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What’S The Difference Between Acne And Pimples?

Dr. Dhananjay Chavan

Apr 1, 2018

We’ve all suffered from acne and pimples at one time or another, haven’t we? And many of us are still suffering from it.

It’s worse when they choose to make an appearance just before a big day, but stubborn repeated breakouts are equally bad. They are unappealing, affect your self-esteem and confidence, and it is high time we got the better of them.

Yet many people aren’t aware that there’s a difference between acne and pimples and use the two terms interchangeably. But that isn’t so and here’s how:

  • Acne is a disease of the skin occurring due to excessive oil clogging in the pores of the skin, characterized by whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, cysts, and nodules.
  • Increased oils (sebum) produced by the sebaceous glands, skin cells (keratin), and hair follicles together form a plug, clogging the skin pores, resulting in acne. These clogged pores provide favorable conditions for bacteria to grow, and bacteria Propionibacterium acnes, which otherwise gets shed off with the skin’s outermost layer normally, gets trapped underneath the skin, infecting the plug.
  • The increase in sebum secretion is due to a boost in the production of androgen hormone, which may be seen due to genetic causes, hormonal imbalance, bacterial infections, activation of inflammation through scratching, intake of anabolic steroids, exposure to harmful chemicals, stress, etc.
  • Acne can be of two kinds: Acne Vulgaris, seen in puberty, and Acne Rosacea, observed in adulthood. Both kinds can occur not only on the face, but also on neck, chest, back, shoulder, and arms. The presentation may differ depending on severity.
  • Less severe forms: whiteheads appear as small, round and white bumps, also known as closed comedones; while blackheads get their colour when the plugs clogging the pores are oxidized by air.
  • Pimples are nothing but a form of severe acne, presenting as inflamed, pus-filled lesions, pink to slightly red in colour. They’re caused due to ruptures in clogged pores, which allow for bacterial growth inside them, causing inflammation, so that the white fluid (oils) reach the surface.
  • Pimples can further be classified as papules and pustules. Papules are regularly sized pimples and hence easier to treat, while pustules are pimples that have become swollen and engorged, and require prescription products for treatment.
  • Cysts and nodules are the most painful type of acne, in which deeper layers of skin also get affected.

Since the main culprit is an excess of oils, the main preventive measure is aimed at keeping our faces oil-free and devoid of dirt and impurities. Other measures to prevent, reduce and treat acne and pimples are:

  • Clean face: Whether you are prone to acne or not, keeping your face clean is the first step to maintaining healthy, glowing skin. It removes the excess oil, dead skin cells, and dirt, decreasing the possibility of acne. Wash your face twice a day, using warm water and a mild facial cleanser. Avoid scrubbing harshly, rinse well and gently, and pat your face with a clean, dry washcloth.
  • Medication: Over-the-counter acne products containing benzoyl peroxide (2.5%), salicylic acid, glycolic acids, topical retinoids, etc have been effective. Though available without a prescription, it is advised that you use them only under the supervision of your dermatologist, and as directed, to avoid potential side effects. Prescription medications include topical antibiotics, oral antibiotics, oral retinoids, hormonal treatments, etc.
  • Procedures: Procedures like dermabrasion, phototherapy,subcision, laser treatment, etc may be followed for treatment of acne and acne scars. Your dermatologist will discuss them in greater details with you if they are indicated.
  • Moisturise: Many acne products may cause drying and peeling of skin. Daily use a non-comedogenic moisturizer suitable for your skin type to avoid that.
  • Spare make-up: Avoid using greasy cosmetics and creams, and also avoid using makeup, especially during an acne or pimple breakout. Use non-comedogenic makeup if you really want to, but make sure you’ve removed it all before sleeping.
  • No hands policy: Your hands contain bacteria, too, so avoid touching your face or propping your cheek or chin on your hands. Never squeeze, pinch, or pop a pimple, no matter how tempting it may seem; it could lead to infection and scarring.
  • Watch your hair: Keep your hair pulled away from your face, and avoid using fragrances, oils or gels on your hair, especially overnight since it will irritate your skin on coming in contact with it.
  • Stay out of the sun: The sun’s ultraviolet rays can be harmful to the skin, causing inflammation, redness, and hyperpigmentation. Use a sunscreen (SPF 30) daily, wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved clothes, scarves, and limit your time in the sun.
  • Water: Water is the source of all life, and it’s also the source of healthy, glowing skin. Drink at least 1.5-2 liters of water every day to detoxify your body and skin.
  • Eat well: Avoid junk food, dairy products, and foods processed in high sugar as they may trigger acne. Nourish your skin with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and if you’re not able to do so adequately, you may take multivitamin supplements every morning.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise is good for the body, mind, and skin. Shower immediately after exercising.
  • Sleep: Provide your body and skin with 6-8 hours of uninterrupted beauty sleep every night.
  • De-stress: Stress increases cortisol hormone levels, which can also increase the oil secretion. So make the necessary lifestyle changes needed to chill out.

Acne and pimples can become a part of you if you do not resist and fight them off. If you need any help in doing so, contact us at Clearskin Clinic. We are up in arms.


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