Difference between Acne and Pimples

Updated on December 12, 2017

You often hear people talking about these annoying skin lesions we know as acne or pimples. And unless you are among the lucky few to never have known the trials of waking up with an ugly zit, you never had to ask yourself whether to buy “acne treatment” or a “pimple solution.” So how are they different, if at all?


A teenager with acne on his forehead

Acne occurs when dead skin cells and excess oil clog skin pores and hair follicles. It usually affects an extended area and it is recognizable by the fact that these skin lesions appear in clusters. They are blackheads, whiteheads, or fully grown pimples. The area is often greasy and scarring may occur on account of people trying to clear these impurities through improper means.

The best way to treat acne is by asking for professional advice. Doctors can sometimes associate an infection with severe breakouts, resulting from people popping their zits (applying pressure on the skin to pop out the blackhead or to clear the pus in a white head). The infected substance (pus) then gets on their fingertips and they unknowingly spread it to other areas of the face. The best treatment of acne is a dermatologic intervention. Antibiotics may be used in case of infections and severe acne scars must be treated with professional medical equipment.

Most teenagers get acne vulgaris as it is a consequence of the changes taking place in the body. The main reason is the hormonal change that comes with excess sebum being released through the skin pores and the skin thickening. Adult acne is called acne rosacea. It is difficult to treat as it is caused by a hormonal imbalance. Some people even suffer from bacne, which is body and back acne.

A pimple on a teenager’s chin

A pimple is a result of excess sebum clogging up skin pores. It is recognizable by the fact that the skin is elevated, red all around, and it contains visible white fluid (pus). Also, pimples are isolated and sometimes very visible.

Pimples can dry and heal by themselves. This is the best course of action. However, many people prefer to take matters into their own hands by popping pimples and they risk infecting their skin in the process. Over the counter medication, creams, and solutions can also take care of the problem without necessarily breaking through the skin.

Acne vs Pimples

So what is the difference between acne and pimples?

Acne is a group of skin lesions consisting in blackheads, whiteheads and other inflammations of the follicles. On the other hand, a pimple is an isolated red follicle. While a pimple can heal by itself, acne requires specific treatment for severe and moderate cases. These treatments may consist of stricter hygiene, more care in what comes in contact with the skin, and even antibiotics or professional medical treatments.

Acne typically appears during puberty but can affect the skin in adult years as well. There is also the issue of bacne (back and body acne). Pimples mostly appear on the face, although these too can affect an individual from puberty to adulthood.

There is also the issue of the psychological strain these skin issues can cause. Since pimples heal faster and are superficial skin lesions, they affect the individual less than acne, which is a longer-term problem and is more obvious. Depression can follow on account of difficult-to-treat acne affecting the social life and self-esteem of an individual.

Comparison Chart

Consists of a cluster of skin lesions caused by the clogging of pores by dead skin cells and excess sebumConsists of isolated skin inflammations containing white liquid
Appears in puberty (acne vulgaris) and can affect adults (acne rosacea) as wellAppears in puberty and occasionally in adulthood
Is mainly caused by a hormonal imbalanceIs caused by excess oil being trapped under the skin
May hide an infection which must be treated with antibioticsIs a superficial lesion of the skin
Affects the face and sometimes the bodyAppears mainly on the face
Must be treatedCan heal by itself
Can lead to depression and social isolationCan cause temporary frustration
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