Wondering how to deal with those painful pimples? It may look like nothing to others, but truth be told, acne is one of the most severe, and one could even say chronic skin conditions (besides eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and so on) that skincare is dealing with. While there’s really no fast solution for dealing with acne, most dermatologists and skin experts nowadays agree that we can get rid of acne for good.
The causes of acne are complex, and the types can vary from an innocent, small, and harmless pimple, all the way to deep, cystic acne that can leave severe acne scars. And while we’ve looked into all sorts of professional medications, and DIY treatments for cysts, we haven’t talked about how to deal with painful pimples - until today.
I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with the feeling of waking up in the morning and noticing a pimple that wasn’t there the night before. And if you’re wondering why that happened, or what this sudden, surprising bout of acne is trying to tell you, you’d be very right to ask yourself those questions.
But, there isn’t just one, single cause for acne. Acne forms by a complex interaction of several factors. Those factors can be genetic, hormonal (as in the case of hormonal acne), and infectious, but they can also have to do with lifestyle, harmful habits (such as smoking or vaping) or personal hygiene.
See, one of the ways in which our bodies protect themselves is by ordering our skin to produce skin oil, which is also known as sebum. However, due to various genetic, lifestyle, hormonal, and sometimes even dietary factors, the production of sebum can be interfered with. When that happens, our skin starts pumping out more sebum than our pores can take, which results in the clogging of the pores.
Once a pore is clogged, several things can happen. It needs to be noted, however, that a clogged pore (also known as a comedo by dermatologists) is the first step toward the formation of acne (or if you prefer, pimples). The second step, which follows rather quickly after the first one, is that a clogged pore transforms into a whitehead (an open comedo) or a blackhead (a closed comedo) - and from there on, very quickly to acne.
This complication happens because, when a pore becomes clogged, it is rarely filled up with just sebum. More often than not, microscopic dirt and dust from the environment, extra grease from foods and various skincare or other products, as well as acne-causing bacteria all wind up inside the clogged pores.
As you can imagine, this combination of environmental debris and pollution, sebum, and skin-dwelling, but insatiable skin bacteria isn’t up to anything good. These insatiable acne-causing bacteria are called Cutibacterium acnes (while formerly known as Propionibacterium acnes). In normal conditions, they’re a fairly harmless, and constructive kind of bacteria that just minds its own business over our skin, but…
Things begin looking worse when you realize that Cutibacterium acnes actually feeds on all that goody sebum that your body has overproduced. As the acne-causing bacteria feed on the sebum, they begin multiplying too, and your body produces even more sebum. In case you haven’t realized it yet - you’ve got a bacterial infection on your hands - I mean, on your skin.
However, your body doesn’t take long to figure out that it’s being attacked by an overgrowth of bacteria. So, it sends out its “marines”, the white blood cells that make up the footsoldiers of our immune system. But the existence of acne tells you that we won’t be seeing that version of a happy ending, right?
See, Cutibacterium acnes has spent millennia dealing with exactly this sort of problem, and it has found ways to deal with it. As soon as it sees that white blood cells approach, Cutibacterium acnes produces a substance that tricks the white blood cells into believing that our own, healthy cells, are actually the bacteria. The white blood cells then start attacking our own, healthy cells, and congratulations - you now have an acne inflammation too.
And, to cut the story short, this acne inflammation can then either become reduced or become even worse. At this point, dermatologists urge people not to squeeze their pimples, since squeezing your acne and trying to pop pimples can make the situation even worse.
While you can get rid of more superficial pimples by squeezing them, you won’t be able to get rid of larger ones. And besides, all the squeezing and pressuring of your skin causes deep damage to the surrounding tissues, making all the bacteria, the pus, and the dirt go even deeper inside your skin.
And, that is when you end up having a large, sometimes cystic, and often a very painful pimple. And this is how to deal with it.
Let’s be clear on something right from the start - this article isn’t just merely about what you should, or what you must do when treating painful pimples. This article is also about what not to do when dealing with painful pimples. So with that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s look at the dos, and don’ts, of painful pimples treatment.
I said it above, but it needs to be said again. To be fair, resisting the temptation to touch our faces, and popping our pimples is probably one of the most difficult things in existence. But that makes resisting the temptation all the more important.
Especially when it comes to painful, deep pimples, that really, when you think about it - cannot be popped. But you can surely molest and damage the surrounding tissue even more, and turn painful pimples into bigger, worse, even more painful pimples. By trying to squeeze a deep, enclosed, cystic pimple, you’re just making the inflammation worse.
Additionally, and this is perhaps even more important - you are, very likely, causing yourself some long-term, severe scars. Just don’t do it. Don’t pop and squeeze your pimples. The future you will thank the present you one day.
Warm compresses are perhaps the best invention in the entire history of humankind. But when it comes to painful pimples, they can help us in more ways than one.
First, a warm compress will divert sensations away from the pain from the pimples, enabling you to relax and take a breather. Besides, the warmth feels so much better than the sharp, and sometimes even dull, but irritating, pain from the painful pimple.
Secondly, a warm compress will warm up your skin, and with it, the tissues surrounding the problematic acne as well. This means that your skin and tissues will become slightly relaxed and stretched due to the heat, allowing any pus or blood to drain out, and heal.
If you’re dealing with really persistent, painful pimples, you can apply a warm compress several times a day. You can boil some water in a pan, and then use a clean cloth to apply it to the affected area. Alternatively, you can also buy a professional warm compress that can be heated up in the microwave.
It goes without saying though - but please, please be careful with the heat. You don’t want to burn your face, you want to heal it and get rid of the bothersome, painful pimples. So, make sure that the water, or the compress, isn’t too hot. If you somehow still manage to botch it and injure yourself, please visit your doctor or dermatologist immediately.
Well. It’s not really a sticker, but you get the idea. Acne stickers are basically little bandaids that are intended to be placed over the pimple in question. Technically, these acne stickers are supposed to protect the skin from irritation, but also kill off the bacteria infesting the acne, as well as remove any pus, sebum, random dirt and so on. While the composition of these acne stickers can vary widely, most of them contain one or another anti-acne substance, like for example salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
Not sure whether to try this? Well, there’s no harm really. And acne stickers can be readily purchased over the counter at any well-stocked drugstore, or cosmetics store. They can be used continuously until the problem goes away, but you should always read the instructions and follow them to the letter. For the sake of ensuring good hygiene as well, it is best to replace any acne sticker with a new one every 24 hours.
As we mentioned previously, acne, and pimples in general, can be caused by a rampant bacterial infection. And acne-causing bacteria hate antibiotics, since antibiotics are specialized in kicking the butt of bacteria.
But the ordinary, orally taken antibiotics can have little impact on bacteria affecting the skin, which is exactly the case with acne. Since our body is made up of millions of blood vessels, most of them microscopic, only a very small amount of oral antibiotics - if any - can be delivered to the affected areas on the surface of the skin. This is why, when dealing with painful pimples, and other kinds of acne, it is best to use antibiotics that are applied topically.
As the name suggests, topically means that the medication is to be applied on the surface of the affected area, or, as it were, directly on the pimple in question. Some of the most common topical antibiotics that are used for treating acne are erythromycin, clindamycin and others. These usually come in the shape of a gel, or cream formulas, and generally, they are to be applied at least twice a day. Additionally, topical antibiotics also reduce inflammation, providing an additional boon to the treatment of acne.
If you have sensitive skin, however, you should exercise a bit of caution, since some of these topical antibiotics can dry or irritate your skin. In order to avoid that scenario, it is always wise to perform a patch test first. Patch tests are easy to do, and as the name might tell you, they involve testing out a product or a substance on a small area of the skin (a “patch”). If you experience any adverse reactions, of course, you should stop using the medicine, product, or ingredient in question, and ideally have a conversation with your doctor or dermatologist. If everything is fine though, go ahead and begin the treatment.
Topical antibiotics won’t be very effective if that’s the only thing you are using however. To ensure their maximum effectiveness, it is best to combine them with other topical aids, such as cleansers that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Those ingredients will also help in sanitizing the area and drying out the painful pimple.
In case you are out of topical antibiotics, or you want to avoid them for other reasons, tea tree oil is a good natural alternative. Besides, tea tree oil is almost everywhere, and you can find it at almost any well-supplied drug store or cosmetics shop.
However, not all tea tree oil formulas or products are created equal. If you intend to use it to combat acne, overly diluted formulas won’t help. It’s best to look for products that contain at least 5% of tea tree oil or more. Generally speaking, it should be safe to use most tea tree oil products at least twice a day. But, as always, you should read the product’s label and follow the instructions that come with it.
In case you aren’t sure how your skin will react, perform a patch test and take it from there. Do not, and I repeat, do not, ingest tea tree oil.
There are tons of over-the-counter anti-acne products that you can find in the drugstores and cosmetics shops, but if you’d rather not experiment, then raw honey is your go-to solution.
It’s common knowledge that honey and beeswax have medicinal properties. Honey possesses strong anti inflammatory properties, and besides, it’s a powerful antiseptic. Which means that it also keeps bacteria at bay. It is no wonder that honey was used even in the days of Ancient Egypt, for purposes from depilation, to healing wounds and preserving materials.
But when it comes to painful pimples, the ordinary honey found in the grocery stores won’t be of much help. You’ll need the rawest honey you can get, which you can apply much the same as any other topical medication. Just dab a small amount of the sweet bees product over the affected area and leave it overnight. Repeat this as many times as you want, since honey is perfectly natural and harmless. Of course, you should wash the area afterwards so as to avoid any stains or sticky incidents.
Treating painful pimples is not easy, and obviously, it can be very, very painful. If none of the above-mentioned advice works, or works well enough, maybe your best bet is to visit a dermatologist and heed their advice. Additionally, here are some basic dos and don’ts when it comes to treating painful pimples.
Well, that's pretty much it. We hope all of this will be helpful to you. In any case, if your painful pimple problem has been going on for a long time and it doesn’t go away, the best idea is to seek the opinion of doctors and dermatologists. Professionals are, after all, professionals for a reason. They can provide the best advice and the best treatments, and that is something that, you’ll agree, you owe it to yourself and your body.
This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.