How a Pimple is Formed

How a Pimple is Formed


Your meeting your most important client, it’s date night, or you have an interview on a national news program. The morning of your big day a bright red, inflamed pimple has decided to present itself directly on your nose. Ugh!  Skin is a living organ adapting to continual daily change. The environment, food, stress, hormones, and sleep patterns are some of the most impacting. Understanding how a pimple forms can help you predict, prepare and discourage its formation. Let’s breakdown how and why a pimple forms.

1. Excess Oil and Dead Skin Cells

In the simplest of explanations, your skin barrier is made up of oil (sebum), natural moisturizing factor (NMF) and expired skin cells. The balance of these is critical to skin health. Oil which has an adequate level of antioxidants is health promoting for the skin. However, oil that is depleted in antioxidants can become oxidized, forming a compound known as squalene monohydroperoxide (1).  Oxidized squalene is highly inflammatory and contributes to clogged pores and the formation of blackheads and pimples.

Thick, sticky sebum also increases the risk of dead skin cell plugs. These form when oil and dead skin cells become compacted inside a hair follicle. When skin is prone to pimples, a state of follicular hyperkeratosis may be in play. This condition causes skin cells to thicken and multiply abnormally, preventing the natural exfoliation process. 


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What can you do? Exfoliate skin regularly while using skincare with oil balancing benefits. Kaolin and Sea Clay are both able to gently exfoliate while absorbing excess sebum - our LILY DE MAI Purity Marine Mineral Detox Mask contains both.


2. Bacteria

Skin is a microcosm of bacteria. Exactly like your gut, skin requires bacterial balance for strength and resistance to pimples and acne. A specific strain of bacteria known as propionibacterium acnes (p. acnes) has been identified as contributing to acne. P. acnes finds a perfect, oxygen-free environment in oily areas of skin and blocked pores. Excessive growth of p. acnes can be triggered by unbalanced skin pH (2). Your skin has a pH of 4.5-5.5, slightly acidic, which keeps bacteria in check.  Raising the pH of your skin can increase the population of p. acnes.

What can you do? Create a skincare routine which makes your skin a friendly habitat for positive skin bacteria. Try an oil balancing mask weekly, exfoliate regularly and use a pH balanced cleanser.


3. Inflammation

Without inflammation, only blackheads would exist. Inflammation is the reason why pimples are red, swollen, and painful. Signs your skin's immune system has been activated. When your skin forms an inflamed pimple, it has reacted to a protein that p.acnes bacteria excretes in the blocked pore it is inhabiting. This protein is known as CAMP factor. It is irritating and destructive to your skin (3).

What can you do? When pimples and acne have already formed use anti-inflammatory and antibacterial skincare to help reduce bacteria, swelling, and redness.


4. Genetic Predisposition

Pimples and acne are often directed by hormones. The activity of these biological signaling systems can be determined by age, diet, lifestyle, and the environment. However, hormones also have a natural and genetically predetermined volume. Small changes to diet and lifestyle can easily provoke pimples when skin is genetically sensitized or over-reactive to hormone change.

What can you do? Adapt preventative skin care practices into your daily routine. Carefully manage diet and lifestyle factors like sugar and stress.



(1) Int J Cosmet Sci. 2015 Aug;37(4):357-365
(2) J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017 Jul; 10(7): 33–39
(3) PLoS One. 2011 Apr 12;6(4):e14797  


The information provided on this blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health provider with any concerns or questions about a persistent problem or medical condition.

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