How to tackle a blind pimple when it pops up

Blind pimples are painful, stubborn and a little bit hard to treat.

Written by
Julia Hammond
Medically reviewed by
min read
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If anyone ever tells you acne breakouts are a walk in the park, you know they've never experienced true acne. Because unlike a single pimple or the occasional spot, real acne hurts.

One of the most difficult forms of acne is a blind pimple. Blind pimples develop deep beneath your skin's surface. This makes them painful, stubborn and a little bit hard to treat.

But, it's not impossible. Here is everything you should know about a blind pimple — what it is, why it popped up and the acne treatment options that can make it go away.

What are blind pimples?

Before we get into blind pimples, let’s have a quick refresher on the different types of acne [7].

  • Whiteheads are small white spots at the surface of the skin
  • Blackheads are small blocked pores that appear black
  • Pimples are inflamed, pus-filled red spots at the surface of the skin
  • Nodules are large red or skin-coloured bumps that form deep within the skin

A blind pimple is another name for a deep and painful nodule. They are also known as hard pimples or nodular acne. They’ve adopted the name blind pimples because they don’t have a visible whitehead [1].

Common places to get a blind pimple are the chin, jawline, sides of the face and neck. These areas have plenty of oil glands within deep tissue, which means they are primed for blind pimple formation [8].

Blind pimples are sometimes confused with cysts or cystic acne. Cysts are also formed deep beneath the skin's surface, but they usually contain pus which makes them feel soft and tender. Nodules, or blind pimples, don’t contain pus — so they feel hard to the touch, though sadly, they are still painful [4]. 

What causes blind pimples?

No matter what type of pimple you’re dealing with, the basic cause remains the same. It’s thanks to a blocked follicle and build-up of bacteria in your skin [6][7]. When a pore becomes blocked, the dead skin cells and oils have nowhere to escape. Instead, they become infected beneath your skin.

For a normal pimple, this happens at the skin surface. With blind pimples, the oils and dead skin cells are trapped deep beneath your skin [6][7].

A lot of factors can make acne of all kinds more likely, such as [6][7]:

  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Excess stress
  • Humidity and sweat
  • Genetics
  • Health conditions like PCOS 

Why are blind pimples so painful?

People often say they can feel a blind pimple, even if they can’t see it. Blind pimples are known for being a severe and painful form of acne [5].

They usually feel like a hard lump and will be tender to touch. Sometimes, a blind pimple becomes swollen and red. Even if it swells, most nodules remain ‘blind’ — meaning there is no whitehead or blackhead [8].

Once a blind pimple has formed, you’re likely to feel some pain. This is because they are so deep beneath the skin [8].

It’s a good idea to avoid irritating blind pimples, as this can cause more pain. Some things to avoid include [5]:

  • No popping, squeezing or picking at the painful lump
  • Don’t apply toothpaste — it has several ingredients that can clog pores and irritate the skin
  • Be careful of ‘natural’ treatments — they might make acne worse

How long does a blind pimple last? 

Sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s no way to get rid of pimples under the skin overnight. Once a blind pimple has formed, it needs time to heal [5].

With appropriate treatment, a blind pimple should heal in 1-2 weeks. If you leave blind pimples untreated, they can take months to heal on their own [8].

Can you pop a blind pimple?

Please, please listen when we say you should not be popping pimples. Period. Whether a whitehead, blackhead, pimple or blind pimple; your skin needs to heal on its own. But in the case of blind pimples, you actually can’t pop them.

Since they are beneath the skin and have no ‘head’, there isn’t a clear pathway for you to remove the pus or bacteria from your skin [2].

If you try to squeeze a blind pimple, you’re only going to cause more inflammation. You might also end up pushing bacteria deeper into your skin, which means many more blind pimples could form [2].

What about popping pimples on the surface?

Popping pimples on your own might seem simple, but it has lots of risks. Think acne scars, painful flare-ups, infections and even more noticeable acne [3].

Only a dermatologist should attempt to pop a pimple because they have the skills and equipment to do it safely. This is known as acne extraction and it’s only done if a pimple is super painful or stubborn against other treatments [3].

How to treat blind pimples

The story so far has not been overly positive. You’re dealing with a painful, annoying and deep-seated pimple. Is there anything you can do about it?

Yes, of course! There are lots of treatment options for all types of acne. Here are some gentle methods for treating blind pimples.

Find an acne-friendly face wash

The best defence is a great offence, as they say. Having an acne-friendly skincare routine not only helps prevent new blemishes — it can treat existing ones too. Ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinol, tea tree oil and niacinamide have all been shown to help treat acne and are readily available as topical treatments [6][8]. 

Software’s Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash is a gentle, exfoliating wash that is perfect for acne-prone skin. It targets acne-causing bacteria and skin impurities, while also boosting the hydration in your skin.

We recommend using the exfoliating wash 2-3 times per week, and a gentle cleanser at other times.

Apply an ice pack

One of the worst parts of a blind pimple is that they feel sore. Applying an ice pack can help relieve pain and swelling. Here’s how to try one [1][5]:

  • Drop a few ice cubes or an ice block into a face towel
  • Press it gently on your pimple for 5-10 minutes
  • Take a 10-minute break
  • Repeat twice more

Be careful not to freeze your skin. If your pain feels worse at any time, take a break. You can always try again later.

Use a warm compress

While cold can help with pain, heat can help draw out impurities. A warm compress is meant to open up your pores which may encourage blind pimples to the surface of your skin. This makes it easier for bacteria to exit your body, like it would for a normal pimple.

Here’s how to apply a warm compress [2][5]: 

  • Run a face towel under warm water and wring it out
  • Either hold it against the pimple or apply it to your entire face
  • Let it rest for 10 minutes
  • Repeat 3-4 times per day

Get some acne patches

This is as close to an acne holy grail as we think you can get. Acne patches deliver healing ingredients deep into the skin layers. They also help reduce the urge to pop or pick at pimples, since they are covered [8].

The AHA/BHA Pimple Patches from Software are designed to kill bacteria deep within your skin. Containing the ultimate spot-fighting team of alpha-hydroxy acids(AHA) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHA), these hero ingredients operate in tandem to exfoliate and hydrate, while niacinamide and arginine rejuvenate damaged skin cells.

With microdarts embedded in every patch, they help penetrate the skin’s surface to get acne-fighting ingredients where they need to go. Simply pop a pimple patch on the affected area and remove it after 2 hours.

Speak with a health practitioner

As we said earlier, a blind pimple should clear up in a few weeks with treatment. If it’s been 4 weeks or more and you’re still struggling — it might be time to see a board-certified dermatologist [5]. They can assist with stronger acne treatments.

A common option is a steroid injection which can be used to treat a single nodule or blind pimple. Once injected, you should notice a difference within 48-72 hours [3][6][8].

Another option is medical treatments which can be used to treat acne all over the face. 

We know how hard it is to find time for lots of medical appointments, which is why we offer our services totally online. Software’s acne treatment is a personalised formula, created by our team of Australian health practitioners.

Our customised formulas target acne by strengthening the skin barrier, fighting acne-causing bacteria, preventing clogged pores and reducing redness and swelling.

Simply take our online consult and share your skin goals and a Software practitioner will customise a formula just for you. From here, your skincare treatment will be compounded and shipped straight to your door.

How to prevent blind pimples

When it comes to dessert, one is never enough. But when it comes to blind pimples, one is enough for a lifetime. Luckily, there are some things you can do to prevent recurring blind pimples.

Keep a consistent skincare routine

You probably already do this, but it’s worth mentioning again. Keep your skin clean by washing it morning and night [8]. Make sure to shower after you’ve been sweating, like after the gym. It can also help to wash your hair often, since this keeps excess oils away from your skin [7][8].

It’s tempting to try and scrub away pimples and imperfections, but it’s doing you no good. You’ll only end up irritating them further [5].

Be kind to your skin

From skincare to makeup and sunscreen; there are plenty of products that end up on your skin. Make sure you’re choosing skin-friendly options to prevent acne flare-ups.

That means opting for non-comedogenic and oil-free cleaners, cosmetics and sunscreens [5]. Always remember to remove makeup before going to sleep as well [7]. 

Don’t give up on treatment

Waiting for your skin to clear is like waiting for the next season of your favourite show; seemingly endless. But, an end is definitely in sight and we’d hate to see you give up. 

Acne treatments typically take a few months to work and giving up early means they never will [7]. We know it’s hard, but you have to wait and see. 

There’s also that little thing called purging, which is where your skin gets worse before it gets better. Purging doesn’t affect everyone, but it’s common in the first month of using a new product. This is another good reason you need to wait 2 or 3 months to find out how your treatment has been working.

If you’ve dutifully waited more than 3 months and been using your treatment consistently, you might need a stronger treatment. Have a chat with your practitioner about the next steps.

Look for triggers in your diet

The experts are on the fence about how diet and acne interact, but they do think there is some link. They’ve debunked chocolate as a problem food, but sugar in general might be a culprit.

Foods that raise your blood sugar, from sweet treats to processed carbs (think white rice, bread and pasta) can potentially cause acne flare-ups [8].

Rather than cutting out whole food groups, consider starting a food journal to track your meals. This way you can keep an eye out for any trigger foods that you feel make your acne worse.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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