What are pimples?

Pimples - everyone knows what they look like. Everyone has a basic grasp of what they are and how to treat them. Or at least they think they do.

But what is a pimple, really? How does it form and why does it go away? What causes it? This article addresses your questions about the biology of pimples.

What is a pimple, exactly?

Pimples are clogged and infected pores. Pores can become clogged from a number of reasons, but primary reasons include excessive production of sebum, irregular shedding of dead skin cells and a process called keratinization. Keratinization occurs when sebum, exposed to the air, hardens and forms a plug in the pore.

A clogged pore is called a comedone. When the blockage is above the surface of the skin, we call it a blackhead. When the blockage is under the surface of the skin, it is known as a whitehead.

Pimples and acne

Many people use the words pimples and acne simultaneously. But technically, this is incorrect. Acne is a dermatological disease. Pimples are a symptom of acne. Pimples sometimes afflict people who are not suffering from acne, when a pore becomes clogged and infected through the normal pattern of daily life.

Acne is characterized by the infection of pimples with a bacteria called P. acnes. Thus, the presence of this particular bacterium is one of the symptoms of acne. This is why some serious cases of acne are treated with oral antibiotics - to kill the bacteria that infect the pimples.

So pimples and acne are not the same thing. Treating pimples, however, does help to treat acne.

Getting rid of pimples

Getting rid of pimples can be difficult, even with the broad array of anti acne skin care products available today. Treatments focus on reducing and eliminating pimples in one or several of these ways:

Reducing the production of sebum - some compounds are capable of reducing the body's production of sebum. Less sebum means less oil trapped in pimples, and also helps to correct complications in exfoliation.

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Unclogging clogged pores - because all pimples are the result of a blockage, removing that blockage effectively removes the pimple. Some products are able to help eliminate these blockages.

Killing the bacteria in infected pimples - some products and oral antibiotics are employed to kill the bacteria that cause infection in the pimples.

Reducing inflammation - one of the side effects of infection is redness, swelling and inflammation. Reducing this helps to reduce the visibility of pimples.

Aiding in exfoliation - many pores are blocked by dead skin cells that shed irregularly. Encouraging proper skin exfoliation can help to reduce pimples.

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