What is a blind pimple?
A blind pimple is a pimple (zit) that forms under your skin. Unlike other types of pimples that form a visible whitehead, blackhead or red bump, blind pimples develop under the surface. Some blind pimples eventually come to a head and “erupt” from underneath your skin’s surface, forming a visible blemish. Others go away without making an appearance.
Blind pimples often develop on your face, upper back or chest. You might be able to feel a blind pimple if your rub your finger over the surface of your skin. But it isn’t always possible to feel a bump.
Blind pimples can be painful and annoying. But several treatments, including warm compresses and topical creams, can shrink a blind pimple. Never try to “pop” a blind pimple. Squeezing it can make the pimple worse or cause permanent scarring.
Who might get blind pimples?
Anyone can get a blind pimple. Teenagers and young adults are more likely to get all kinds of pimples, but they can develop at any age. You’re more likely to have acne (the skin condition that causes pimples) if you have a family history of it.
How common are blind pimples?
Healthcare providers aren’t sure exactly how many people get blind pimples. These underground pimples occur along with other types of zits, which result from acne. Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States. Around 50 million people in the U.S. have it.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes blind pimples?
As with other types of pimples, blind pimples develop when your skin’s pores become blocked. Pores are tiny holes in your skin. Healthcare providers also call them hair follicles. They can become blocked with:
- Dead skin cells.
- Sebum (oil your body produces to keep your skin moist).
If your body makes too much sebum or you don’t clean your skin properly, the oil and skin cells build up under your skin and form pus. It becomes trapped and can’t get to your skin’s surface to leave your body. A pimple forms, causing pain and inflammation. Excess sebum and blocked pores can result from many factors, including:
- Family history: If your parents had acne and blind pimples, you’re more likely to develop them.
- Hormonal changes: Teenagers going through adolescent development (puberty) are prone to acne breakouts as their hormone levels shift. Women are more likely to get pimples during their menstrual cycle or during pregnancy.
- Medications: Certain drugs, such as corticosteroids, can cause or worsen blind pimples.
- Sweat: Doing activities that make you sweat, especially while wearing a hat, helmet or tight clothing, can make acne worse.
- Skin care products: Heavy lotions and creams can clog pores and lead to zits.
- Stress levels: Anxiety and stress cause cortisol levels to rise and make more sebum, causing breakouts. Cortisol is the body’s “stress hormone.”
You may have a blind pimple from time to time. Or you may have many blind pimples that take months to go away. A severe type of acne called nodular acne can cause multiple blind pimples along with raised red bumps. These painful blind pimples, or nodules, contain pus and bacteria and feel hard under the skin.
What are the symptoms of blind pimples?
Signs of a blind pimple include:
- A small lump or bump you can sometimes feel under your skin.
- Pain or discomfort on and around the lump.
- Swelling, inflammation or redness in the area.
Some whiteheads or blackheads start out as blind pimples and move up through the layers of skin to the surface. A red bump may appear, and a “head” can develop at the center. The head is usually yellow, white or black.
Diagnosis and Tests
How are blind pimples diagnosed?
You can usually recognize signs of a blind pimple on your own. If pain from a blind pimple is severe, or if you have several blind pimples or they keep coming back, see your healthcare provider. They’ll examine your skin and may recommend seeing a dermatologist (a healthcare provider who specializes in caring for the skin).
Management and Treatment
How can I treat blind pimples?
You can treat mild blind pimples at home. To relieve pain and inflammation under your skin, you should:
- Apply warm compresses: Place a warm, wet washcloth over the area and hold it there for about 10 minutes, several times a day. Make sure the washcloth isn’t too hot. The warmth encourages pus to dissolve or come to the surface.
- Place an acne sticker on the area: An acne sticker has medication (such as salicylic acid, which treats pimples). You place the small sticker on your skin, and it releases the medication over several hours. Follow the instructions carefully to avoid skin irritation.
- Try natural remedies: When you apply raw honey on your skin, it can reduce bacteria and swelling. Be sure to use raw honey in its natural, unprocessed form (instead of the honey you buy at the grocery store). You may also try applying a small amount of tea tree oil to the blind pimple twice a day. Tea tree oil reduces inflammation.
- Use topical creams and gels: Antibiotic creams, retinoids, salicylic acid and other lotions, cleansers and serums can reduce bacteria or dry out pimples. There are many types of topical acne creams, including benzoyl peroxide. Ask your healthcare provider which ones are right for you.
If you have more than one blind pimple, they keep coming back or they’re especially painful, see your healthcare provider for an evaluation and treatment. Multiple or recurring blind pimples may be a sign of a severe type of acne that requires treatment from a dermatologist. You may need oral medication (that you take by mouth) or other treatments, such as corticosteroid injections.
Can I pop a blind pimple?
Never try to pop or squeeze a blind pimple. Doing so pushes the oil and bacteria deeper, causing more inflammation and increasing the risk of infection. Picking at or squeezing a blind pimple can also lead to acne scars.
How can I prevent blind pimples?
You may not be able to prevent all blind pimples. But you can reduce your chance of getting them or making them worse by:
- Keeping your skin clean: Wash your face at night, in the morning and after you sweat.
- Leaving them alone: Picking at or squeezing blind pimples can make them worse.
- Using the right skin care products: Only use makeup, lotions and creams that are non-comedogenic, which means they don’t clog pores.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if I have blind pimples?
Blind pimples usually go away in about a week or two with the proper treatments. But they can linger under your skin for a few months, causing pain and irritation. In severe cases, the oil and dead skin cells can block the pores deep under your skin, which traps bacteria and causes an infection.
When should I see my healthcare provider about blind pimples?
See your healthcare provider if:
- Multiple blind pimples develop, or if they go away and come back.
- Pain or inflammation is severe.
- You have signs of an infection, such as a fever.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Blind pimples can be very painful. But most blind pimples go away in a week or two. If you have several blind pimples or you continue having pain or inflammation, talk to your healthcare provider. You may have a type of acne that requires treatment from a dermatologist. Never squeeze or try to pop a blind pimple. You might make it worse. To prevent these annoying zits, wash your face twice a day with a mild cleanser and avoid pore-clogging makeup and lotions.
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