Skin Problems: Pimples

Overview

Pimples are a type of acne, and the word is often used as a catch-all for various types, including whiteheads, cysts, pustules, papules or nodules. Their growth is the result of clogged skin pores. Though there are endless quick miracle acne cures touted, their claims are exaggerated at best; dealing effectively with pimples is possible, but requires some diligence for prevention and healthy treatment.

Causes

Three primary contributing factors lead to the clogging of pores and formation of pimples, explains the Mayo Clinic. These are excess sebum–the skin’s natural oil–production, inefficient shedding of dead skin cells and bacterial accumulation. Why certain people produce too much sebum is unclear, according to the Mayo Clinic, but it suggests that heredity, hormones and some medications play a part.

Significance

Pimples are often regarded simply as a cosmetic concern. However, they can have social and psychological ramifications, particularly during teenage years. Skin Care Physicians, a site operated by the American Academy of Dermatology, outlines some of these effects, which can include low self-esteem, loss of confidence and poor body image, social isolation, anxiety, depression, frustration, anger and embarrassment. Additionally, these can all interfere with academic or work performance. The National Institutes of Health points out that pimples can have other complications like permanent scarring or skin discoloration, which can, in turn, compound emotional effects.

Prevention

A regimen of care can limit or prevent pimples. The Nemours Foundation website KidsHealth recommends washing affected areas twice daily and after perspiring with a mild soap and warm water. Avoid scrubbing while washing and drying, using massaging motions to clean and patting to dry. Consistent use of acne cleansers that exfoliate and have antibacterial properties are helpful. Keep your hair clean and away from your face to limit oil transference, and prevent hair styling products from getting on your face or skin. Opt for makeup, moisturizers and other cosmetic products labeled “oil-free,” “nonacnegenic” or “noncomedogenic,” and remove makeup completely before bed.

Treatments

Over-the-counter pimple treatments are often sufficient, and the Mayo Clinic recommends using products with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur, resorcinol or lactic acid as an active ingredient. A wide variety of topical prescription creams are available if over-the-counter products are ineffective, and your dermatologist can advise you on which is best for you. Antibiotics may also be prescribed if bacterial infection is a problem. Oral contraceptives can be an effective treatment for women, too, the Mayo Clinic points out.

Myths

There are some widely circulated myths about acne, foremost among them being that poor hygiene or certain foods, like greasy ones, cause pimples. Skin Care Physicians explains that excessive hygiene practices, which can irritate the skin, are more likely to cause pimples than poor hygiene, and that there is no scientific evidence of a connection between pimples and diet. The site is also quick to point out that the belief that acne must simply be permitted to run its course is a myth. Pimples are preventable and treatable, if not on your own, then with the help of a dermatologist.