If your pimples are deep, swollen, and painful to touch, they’re likely nodules and/or cysts, and you’re likely dealing with a more severe case of acne that may require professional treatment. Don’t freak out, though. Despite the severity of deep pimples like nodules and cysts, this type of acne is treatable. With the right treatment plan and a good skincare routine, you’ll be tackling your acne before you know it.
That being said, if you’re curious about how to get rid of deep pimples, you’re definitely not alone. How long do deep pimples last? What causes deep pimples in the first place? We’ve got answers for you — read on as we take a deep dive into the topic, addressing everything from over-the-counter treatment options to knowing when it’s time to book an appointment with a dermatologist. Plus, if you’re also wondering how to pop a deep pimple (please don’t), we’re answering that question, too.
What is a deep pimple?
To answer the ‘how to get rid of deep pimples’ question properly, let’s recap what acne is and understand what deep pimples really are.
As a reminder: acne is an inflammatory common skin condition that occurs when hair follicles (or pores) under the skin become clogged by excess sebum and dead skin cells. Acne is one of the most common skin disorders, and most people see breakouts on their face, but pimples can also appear on the back, shoulders, and chest.
Believe it or not, not all cases of acne are the same. Acne can appear in many different forms: whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. These various clogged pores and pimples have different sizes and characteristics and can be anywhere from mild to severe.
Whiteheads and blackheads are clogged pores, a milder type of acne, and in most cases can be cleared with over-the-counter products. The same applies to papules and pustules, although these types of red, inflamed pimples can be moderate in some instances. Nodules and cysts are deep pimples, and they fall into the moderate to severe categories. Deep pimples are amongst the more troublesome type of acne — they develop deep within the skin, causing a red, swollen, and painful bump. How they form and how to get rid of deep pimples, ahead.
How are deep pimples formed?
Cystic and nodular acne, aka deep pimples, are larger than your average pimple. Believe it or not, deep pimples start off as clogged pores (blackheads and whiteheads). When p. acnes bacteria invades these clogged pores to munch on all the oil and dead skin cells inside, our bodies react to that invasion and send white blood cells to fight off the infection. That’s what causes that redness and inflammation, and the white pus you often see at the head of a pimple.
When that infection happens deep in your skin, it causes these red, painful pimples.
Why do some people get deep pimples? Acne (especially cystic acne) can be influenced by a variety of factors — hormones, stopping and starting birth control, and most importantly, genetics. That means if you have a family history of cystic acne, your risk of developing it is higher.
How to get rid of deep pimples
Now that you have a deeper understanding about how deep pimples are formed, let’s dive into the reason you’re here: how to get rid of deep pimples. The answer to this question greatly depends on the person.
Because of their size and tenderness, deep pimples do require some extra TLC to treat, especially since they are not the kind of acne that will disappear overnight. A good place to start is with ice, which will reduce the pain and swelling. Wrap an ice cube in a paper towel and place it on your deep pimple for up to 10 minutes, then take a 10-minute break. You can repeat this process up to three times total. Wash your face twice a day like you normally would, and use skincare products with benzoyl peroxide, which is an over-the-counter ingredient that fights off those p. acnes bacteria.
Once you see that white pus starting to show at the top of your pimple, apply a warm compress (a washcloth soaked in warm — not hot! — water) for 10 to 15 minutes. You can do this up to four times a day, and it will help release pus and heal the pimple.
In general, be gentle with your skin when you have these types of breakouts — use noncomedogenic, oil-free products that won’t further irritate your skin or clog your pores.
It’s important to know that cystic acne can be very stubborn, so it may be in your best interest to consult with a dermatologist. These trained professionals can prescribe topical and oral medications (such as antibiotics, isotretinoin, birth control pills, and spironolactone) to help with chronic cystic and nodular acne. Dermatologists can also help treat especially deep, painful pimples by injecting cortisone, or by performing extractions to drain the pus.
If you’re already using a strong topical (either an OTC retinoid like Adapalene or a prescribed one like tretinoin) or taking dermatologist-prescribed oral medications, keep in mind that these medications do take time to work. Antibiotics, for example, can take three to four months to start working, sometimes even longer.
In other words, you’ll want to be both patient and realistic about treating deep pimples, as they can take time to clear.
What not to do with deep pimples
Yes, deep pimples can be frustrating, especially because of their large appearance. However, despite the looming temptation, you should never (ever!) pop, squeeze, or pick at them — this can seriously increase your risk for scarring and infection. You’ll want to be equally cautious about using home-remedies — things like toothpaste are not meant for pimples and can irritate the skin. Other natural, DIY remedies can inadvertently be irritating and are not how to get rid of deep pimples.
Other daily habits you’ll want to be mindful of? Wearing tight hats and headbands, using greasy creams and cosmetics, touching your face, and not washing your face or removing your makeup at night — these too can increase your risk of acne. Be sure to regularly wash or sanitize anything that’s touching your face — that goes for headphones, your phone, and your hands
Are there products that can help with deep pimples?
Treatment options for deep pimples vary from person to person. However, because deep pimples can be more severe than other types of pimples, seeking help from a reputable dermatologist may be your best course of action in some instances.
Dermatologists can prescribe oral medications such as antibiotics, isotretinoin, and spironolactone, and topical treatments such as low-dose prednisone. Antibiotics are usually the first treatment step, as they can help reduce swelling. However, if antibiotics aren’t effective, isotretinoin is usually tried next. This is a potent medicine that attacks all four causes of acne —bacteria, clogged pores, excess oil, and inflammation (redness and swelling).
Dermatologists can also prescribe hormonal birth control pills that can be taken alongside other prescribed medications. At the same time, be advised that these medications can have side effects, so you’ll want to be monitored by your doctor.
Nevertheless, skin care still plays a big role in maintaining cystic acne, as acne-friendly products (that are gentle and alcohol free) can help keep flare ups under control.
The bottom line
Unlike milder types of acne, deep pimples (nodular and cystic acne) can hurt and be challenging to treat. These pimples develop deep in the skin, causing a red, swollen, and painful bump as a result.
Despite their severity, deep pimples can be treated with the right course of action. Some cases of deep pimples can be managed with ice, warm compresses, and benzoyl peroxide skincare products.
However, because nodular and cystic acne can be stubborn, seeing a dermatologist can be helpful. These professionals can prescribe topical and oral medications that can reduce swelling and prevent breakouts from occurring.
A good skincare routine is crucial and can definitely make a difference. Using gentle, alcohol-free formulas with acne-fighting active ingredients can help manage acne and prevent future breakouts.
At the same time, there are some things you should never do to get rid of deep pimples. Popping them, squeezing them, and picking at them, for instance, can make your deep pimples worse, while also increasing your risk for scarring and for new breakouts to show up. Similarly, you’ll also want to be mindful of your day-to-day habits — be mindful of anything that’s touching your face regularly (including your hands!) and use noncomedogenic makeup and skincare.
So now you know what causes deep pimples and how to get rid of deep pimples. And you may want to know how to pop a deep pimple, but the answer is: don’t! With some time, patience, and the right treatments, clear skin is in your future!