What's in a pimple
Acne Questions

What’s in a pimple?

We can all spot a pimple, on its way to ruin our day. We fear and hate them. But what’s in a pimple actually?

They are little lumps of pus sitting on your face made up of sebum, oil, debris and bacteria which has filled up a pore. Blocking the pore makes it inflamed and it will become more visible with the swelling and the blockage itself.

Pimples are a very common skin issue that affect people of all ages and most of us will have them at one time or another. Even though they are incredibly common they are a lot of harmful myths about spots and they can really affect our self-confidence. Bad bouts of cystic acne, often but not always as teenagers, can leave lifelong scars. People can go to extreme lengths to treat their pimples.

So what’s in a pimple?

There are several types of pimple but the most common are whiteheads and blackheads. Even though the look very different they are actually more or less the same thing. They start off the same but a whitehead is enclosed with a very fine film that keeps it from the air. A blackhead is open to the air.

This difference means that the same stuff inside reacts differently. Whiteheads are white, obviously, with a fluid inside. Blackheads look black but are actually an orange, oily colour, and are hard. The colour and consistency is because they are exposed to air, which oxidises the spot.

What causes a pimple is the same for blackheads and whiteheads, as is how they can be tackled.

Inside is a collection of natural oils from the skin, dead skin, dirt from the face and bacteria. Everyone has oil, dead skin, dirt and bacteria on their skin naturally. It’s not a sign of being unclean, just of being a human. Different people’s skin reacts differently, and people have other factors at play, which affects who gets pimples more often.

What’s important when popping pimples

The natural instinct is just to blow that pimple out of existence. This is fine for your simple blackheads and whiteheads. But if you take a little more time and care it will be better for your skin.

First of all, don’t use your hands. Your hands are dirty. If you squeeze a spot with your fingers you are putting dirt and bacteria off your hands right back into the tiny open wound of your pimple.

Even if you wash your hands first your fingers are not designed for popping little pimples. They are too big and not very accurate. They cause more swelling and redness on the skin around the pimple, sometimes making it look worse than it started out.

So, use a pimple popper. It’s a proper professional tool for the job, more accurate, and much more hygienic. You need to use less pressure and can choose from two differently sized loops. So there’s less redness and swelling in the surrounding area and much less chance of the pimple getting reinfected.

Whether it’s a very liquid whitehead or a harder blackhead, you need to keep the area clean both before and after the popping. That reduces the risk of more oil, dirt, and bacteria getting back into the pimple.

Blackheads in particular can re-form if they weren’t properly popped, and may well return as a messy and more obvious whitehead.

If you are concerned about the contents of your pimples, where they are, or anything about them, see your GP.

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

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