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How Do Pimples Form?

An average sized person has about 20,000 pores on his face and billions on his total body. Pimples form when a combination of dead cells, oil and bacteria become trapped in a poreís lining.

Each day, hair follicles shed some dead skin cells. The sebaceous or oil, glands carry the dead skin cells to the skinís surface. Sometimes, excessive oil production will cause a group of dead skin cells to pile up, clogging the opening of the pore. The clogging prevents the oil from moving to the skinís surface. If the clog, or plug, is visible in the pore, it is called a blackhead. If the clog is below the surface, it is called a whitehead.

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If a whitehead forms, the bacteria that is naturally occurring within the hair follicle begins to break down the dead skin cells and oil that are trapped in the clogged pore. The dead skin cells and oil become fatty acids that irritate the pore. This causes the pore to enlarge, and pressure begins building up inside of the hair follicle. The bacteria, dead skin cells and oil leak into the oil gland walls and into the layer of skin below. Infection causes the blood cells to enlarge and this causes the follicle to redden.

White blood cells then go to the infection to try to stop it, causing inflammation. This causes red, sore pimples, white-capped pimples or pustules, and even large cysts and boils.

The whole process takes a several weeks; the pimple is forming long before you can see it.


Breakouts of many pimples, or acne, are often the result of excess hormones that cause the oil glands to produce excess oil.

Oil production in the skin is necessary to protect the surface of the skin and keep it soft, but too much oil can lead to pimples or acne. Excess oil production is common during puberty, which is why so many teenagers have problems with pimples and acne. Pregnancy can also cause excess oil production, as can a womanís menstrual cycle. Emotional stress doesnít cause acne, but it can aggravate the condition, making it worse.

Myths About Pimples

Some people seem to be genetically predisposed to acne, but the imbalance of hormones that causes excess oil production is the only real cause of pimples. There are several myths about pimples and acne that have been dis-proven. One myth claims that eating foods with a high fat content, like pizza, potato chips, and butter, causes acne. Although your diet can affect the amount of oil production, eating those foods does not necessarily increase the risk of getting pimples and acne.

Another myth about acne is one that claims exposure to the sun will clear up the skin problems. The sun can dry out pimples, but it also causes the top layer of skin to thicken due to more skin cells dying, and this increases the risk of clogging your pores. Another myth claims that popping a pimple will make it clear up more quickly.

Although popping a pimple will reduce the inflammation and swelling caused by a pressure build up, often times squeezing and popping a pimple will push more oil into the pore, which can lead to discoloration and scarring.

The best care for preventing pimples is to keep your skin clean and moisturized (without oils). Using and acne cleanser or toner with Zinc are the best skin products
for controlling and reducing oil that can clog pores. Alpha hydroxy is also helpful in that the crystallized creams can help exfoliate and irrigate pores removing dirt, oil and contaminants - read whiteheads and blackheads.