to loosen and dissolve debris. Topical solutions are generally best suited to treat mild to moderate acne.
- Systematic Treatment: Systemic acne medications are consumed orally, such as antibiotics or hormone pills, and work from the inside out to help clear your complexion. Antibiotics can help kill the bacteria lodged within infected pores to reduce inflammation, redness and swelling. Hormones pills such as birth control are frequently used to regulate androgen levels and treat hormonal acne. You won’t be able to purchase systemic treatments OTC and will need a doctor’s recommendation for these medications.
- Self-Care: Self-care practices and lifestyle choices can also help clear complexions. Nutrition, stress management, ample sleep, and good hygiene can help treat existing acne and might be able to prevent it from forming in the first place. Self-care practices can – and should! – be used in conjunction with all skincare treatments; they even deliver health benefits for those without acne problems.
So what kind of treatment is most effective on which type of acne? Here are the top suggestions:
Talk to your doctor to see if birth control might be a good form of systemic treatment for your hormonal acne. In the meantime, aim to keep your stress levels low and try eliminating dairy from your diet, as both are likely to cause hormone spikes and worsen flare ups.
Comedones associated with acne vulgaris are usually easy to clear using OTC products, but papules and pustules are a little tougher to treat. Since they arise from trapped, infected pores, the first step in their treatment is to remove the inflammation and reduce the swelling so the pore can heal and breathe. Nodules are one of the few acne conditions that actually demand treatment, as some risk the potential of becoming cancerous. Medical treatment with traditional antibiotic therapy will relieve the symptoms of your acne nodule and gradually decrease its size.
Cystic acne will most likely need treatment via antibiotic medication. In most cases, topical solutions are not strong enough to reach the infected pores lodged deep within the skin. To jumpstart your acne’s healing process, consider a chemical peel or microdermabrasion.
There is no cure for the lumps that form due to acne inversa, but there are treatment options. Medications, corticosteroid injections and sometimes surgery can help manage symptoms. Be sure to avoid smoking to prevent worsening your conditions.
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Before you go, read through these general skincare tips and essential pimple dos and don’ts. They’re universally applicable and should be done with any type of treatment, for any kind of acne.
- - Find products labeled non-comedogenic, which means that they won’t clog pores or worsen breakouts.
- - Wear sunscreen everyday (even after your pimples subside!) because the strong ingredients in acne medications can increase sensitivity.
- - For acne lesions that painful, apply ice for fast relief and reduced swelling.
- - Eat a clean and balanced diet, and avoid those acne-inducing foods we listed earlier on.
- - Never, ever pop your pimples. It can lead to scarring, spread infection, and worsen breakouts.
- - Quick fixes and miracle products are usually too good to be true and might clog your pores further. Be patient with your skincare routine.
- - Applying toothpaste onto your acne lesions has an excessively drying effect and can even bleach your skin, despite what the myths claim.
- - Touching your face or picking your skin spreads bacteria from your hands onto your pores, contributing to congestion issues.
After learning how to get rid of pimples and beginning your acne treatment, keep in mind that pimples might leave a red or dark spot on your skin after they go away. These marks will fade, but it could take days, weeks, or even months. Stay diligent, remain hopeful, and use this guide to get rid of pimples once and for all.