How To Differentiate Between Pimples And Acne

How To Differentiate Between Pimples And Acne


Have you been troubled by your skin acne and pimples for a long period of time? You seem to have weird lumps, acne lesions, pink bumps or even cystic acne on your skin regularly, and they don’t seem to go away like occasional pimples do. You find out online that they can be acne or pimples, but you’re not too sure exactly what the problem is. Even after trying out multiple skincare products, the problem persists and you’re left with tons of acne scars.

If you have problematic or acne prone skin, it is extremely important to differentiate between acne vs pimples in order to get a clear understanding of what’s wrong, and what you should do to tackle the problem. In essence, acne is a skin condition that affects the skin’s hair follicles and oil glands (caused by excess oil or clogged pores), while pimples are symptoms of acne. If you have multiple pimples that persist over a period of time, you may be suffering from acne. Otherwise, it is likely that your pimples are a one-off occurrence and may disappear on their own. Read on to find out how you can differentiate between acne and pimples, and what causes them in order to get the clear skin of your dreams!

What causes hair follicles and oil glands blockage?

Pimples form when sebum and dead skin cells clump together. Sebum is an oily substance that is connected to the glands and pores under your skin. Glands and pores are connected by follicles, which are thin facial hairs that grow onto the skin’s thin layer surface. If the sebum and dead skin cells lump together, it can cause a blockage in follicles. When this happens, bacteria can also cause inflammation, resulting in pimples on the skin which appear as red bumps and lumps. That’s why people are obsessed with achieving tighter pores and ridding dead skin cells to help lessen the chances of such blockage.

Understanding Acne vs Pimples

If you suspect that you might be suffering from acne or have acne prone skin, you need to understand its root cause and why you might be suffering from the skin condition. As mentioned, acne is a skin condition with pimples as one of its symptoms. While dermatologists and scientists have been unable to identify the direct and exact cause of acne, it is widely believed that certain factors can trigger acne or worsen its condition.

There is a range of factors, but some of the most common ones include aggravating existing pimples, exfoliating your skin too intensely, certain cosmetic products, medications, humidity, greasy foods and pressure from accessories.

Hormonal Changes

These may be caused by changes in our bodies like puberty, the menstrual cycle, or pregnancy. This is one possible reason why many women tend to have pimple outbreaks at a specific point of time in their menstrual cycle, same with teens having acne issues. Aggravating your existing pimples, like that nose pimple that’s been bugging you all day, can be from actions like picking or squeezing your pimples, or poking them. Exfoliating your skin too vigorously like cleaning or scrubbing too hard can also result in pimples, not to mention facial flushing as well, which looks just as worrisome. Certain cosmetic products like oil-based products, hair products, or sunscreen can also clog up pores under the skin and result in acne and pimples. Specific types of medications may also come with side effects that possibly cause pimples. Corticosteroids and anabolic steroids are such examples. High humidity and pressure from accessories like helmets, hats, and collars or your genetic predisposition may also cause pimples on the skin. Surprisingly, contrary to popular belief, dirty skin, greasy food, chocolate, and stress do not cause pimples to occur.

Symptoms of Skin Acne

Different types of acne come in the form of many different symptoms. As mentioned earlier, one of the most obvious ones is the presence of multiple pimples that persist over a period of time. Other acne symptoms that may suggest that you are suffering from acne include:


These are commonly seen on our skin. Whiteheads generally refer to clogged facial pores under the skin’s surface, with the pores being closed. They are generally mild and not significantly noticeable.


Many people suffer from blackheads as well, most commonly on oily areas like the T-Zone (forehead and down the nose). Blackheads are clogged pores on the skin’s surface, with open pores. They are more easily noticeable compared to whiteheads due to their color.


Nodules are painful & large lumps under the skin’s surface. These are usually deeply embedded under the skin and is a sign of severe or worsening acne.


Papules are smaller, pink, or red bumps under the skin that are tender to touch and slightly painful. They may suggest severe or worsening acne.


Pustules are papules, except being open with pus on top. They may suggest severe or worsening acne.


Cysts are the worst kind of skin symptom to have. They are large and painful pus filled lumps under the skin’s surface. Cysts are hard to remove on their own, and you may even need a medical procedure to remove them.

Learn more about each one of those mentioned above in this link.

Acne Treatment (like salicylic acid)

Although acne sounds absolutely horrible and terrifying, not all hope is lost. Treating acne is in fact possible, with little long-term or heavy complications. And some skin acne medication can be easily obtained over the counter.

If you suspect that you are suffering from acne, you will need to see a dermatologist to get it identified and treated accordingly. A dermatologist should always be your first contact when it comes to any kind of skin condition, whether it be pimples, freckles, a forehead rashdry spots on skin, and many others. Most dermatologists will prescribe a form of topical retinoid treatment cream, like topical adapalene or tretinoin, spot treatment or salicylic acid to treat your acne. These are meant to be applied directly to the problem areas to tackle different types of acne. You can also consult on the use of a mild facial cleanser or beauty facemask, which could help pull out impurities that cause acne. Other types of medication will depend greatly on the type of acne breakouts that you are suffering from, and that needs to be treated.

Treating Severe Acne Prone Skin

In more severe cases of acne flares and frequent breakouts, your dermatologist may provide medical advice that includes prescribing you some over the counter (OTC) medications together with topical creams for more effective treatments. Common OTC medications include antibiotics, combined oral contraceptives, anti-androgen agents, etc. You may also need to undergo some cosmetic treatment procedures like chemical peel, or light therapy to effectively tackle and treat acne problem.

Aside from consulting a dermatologist, you can find out more about acne and how to treat acne by checking this article.


Acne can definitely be troubling, regardless of your skin type. The sight of acne on your skin can cause you to feel less confident and affect your self-esteem, as acne is extremely noticeable. Fret not, however, as acne can be treated. You don’t want to get eye wrinkles early for thinking about it too hard! You should really get an eye cream for wrinkles if that’s the case!

Jokes aside, remember to differentiate between pimples and acne, so that you can get the correct treatment that targets the right problem. And be sure to do ample research on your end to find the best options as well as ways to actively prevent it from coming back as well. Last but not least, be gentle with your skin to reduce inflammation; use warm water to wash your face if you experience acne. This might even rid your skin of having too much oil.

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