Though e associate them with teens, the truth is that many people get pimples throughout their lives. And many others will have breakouts at different points in life or hormonal cycles. No one can avoid them altogether, and some people suffer their wrath worse than others. But what many don't know is that pimples come in different forms, and they can have multiple triggers — here's how to tell the difference, and what each reveals about the body.
Many people experience pimples as a result of hormonal fluctuations. Some people get pimples during puberty or throughout their teenage years. It’s also common for women to have breakouts right before their period or during pregnancy. Pimples that begin in middle age may forewarn menopause.
Pimples that begin in adulthood can indicate other changes in health. For example, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) often suffer from acne. Other symptoms of PCOS are increased facial hair and heavy or irregular periods.
Hormonal acne occurs when pores become clogged or inflamed, usually due to changes in skin oil production. These pimples can manifest in a handful of ways:
- Blackheads, also called open comedones, are pores that have become plugged with a combination of oil and dead skin cells.
- Whiteheads, also known as closed comedones, are blackheads that are deeper under the surface and closed over by skin.
- Papules are raised, painful bumps often associated with acne. When they are closer to the surface, they may present as pustules, which are filled with pus.
- Cysts and nodules occur in severe cases of acne, resulting from infections deep in the oil gland.
Most cases of hormonal acne can be easily treated with over-the-counter remedies containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Acne vulgaris may sometimes require additional treatment. This often includes antibiotics, oral contraceptives and other medications to help manage acne, reduce inflammation and prevent scarring.
Environmentally Triggered Pimples
Pimples aren’t always the result of clogged pores, hormonal changes or genetic predisposition. Sometimes, irritation from clothing or accessories, certain cosmetics and even smoking can cause breakouts. Some medications, including steroids, lithium and epilepsy treatments, can also lead to blemishes. If you have pimples that aren’t likely related to changes in hormones, look for environmental causes that could be irritating the skin.
Dilated Pore of Winer
A dilated pore of Winer is a skin condition that results in enlarged pores and massive, recurring blackheads. They’re more common in men than women, are seen most commonly in white people and typically don’t start forming until the person is in their 40s. They’re usually found on the face, but they also sometimes form on the trunk and back.
Treatment usually isn’t recommended, although a dilated pore of Winer also won’t go away on its own. The blackhead can be removed for cosmetic purposes, but the pore will eventually fill back up. They can be surgically removed, but that can come with scarring and other complications that may be no better than the problem itself.
Pimples can come for numerous reasons, but they all have a common factor: the skin is providing evidence of something. Whether that's hormonal fluctuations, environmental irritants, or the side effects or something more, finding the cause of pimples is the best way to determine the solution.