We have all experienced pimples at some point in our life. These small, non-inflamed blemishes generally occur due to clogged pores, which have too much sebum (oil), dead skin cells, or bacteria. According to a survey report, acne or ‘pimple’ is the most common skin condition in the United States.
Every year, around 50 million Americans are diagnosed with acne. If left unattended, your pimples can get infected by bacteria. Keep reading to understand more about infected pimples, and how to deal with them.
- What Is An Infected Pimple & What Does It Look Like?
- What Causes Pimples To Get Infected?
- How To Treat An Infected Pimple?
- What Are The Complications Of An Infected Pimple?
- How Long Does It Take For An Infected Pimple To Go Away?
- Should You Squeeze Out Pus From A Pimple?
- Does Ice Help With Infected Pimples?
- When To Consult A Doctor About Infected Pimples?
- What Happens If You Don't Treat Infected Pimples?
- How To Reduce Swelling On Face From Infected Pimples?
- Can Infected Pimples Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?
What Is An Infected Pimple & What Does It Look Like?
An infected pimple is a pustule or pus-filled, painful blemish on your face. Though an infected pimple is not so common, a regular pimple can get infected by popping or picking. The open wound of your pimple gets infected with naturally skin inhabitant bacteria like Propionibacterium acnes, Staphylococcus aureus, etc., and turns into an infected zit.
It is hard to miss an infected pimple on the face. An infected pimple is more obvious than typical zits, as it is larger in diameter and redder in color. This acne with inflammation and visible pus takes longer to heal than regular ones. Infected acne is painful or sensitive to touch.
What Causes Pimples To Get Infected?
There are multiple reasons due to which a simple pimple can get infected and turn into a painful, pus-filled bump. Some of the common causes of infected pimples are:
1. Popping & Prodding
Popping and prodding are the most common reasons behind infecting a pimple. They leave your pimple open. Without the outer protective layer, your pimple gets infected very easily. Even touching pimples with unclean hands can transfer bacteria to them, causing infection.
2. Bacterial Infections
Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as staph, is a common bacteria causing an infected pimple. These bacteria are naturally found on human skin. Another bacteria, Cutibacterium  (also known as Propionibacterium), causes pimple infection and can lead to a severe condition. As your pores get blocked, the bacteria multiply there, causing an infected zit. These bacteria also exist naturally on human skin.
How To Treat An Infected Pimple?
There are multiple ways to get rid of infected pimples. Here are the seven key ways to treat them:
1. Spot Treatment
If you have already popped your infected zit, consider it just like an open wound and dab antibiotic ointment to prevent infection and speed up the healing time.
Alternatively, you can apply a high concentration of benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or resorcinol to heal those swollen and painful bumps on the face. Benzoyl peroxide can kill the bacteria that cause the inflammation. On the other hand, spot treatment medicines containing camphor, resorcinol, or sulfur absorb the excess oil and help to dry the infected pimple fast.
If you prefer herbal remedies, tea tree oil is a natural acne-fighting component with antibacterial properties.
2. Acne-Clearing LED Device
Acne-clearing LED devices  are scientifically and clinically proven to kill the P. acnes bacteria. So, you can use FDA-cleared LED devices to treat your mild-to-moderate acne. These are portable, battery-powered handheld devices that kill the infection-causing bacteria and heal your infected zit.
3. Hydrocolloid Patch
This is another effective treatment option for your infected popped pimple. A hydrocolloid patch is basically a tiny, dot-shaped bandage to bring relief overnight. These patches extract the excess fluid and pus from the infected acne, dry it up, and help it to heal fast. It also keeps your popped infected zit clean and covered and stops you from touching it.
4. Cold Compress
A cold compress with an ice pack or ice cube can bring relief from the inflammation and pain of an infected pimple. A repetitive ice compress can help to take down the swelling and make you feel better.
5. Warm Compress
Like cold compress, warm compress is also an effective option to treat a whitehead-forming, swollen pimple. Instead of squeezing or popping it, you may apply a warm compress to help it release pus. You just need to take a clean washcloth with warm water, dip, squeeze, and gently press it over the swollen pimple. For better results, repeat this method a few times daily.
6. Visit A Dermatologist
When things look serious, it is wise to consult a dermatologist. A dermatologist is the right person to help treat the infection and prevent future breakouts. If required, they will also prescribe the right antibiotics to clear up the infection.
Additionally, if you are looking for a quick fix, your doctor can provide a cortisone injection. A cortisone shot can help the zit to heal faster within a few hours than days.
7. Prevent Infected Pimples From Future Breakouts
When you believe in prevention over cure, a skincare regimen with salicylic acid  is the best option for you. Salicylic acid can prevent the formation of infected zits. This chemical penetrates your skin and dissolves the dead skin cells that may clog your skin pores and lead to the formation of zits.
What Are The Complications Of An Infected Pimple?
When a pimple gets infected, it may cause permanent scarring. An infected popped pimple can also infect the nearby regular pimples causing severe conditions. Some people even experience changes in pigmentation (light or dark) at the site of the infected acne after the skin clears up.
In severe cases, you need more invasive treatments to kill the infection-causing bacteria. Otherwise, you may have profound and permanent scars on your face.
How Long Does It Take For An Infected Pimple To Go Away?
The healing time of pimples varies a lot, depending on their severity and how you treat them. Generally, infected zits can take as long as six weeks to go away completely. When you have smaller, single bumps, they may take only a few days to heal and disappear. With the help of a dermatologist and aggressive clinical treatment , you can make your pimples disappear faster.
Should You Squeeze Out Pus From A Pimple?
Squeezing or popping your infected, swollen pimple can cause a lot of problems. It can make pimples more noticeable, increase the risk of further infection, and may lead to permanent scarring. Squeezing out pus might help you relieve the pain but create a deep and permanent scar. It can also make your infection worse.
Does Ice Help With Infected Pimples?
Using ice on infected pimples is one of the effective ways to reduce the inflammation and soothe it down. According to a study, the use of ice can help to reduce swelling and pain of infected acne.
The best way to apply a cold pack or ice cube is to wrap it in a clean piece of cloth or paper towel and compress it over the swollen area. Apply it for 5-10 minutes. For best results, you can repeat the process twice a day with at least a 10-minutes gap in between.
When To Consult A Doctor About Infected Pimples?
In general, pimples disappear on their own within a short period. But you should not ignore an infected zit swelling, when:
- They are very large or painful.
- When the popped pimples are not drying and continue oozing.
- It causes a deep throbbing under the skin, and you want a quick fix.
- They don’t go away even after 4-6 weeks of home treatment.
- It is accompanied by signs of severe infection, like fever, nausea, vomiting, etc.
- It shows similarity with signs of skin cancer .
What Happens If You Don't Treat Infected Pimples?
Usually, pimples cure by themselves within weeks. However, without proper home treatment or clinical remedies, the infection from your pimples may spread and become severe.
Did You Know?
Long-term negligence can lead to the development of cystic acne. These aggressive inflammatory pimples cause painful, pus-filled bumps deep under the skin.
How To Reduce Swelling On Face From Infected Pimples?
Both warm and cold compress can be helpful to reduce swelling on the face from infected zits. Application of cold compress with an ice cube for a few minutes can minimize the inflammation and pain as well. Cold or hot compress followed by application of 2% benzoyl peroxide ointment or lotion can provide faster relief.
Can Infected Pimples Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?
In case of severe infection, pimples can even cause swollen lymph nodes. When an infected zit reaches deep inside your skin, it can draw out toxic bacteria. In such a case, the lymph nodes also get infected by invading bacteria and show inflammation.
A simple regular pimple can turn into a painful, swollen bump just by popping, picking, or squeezing it with bare and unclean hands. An infected pimple not only causes pain or inflammation but can lead to permanent scar and pigmentation. You can easily get rid of the infected zits by following simple precautions and timely treatment.
Knowing your skin type can also help you understand the reason behind your infected pimples. Accordingly, using the right products can help provide you relief.
1. Staphylococcus aureus – Last Update: February 14, 2022.
2. Cutibacterium acnes (Propionibacterium acnes) and acne vulgaris: A brief look at the latest updates (First published: June 12, 2018)
3. 9 Things To Try When Acne Won’t Clear - Last updated: 11/30/21
4. Clinical Efficacy of Self-applied Blue Light Therapy for Mild-to-Moderate Facial Acne – Published on 2009 Mar
5. Treatment of acne vulgaris with salicylic acid pads - March 01, 1992,
6. Current concepts in the treatment of acne: report from a clinical roundtable - July 01, 2003,
7. Skin Cancer – Last Assessed 11/19/2021
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