What Is An Infected Pimple?


An infected pimple is a pimple that has become inflamed and filled with bacteria. It occurs when you attempt to pop or squeeze a pimple, creating an open wound. Then bacteria from your skin enter the wound and cause an infection. It is characterised by a painful, swollen, and red blemish that may contain pus. It can also lead to additional symptoms such as a fever. To prevent an infected pimple, it is important to avoid popping or squeezing pimples and to maintain good hygiene by keeping the affected area clean. If an infected pimple occurs, mild cases can be treated at home with warm compresses and topical creams, but severe cases or those near sensitive areas like the eyes may require medical attention and prescription antibiotics.1,2

This article uncovers the causes, symptoms, and effective treatments for infected pimples. Read on to gain valuable insights on how to prevent and manage these bothersome blemishes, ensuring clearer and healthier skin.

Causes of infected pimple

  • Pimples develop when pores (or hair follicles) on the skin become clogged
  • Pores are tiny openings on the skin's surface that can get blocked by dead skin cells, hair, bacteria, and sebum (skin oil)
  • When these substances accumulate and clog the pores, it can lead to the formation of pimples
  • The skin naturally harbors various types of bacteria e.g. propionibacterium acnes, which are generally harmless
  • However, if these bacteria get beneath the skin's surface, they can cause an infection
  • Popping, squeezing, or picking at a pimple creates a break in the skin
  • This break allows bacteria to enter the skin, increasing the risk of infection 1,3

Signs and symptoms of infected pimple

Here are the signs and symptoms of infected pimples:1,3

  • Larger and more painful bump compared to standard pimples
  • Raised red spots with a white center
  • Blockage and inflammation deep inside hair follicles, resulting in cyst-like lumps beneath the skin's surface
  • Presence of fever or fatigue
  • Oozing yellow pus or bleeding from the pimple
  • Severe pain or discomfort in and around the pimple
  • Swelling, inflammation, and redness in the affected area, with warmth to the touch
  • Lack of response to over-the-counter acne treatments

Management and treatment for infected pimple

Here are the steps to treat mild infected pimples at home:1,3

  • Avoid popping or draining the infected pimple, as it can worsen the condition or spread the infection
  • Clean the area regularly by using a gentle face cleanser and avoiding touching the pimple
  • Apply warm compresses: Gently place a clean, warm, wet washcloth on the pimple for about 10 minutes, several times a day. Ensure that the washcloth is not too hot. The warmth helps dissolve pus or bring it to the surface
  • Use topical treatments: Benzoyl peroxide products can effectively kill bacteria. Apply a cream containing benzoyl peroxide as per the directions, typically twice a day
  • If you experience significant pain, the pimple is near your eye, or the swelling is severe, it is advisable to consult your healthcare provider for an evaluation and appropriate treatment. They may prescribe antibiotics to eliminate the bacterial infection

Treating an infected pimple involves targeting the bacteria responsible for the infection. Regular acne medications may not be effective in treating infected pimples, although they can help prevent the spread of infection to other areas.

In cases of severe infection, a healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics. These medications can help reduce both bacteria and inflammation associated with the infected pimple. However, repeated or excessive use of antibiotics may lead to reduced effectiveness. Antibiotics can be available in the form of topical creams or oral tablets, depending on the severity of the infection.

By using appropriate medications to fight against the bacteria causing the infection, it is possible to effectively treat and resolve an infected pimple.


If you notice severe pain, swelling, or a persistent pimple that does not resolve, it is important to seek medical attention to determine if it is an infected pimple. In such cases, consulting with a healthcare provider, or specifically a dermatologist is recommended.

During the examination, the healthcare provider will assess the pimple and inquire about any accompanying symptoms. In some cases, they may collect a sample of the pus from the pimple and send it to a laboratory for testing to identify any underlying infections.3


How can I prevent an infected pimple?

To prevent an infected pimple, you can take the following steps:1

  • Maintain good hygiene: Cleanse your skin with a gentle cleanser twice a day and after sweating. Regularly change sheets, pillowcases, and towels. Ensure your makeup brushes are clean and replace them as needed
  • Avoid popping pimples: Resisting the urge to pick at, squeeze, or pop pimples is crucial, as it creates an open wound that can allow bacteria to enter. It is important never to pop your pimples
  • Refrain from using skin products: While an infected pimple is healing, avoid applying makeup or lotion directly on the affected area

By practicing good hygiene, avoiding the temptation to pop pimples, and refraining from using skin products on healing pimples, you can minimize the risk of developing an infected pimple.

How common is an infected pimple?

In the United States, approximately 50 million individuals are affected by acne, a common skin condition characterized by the presence of pimples. While the exact number of people with infected pimples remains uncertain, since many individuals opt for home treatment, it is important to note that most pimples do not become infected.1

Who is at risk of developing an infected pimple?

The risk of developing an infected pimple is present for anyone, but certain groups may be more susceptible. These include:

  • Teenagers and young adults undergoing adolescent development, particularly during puberty. However, infections can occur at any age
  • Individuals who engage in popping or squeezing pimples, as it increases the likelihood of infection
  • People with severe forms of acne such as cystic acne and nodular acne, which involve the formation of painful lumps deep below the skin's surface
  • Those with rosacea, a skin condition characterized by facial redness and the presence of burning or stinging pimples

While anyone can be at risk of an infected pimple, these specific groups may have an increased susceptibility due to hormonal changes, skin conditions, or specific acne types.

What can I expect if I have an infected pimple?

With proper hygiene and the use of antibiotics, most infected pimples improve over time. It may take a few weeks for the infection to clear up completely.1

Serious infections and complications from an infected pimple are rare occurrences. However, they can include the following:

  • Acne scars: In some cases, scarring may result from the infection
  • Boils and carbuncles: These can develop as a result of a staph infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria
  • Cellulitis: This is a skin infection that, if left untreated, can be potentially dangerous. If cellulitis affects the eye, it can lead to vision problems and even vision loss

While complications are uncommon, it is important to promptly address an infected pimple to prevent any potential long-term effects.

When should I see a doctor?

It is advisable to consult your doctor about infected pimples in the following situations.1

  • If a pimple takes longer than usual to heal or keeps recurring
  • If a pimple is located near your eye
  • If you experience symptoms such as fever or fatigue
  • If you have severe pain, swelling, redness, or if the area feels warm to the touch

Most infected pimples can be effectively treated with at-home remedies. To alleviate pain and swelling, you can use a warm compress and apply over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide. It is important to maintain cleanliness in the area and refrain from touching the pimple while it heals. However, certain infections may require prescription antibiotics. If you experience severe pain and swelling or if the pimple is near your eye, it is crucial to see your doctor promptly.

Resisting the urge to pick at, squeeze, or pop pimples is essential. Such actions can worsen the condition and increase the risk of infection.


Infected pimples occur when pores or hair follicles become clogged with bacteria, dead skin cells, hair, and sebum, leading to inflammation and infection. Popping or squeezing pimples creates an opening in the skin, allowing bacteria to enter and cause an infection.

Signs of an infected pimple include a larger, more painful bump with redness, swelling, and the presence of pus. Home treatment involves avoiding popping or draining the pimple, maintaining good hygiene, applying warm compresses, and using topical treatments like benzoyl peroxide creams. However, severe cases or those near sensitive areas may require medical intervention with prescription antibiotics.

Preventing infected pimples involves practicing good hygiene, refraining from popping pimples, and avoiding the use of skin products to heal pimples. Teenagers, individuals who pop pimples, those with severe forms of acne, and people with rosacea are at a higher risk of developing infected pimples.

Although complications are rare, they can include scarring, boils, carbuncles, or cellulitis. Seeking medical attention is advised if the pimple takes longer to heal, is near the eye, causes severe pain or swelling, or is accompanied by fever or fatigue.

Overall, the article aims to educate and guide individuals on the causes, symptoms, treatments, prevention, and when to seek medical help for infected pimples, providing valuable insights for those seeking clearer and healthier skin.


  1. Infected pimple: what it looks like, causes & treatment [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2023 Jun 29]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22761-infected-pimple
  2. Pimple popping: Why only a dermatologist should do it [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jun 29]. Available from: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/skin-care/popping
  3. Acne - Symptoms and causes [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [cited 2023 Jun 29]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/symptoms-causes/syc-20368047
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Lakshmi Ramya Mantramurthy

Master of Science - MS, Global Health Care Management, Coventry University

Ramya is a passionate writer with over 2.5 years of expertise as a medical writer in Medico-marketing and communications. With a solid scientific background and a deep understanding of medical terminology, she excels in transforming complex medical information into clear, concise, and accurate content for target audiences. Holding a master's and bachelor's degree in pharmacy, along with a master's in global healthcare management, she is dedicated to delivering high-quality content that ensures an enriching reading experience. Actively seeking new opportunities in medical writing roles, Ramya invites you to connect and delve into the captivating world of her writing.

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