Pimples are commonly found on the skin of the face. Pimples originate from the oil glands or sebaceous glands. These glands produce sebum which may accumulate with bacteria and dead skin cells causing a block of its outflow. Bacterial action leads to inflammation and pain. Worst cases become pustules or papules which are pus-filled bumps.
Pimples are commonly formed on the skin of the face. Facial pimples may have white heads or may appear as blind pimples without white heads. Teenagers pass through a time of life when they get such pimples. They typically want an instant solution or fast removal of the pimples. Many parents may not be aware of the wars their teens fight against pimples and the agonies they face each time a pimple appears to spoil their perfect looks.
People’s experimentations with pimples have led to many popular remedies, some of which may seem weird.
A person may want to make a pimple to disappear quickly because he or she has a social occasion to attend. If it is a blind pimple, some people apply a warm compress and this may do the trick. To try this, dip a soft cloth in not-too-hot water and use it to keep applying some heat to the pimple for about fifteen minutes. Repeat this several times during the day until the pimple forms a head and bursts. The heat may help the sebum to soften and flow. On the other hand, some people apply ice wrapped in a cloth. The ice is placed on the pimple for about thirty seconds and then removed and this is repeated a few times during the day. Extreme cold may help to kill bacteria, shrink pores, and reduce pimples.
Some may prefer an overnight remedy. Many over-the-counter manufactured anti pimples remedies or spot treatments contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. There are numerous cleansers, creams, lotions, gels, and face washes in pharmacies and cosmetics shops. These are applied topically (on the skin). Your pharmacist may be able to suggest an oral product that works systemically to control hormonal or bacterial causes of pimples. A hydrocortisone cream applied topically to the pimples may help relieve the inflammation. As is done by some, a topical vasoconstrictor such as used in some eye drops may help to reduce the redness when put on pimples but this is not an official usage of such drugs. Some people wear a clay or sulfur face mask to help shrink the pimples.
If you do not have access to a manufactured product instantly, a home remedies may help. There are many such remedies. Some people apply toothpaste or Listerine® mouth wash to the pimples. These may help to destroy bacteria that form the pimples. Toiletries that contain such ingredients as fluoride, sodium bicarbonate, hydrogen peroxide, and alcohol may combat bacteria action, thus people have been experimenting with them for curing pimples. Some people make a paste from crushed aspirin and apply it to pimples. This may help reduce the inflammation and pain. Food stuff with high amounts of salt or sugar have also been used.
Honey helps to dry the pimples, possibly by high osmotic pressure which may also destroy the bacteria. Acidic and astringent substances are also used, e.g. vinegar. They help to kill bacteria. Folk-lore usage of tea tree oil, turmeric, and aloe vera for pimples are also common. Supplements that people take to help counteract pimples include zinc, fish oil, and vitamins.
Sometimes a person may experience a period of stress, hormonal fluctuations, or may consume dietary substances that elicit excessive sebum production and predispose to pimples. Apart from the face, other parts of the skin that have a high number of oil producing glands are the chest, back and shoulders and pimples may appear in these areas also. Extreme breakouts of pimples should be brought to the attention of a doctor. Hormonal fluctuations occur in teenagers, with menstrual cycles, in pregnancy, and in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
As tempting as it may be, one should not pick or pop the pimple. Pressing or squeezing the pimple can worsen the inflammation because one pushes the bacterial substance wider and deeper into the skin. Highly inflamed pimples may leave a scar or dark spot or a pit in the skin making the skin appear blemished when healed.
A popped pimple gives room for dangerous bacteria to invade the skin worsening the infection. A preventive measure can be to apply a topical antibiotic and wear an acne sticker on a popped pimple.
Infected pimples may lead to cystic acne (painful nodules) requiring prescription oral medications. Doctors use a variety of drugs such as isotretinoin, antibiotics, hormonal pills, retinoid which is a form of vitamin A, and spironolactone (the latter for women).
Doctors may inject cortisone directly into the pimples or cysts. This is called intralesional steroid injections (steroid shot). It reduces the pimples within a few hours.
When the bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus invades, it can be difficult to treat the acne which may need special antibiotics. Staph typically causes boils and impetigo (a contagious sore).
All these aggravated pimples may leave acne scars when healed. Such scars may require special treatment by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon; such as filler injections of collagen, silicone gel sheeting or chemical peels. Severe acne scars should be avoided by not touching or manipulating pimples.
Dr. Theresa Adebola John is a lecturer at Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) and an affiliated researcher at the College of Medicine, University of Tennessee, Memphis. For any comments or questions on this column, please email [email protected] or call 08160944635