Acne and Pimples: What’s the difference?

May 19, 2021

Pimples and acne differences

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. 

Let’s understand the difference between acne and pimples:

Acne 

Acne is a disease of the skin occurring due to excessive oil clogging in the pores of the skin. 

Types of Acne

Types of acne

Whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, and nodules are the most common types of acne. Cysts and nodules are the most painful type of acne, in which deeper layers of the skin also get affected.

Whiteheads and blackheads are less severe forms of acne. Whiteheads, also known as closed comedones, appear as small, round and white bumps. On the other hand, blackheads get their color when the plugs clogging the pores are oxidized by air.

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 the neck, chest, back, shoulders, and arms. The presentation may differ depending on severity.

Causes of Acne

Increased oils (sebum) produced by the sebaceous glands, skin cells (keratin), and hair follicles together form a plug. This leads to clogging of the skin pores, resulting in acne. These clogged pores provide favorable conditions for the growth of the bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes. When this happens, the skin’s outermost layer which usually sheds off gets trapped underneath the skin, infecting the plug.

The increase in sebum secretion may also occur due to a boost in the production of androgen hormone. Some of the prominent factors that may drive the increase in acne breakouts are:

  • Genetic causes
  • Hormonal imbalance like pregnancy, puberty, and menstrual cycle
  • Bacterial infections
  • Activation of inflammation through scratching
  • Intake of anabolic steroids
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Stress
  • Medications like corticosteroids
  • High humidity
  • Oil based cosmetics like makeup, hair oil, moisturiser, shampoo, etc.
  • Unhealthy diet that include greasy food, diary products, carbohydrates, and sugars

Pimples

Acne has various stages. At different stages, different symptoms show up and intensify. Pimples are one of those acne symptoms, presenting as inflamed, pus-filled lesions, pink to slightly red in colour. They’re caused due to ruptures in clogged pores. This allows bacterial growth inside them, causing inflammation and resulting in the white fluid (oils) reaching the surface.

Types of pimples

Types of pimples

Pimples can further be classified as papules and pustules. Papules are regular sized pimples and, hence, easier to treat. In contrast, pustules are pimples that have become swollen and engorged, and require prescription products for treatment.

Now that we’ve discussed the acne vs pimple difference, let’s move on to discussing their treatments.

Treatments for Pimples and Acne: 

Pimples and acne treatment

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 your face regularly: 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 dry with a clean, dry washcloth.
  • Use Medication Grade products: Over-the-counter acne products containing benzoyl peroxide (2.5%), salicylic acid, glycolic acids, topical retinoids, etc. is usually effective in treating acne and pimples. Though available without a prescription, however, 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, combined oral contraceptives, anti-androgen agents, such as off-label use of spironolactone.
  • Procedures: Procedures like chemical peel, intralesional medicines, light and laser treatments, cryotherapy, and more may be followed for treatment of acne and acne scars. Your dermatologist will discuss them in greater detail with you, if they are indicated.
  • Moisturize: Many acne products may cause drying and peeling of skin. Daily use of a non-comedogenic moisturizer suitable for your skin type may be prescribed to avoid that.
  • Use makeup sparingly: 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. However, make sure you’ve removed it all before sleeping.
  • ‘No hands’ policy: Your hands contain bacteria, too. So, it’s best to avoid touching your face or propping your cheek or chin with your hands. Never squeeze, pinch, or pop a pimple and acne, no matter how tempting it may seem. This 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 away from the sun: The sun’s ultraviolet rays can be harmful to the skin, causing inflammation, redness, and hyperpigmentation. Use a sunscreen (SPF 30) daily with UVA +++, 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 2-4 liters of water every day to detoxify your body and skin.
  • Watch your diet: 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. If you’re not able to do so adequately, you may take multivitamin supplements every morning.
  • Exercise daily: Regular exercise is good for the body, mind, and skin. Shower immediately after exercising.
  • Maintain your sleep cycle: Provide your body and skin with 6-8 hours of uninterrupted beauty sleep every night. Also always go to bed and wake up at the same time every night to ensure your cortisol levels are balanced. 
  • De-stress: Stress increases cortisol hormone levels, which can also increase the oil secretion. So make the necessary lifestyle changes needed to become more relaxed. 

Now that you understand the difference between acne and pimples and also how they can be treated, you don’t need to suffer in silence. If your skin has been a cause of worry and has been hampering your confidence, seek treatment right away. 

Book an appointment with a Clearskin expert!

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