Picture this. You just woke up, shuffled your way to the bathroom, and, like the good skincare enthusiast you are, you go to wash your face when you are met with a deep, painful bump on the surface of your skin.
Um, excuse me? Where did this rude zit come from?
Welcome to the world of blind pimples, or cystic acne bumps. Blind pimples are the dreaded, “gift that keeps on giving”, type of pimple that loves to come and hates to leave.
Blind pimples can be frustrating due to their stubbornness, the pain often associated with them, and their inability to be popped.
Want to know more about this annoying kind of acne? Strap on in as we go over what blind pimples are and nine effective ways to get rid of them.
What are blind pimples?
So, what are these hidden pimples? Blind pimples are painful pimples that pop up (or down) underneath the skin’s surface.
This makes them stand out from other types of pimples such as whiteheads, blackheads, and superficial red bumps that are pus-filled.
These special pimples can either be completely hidden underneath the skin’s surface, or, they can be both partially under and partially above the surface of the skin.
Blind pimples often present in the form of acne cysts, or pimples under the skin. Blind pimples are often tender to touch and may be surrounded by redness caused by inflammation.
How to rid them:
1. Adjust your diet
Like most health conditions, you probably aren’t surprised to hear that modifying your diet may play a role in preventing this type of acne.
We know, we know, yet another post about why you should limit cheese and chips and fast food.
We’re only telling you this to help you, we promise.
Foods that are processed, oily, high in dairy, or high in sugar content can actually lead to hormonal fluctuations that can cause an increase in sebum production on your skin.
The presence of this excess sebum can potentially lead to an increased risk of you getting these dreaded hidden pimples.
To lower your chances of getting these annoying zits, you may want to limit your intake of foods that contain a lot of dairy, oil, sugar, and processed foods whenever possible.
You can replace those foods with colorful fruits and vegetables to lead to a more balanced diet!
Your skin (& gut!) will seriously love you for this.
2. DO NOT POP IT
“Say it louder for the people in the back!” But really, don’t try to pop hidden pimples.
With any type of acne lesion, whitehead, blackhead, pustule, papule, or cyst, attempting to pop it can actually make things worse!
This is especially true with blind pimples.
Blind pimples are so deep underneath the top layer of skin that, chances are, you won’t ever be able to mash them hard enough to get those suckers to drain any (yikes) pus.
And in the meantime, you will likely make the lesion angry, inflamed, and possibly even bigger!
Not to mention, while you are laser-focused on getting rid of this blemish as fast as you can, you may actually be creating a perfect environment for a scar to form.
Scars from attempting to pop these lesions can range from a dark spot that takes a while to fade, called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or even a little indentation in the skin that may be much more difficult to fix later down the road.
If at all possible, give the healing process some time, and try allowing the swelling to go down naturally to prevent the blemish from getting worse and to avoid any potential scarring.
3. Spot treatment
Okay, so you think you may have a hidden pimple and you’ve managed to avoid popping it, now what? One option is to try a spot treatment.
One common over-the-counter, topical treatment option is benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide can be great at fighting bacteria that may be present in the area and also tends to dry out the pimple you’re treating.
It’s important to note that benzoyl peroxide comes in several different percentages ranging from 2.5% to 10%.
While it may be tempting to lather up your blemish with 10% benzoyl peroxide topical cream, the higher the percentage of benzoyl peroxide you use, while it may be more effective, the more drying and irritating it can be.
When considering topical treatment, you may choose to go the more natural route and reach for products that contain ingredients such as tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil has natural antibacterial properties that can help fight bacteria that sometimes cause pimples.
If you choose to use products with tea tree oil, be sure to dilute the oil to avoid causing any potential irritation to the skin.
4. Warm compress
When you first notice a new cystic pimple, you may consider trying warm compresses.
The heat from a warm compress can increase blood flow to the area you are applying it to and potentially speed up the healing process.
If you choose to try a warm compress, start with a clean washcloth and some warm water. Be sure that the warm water is not so warm that it burns your face.
Soak the clean washcloth in the warm water and gently hold it to the skin where the cystic pimple is for five minutes without peaking.
You can repeat this up to three times per day for the best results!
5. Cold compress
On the other hand, you may choose to reach for a cold compress when you first notice that cystic pimples pop up.
Cold compresses can help decrease inflammation and can also provide some pain relief due to the numbing effect they can provide which can make them a great home remedy.
If you decide to try a cold compress, wrap an ice cube in a clean paper towel.
Gently hold the ice cube wrapped in a clean paper towel to the skin where your cystic pimple is located for 2-3 minutes at a time, taking a minute break when needed.
You can repeat this up to 3 times per day as needed!
6. Try a topical antibiotic
You may consider trying a topical antibiotic to help get rid of your newest cystic pimple.
Topical antibiotics can help fight off bacteria that could be contributing to your cystic pimples.
The most common prescription topical antibiotic prescribed for acne is clindamycin gel.
Your derm may have you spot-treat with a prescription that has clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide combined, or they may have you treat your whole face in hopes of treating current, and preventing future, breakouts.
7. Acne stickers can help
A sticker for acne? Yep, you heard it right!
Pimple stickers have become more and more popular recently, and for good reason. They are an easy and effective treatment option for several different types of blemishes.
These pimple patches are often infused with zit-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and hyaluronic acid.
To make these fun pimple patches even better, they can serve as a barrier between your fingers, and your zit, helping prevent you from picking your blemishes!
When you are using an acne patch, be sure to cleanse your skin with a gentle cleanser and make sure your skin is dry before applying the pimple sticker.
You may choose to apply the pimple sticker at night to kill two birds with one stone (hello, beauty rest) or you may decide to apply the pimple sticker during the day to potentially keep you from touching or picking your zit.
Either way, pimple stickers are a simple and fun way to try to fight your breakouts.
8. Update your skincare routine
Something you can never go wrong with is vamping up your skincare routine with products that match your skin type.
Incorporating a good skincare routine may even help improve your hidden pimples.
Whether your skin is oily, dry, sensitive, normal, or a combination of these types, finding a better skincare routine with products that match your skin type is always a good idea.
One ingredient that is typically beneficial for all skin types is a topical retinoid.
A chemical exfoliant, such as a topical retinoid, increases cellular turnover which can help prevent build-up of dead skin cells on the skin surface.
By preventing the buildup of excess dead skin cells, you decrease your chances of getting clogged pores, which can often lead to unwanted zits.
Adding in a new topical retinoid lotion (over the counter or prescription strength) can be a great addition to your skincare routine to potentially improve your skin quality and, hopefully, prevent future breakouts.
While you may be able to create a pretty solid routine with over the counter lotions and creams, you may end up deciding you need the help of a derm provider to help treat your cystic acne.
9. See a dermatologist
Alright, so you’ve tried every single home remedy you can find and still no luck? Or, maybe this cyst is just getting out of hand and you want it gone ASAP?
Either way, it’s time to go see your dermatologist.
Cystic acne can be chronic, and can even lead to scarring, so it is definitely not something to play around with if your home remedies are just not cutting it.
If you do go see a dermatologist, here’s what you can expect:
They may decide to offer you a cortisone injection that they inject into the cyst in hopes of providing relief and resolving the lesion within a few days.
Cortisone shots are often a quick and effective treatment option for those random, stubborn cystic zits. Another option they may discuss is an oral medication.
They may consider prescribing oral medications such as oral antibiotics, spironolactone, or Accutane to help fight your acne.
For maintenance, your derm may choose to prescribe you a topical retinoid, such as tretinoin, to help increase your cellular turnover, prevent clogged pores, and prevent future breakouts.
When in doubt, don’t wait.
Make an appointment with your dermatologist. Seeing your dermatologist is the only surefire way to know that you are on the right track with treating your blind pimples.
Okay, so how do these blind pimples form?
These pimples are typically caused by excess sebum, or oil, on the skin or even dirt and dead skin cells that build up on the skin.
Oftentimes, changes in your hormones can increase your likelihood of getting these painful breakouts.
The sebum, dirt, and dead skin cells on the surface of your skin can get trapped under the skin leading to a cyst, nodule, or skin pimple deep under the outermost layer of your skin.
As tempting as it may be, you definitely do not want to attempt to pop these pesky pimples. These cystic zits will just get worse when you poke and prod them so keep those hands off!
We know it’s tempting, but I promise you will thank us later. Now, let’s dive into the main causes of these skin pimples.
Cystic acne: main causes
Blind pimples often occur when someone is battling with a skin problem called cystic acne.
Acne cysts are often formed due to the presence of excess sebum, bacteria, and old skin cells getting trapped underneath the skin.
When sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells get trapped underneath the skin, this can lead to inflammation and possibly the formation of a cyst or nodule.
Let’s explain a couple of common things that make these bumps happen.
Now, we all have likely heard that our diet can lead to certain skin problems, including acne.
We love dairy, sweets, and carbs as much as the next person, but, the bad news is, these foods may actually be triggering your cystic acne.
When you eat foods like cheese or candy, you may be affecting your hormones which can lead to an increase in sebum production which, as we now know, can ultimately lead to cystic acne.
We are not about to be the ones to tell you to skip out on a wine and cheese night or snacking on some candy during your favorite movie…
But, if you do struggle with cystic acne, it may be worth switching up your diet a bit in hopes of potentially preventing breakouts.
Yet another lovely cause of cystic acne is good ole hormones.
Hormonal fluctuations can cause acne breakouts including cysts, nodules, and other inflammatory lesions.
Around a woman’s menstrual cycle, certain changes occur that can lead to an increase in sebum production.
When this excess sebum builds up under the skin, with bacteria and dead skin cells, your skin may form a hidden pimple.
Unfortunately, it is not abnormal to notice skin pimples pop up right before or during your menstrual cycle.
We can’t forget another common, and not super fun, cause of hidden pimples, stress. Undergoing stress, or even lack of sleep, can cause hormonal changes and may also lead to these frustrating skin pimples.
Common age group
While I’m sure we would all love it if acne truly were just for teenagers going through puberty, unfortunately, that’s just not the case.
While teens can definitely struggle with this type of acne, adults, young and old, can as well.
Like we mentioned before, hidden pimples are oftentimes associated with hormonal changes, and young teens to adult women know all about that world.
That being said, it is important to realize that battling blind pimples won’t necessarily go away once you surpass those lovely puberty years.
And yet another not so fun fact about this type of pimple is that they often leave a pesky scar behind once they (finally) go away.
So, if you do struggle with blind pimples, it is super important to know how to treat them!
Blind pimple locations
While you really can get a pimple anywhere on your face, chest, and back, this type of acne is most commonly found on the lower half of the face.
Skin pimples that are cystic or hormonal in nature are oftentimes found on your chin and jawline, to be more specific.
This type of acne can also be found underneath the chin and even onto the neck.
If the blemishes are camping out on your chin or jawline exclusively, they are likely hidden pimples caused by too much sebum in these areas which could actually be due to hormonal fluctuations.
The most common affected area for adult women to find a painful hidden pimple lump is along the jawline.
At the end of the day, there is good news. While blind pimples can be annoying and frustrating, you are not alone and there is hope!
Remember, blind pimples are painful pimples that pop up (or down) underneath the skin’s surface. Hormonal changes, diet, stress, and excess sebum on the skin are all common causes of this type of acne.
These painful pimples affect a wide range of age groups from teens to adult women and they typically pop up on the chin and jawline.
Some common remedies you can try at home include:
- Adjusting your diet
- LEAVING IT ALONE
- Spot treatment
- Warm compresses
- Cold compresses
- Topical antibiotic treatments
- Acne stickers with ingredients such as salicylic acid
- Updating your skincare routine
As always, when in doubt, don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your dermatologist.
Last but not least, whatever “bumps” in the road we may hit (pun intended), don’t worry. We are all in this together!
- Zeichner JA, Baldwin HE, Cook-Bolden FE, Eichenfield LF, Fallon-Friedlander S, Rodriguez DA. Emerging Issues in Adult Female Acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017;10(1):37-46.
- Bagatin E, Freitas THP, Rivitti-Machado MC, et al. Adult female acne: a guide to clinical practice [published correction appears in An Bras Dermatol. 2019 Mar-Apr;94(2):255. Machado MCR [corrected to Rivitti-Machado MC]]. An Bras Dermatol. 2019;94(1):62-75. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20198203
- Ayer J, Burrows N. Acne: more than skin deep. Postgrad Med J. 2006;82(970):500-506. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2006.045377 Jaggi Rao, MD. “Acne Vulgaris.” Practice Essentials, Background, Pathophysiology, Medscape, 28 Aug. 2020,
- emedicine.medscape.com/article/1069804-overview. Zaenglein, Andrea L., et al. “Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Mosby, 17 Feb. 2016, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190962215026146.