What really is a pimple?

And must we have them? 


Acne, our super common, super pesky friend that can show up during all times of life, to all sorts of people. It doesn’t care that you have a wedding coming up, company photos to take, or a date this weekend. All it knows is how to rear its unwelcomed head.

Though often uninvited, it is a fact of life that the majority of us will deal with acne at one point or another. Knowing what a pimple is and why they form is one way to help keep your skin clear by avoiding the potential causes.

What really is a pimple?

We know it as an annoying red bump on our face that needs to be eliminated immediately. But trust us, your skin doesn’t have it out for you, it’s just trying to do its job.

Your body is covered in sebaceous glands, except for your palms and bottoms of your feet. These glands produce sebum (oil) to lubricate your skin and hair. Sebum is vitally important to your skin because it protects from bacterial and fungal infections, as well as keeping moisture in our skin, and protecting us from absorbing too much external moisture.

The issue arises when your body overproduces sebum. Your tiny pores can’t handle the excess oil and they begin acting up. They clog with debris or dirt and then the sebum cannot be expelled. The oil begins to accumulate around the hair follicle, causing the gland to become infected and clogged. Thus, a pimple is born. 

What causes oil production? 

So we now know that our skin should be producing oil, but what then causes it to produce so much that we break out? Or what if you have dry skin and you breakout? 

Pimples and acne can be difficult to treat because the root causes can be numerous. That’s why someone can have a positive outcome just from washing their face, cutting out certain foods, or getting more sleep, while another while doing all the same, will have no visible changes. 

Internal and external factors influence how much oil your body produces which then impacts how much acne you may experience. 


Hormones are key in deciding how much sebum your body produces, and some periods of life inevitably result in more chances for acne.

During puberty, hormones surge and your body rapidly changes and struggles to adjust. And often that struggle is noticeably on the skin.

And once you pass puberty thinking you made it out alive, life keeps coming at you. Women have the added burden of dealing with hormonal acne their whole lives practically. They are particularly sensitive to breakouts during pregnancy and menopause as the hormone fluctuations increase. Menstruation also causes breakouts due to a temporary fluctuation in hormones.

It’s no wonder women spend more skincare products than men. It seems like we’re also on the verge of a breakout!


While the jury is still out on the precise role of food on your skin, it’s generally accepted that a balanced healthy diet improves your overall skin health.

There has been no conclusive evidence linking specific foods that cause breakouts, but the overall consensus is that there is a relationship between skin and your food.

Opting for nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, and grains while avoiding sugar, alcohol, and foods high in trans-fats is a good place to start for skin health, not to mention general health as well.


Also generally debated because of its vagueness, lifestyle does have an impact on your skin but the exact link can be difficult to trace.

Diet, exercise, sleep, and external factors can all contribute to either a healthy or weakened skin environment that might be more susceptible to acne.

Where you live and your activities could be contributing to your acne. Pollution, humidity, or frequent exposure to germs (read: hands to face contamination!) can all have an impact on your skin to varying degrees.


If your parents had stubborn acne, there’s probably a chance that you might deal with it as well. Despite following every good skincare rule, some people are still plagued with frequent breakouts.

Certain genetic predispositions can affect the way that your body produces oil and reacts to the bacteria and excess hormones that make you more susceptible to acne, even more than your sister or friend that falls asleep with a full face of make-up on, uses 5 dollar face wash, and has never had a zit to prove it.

No, it’s not fair, but there’s no need for hopelessness.

There are plenty of options for treatment that are proving effective for those more prone to acne and certain tweaks like managing stress, being mindful of diet and keeping your hands off your face can help you curb your predisposition just enough to keep in under control.


All in all, acne has many roots and it can be a trying process to figure out what the best routine is for your skin. Be patient with yourself as you go through the trial and error process. Most of the time there is a solution, so try to stay positive on your skincare journey.




References: https://www.byrdie.com/what-is-a-pimple

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