Say no to that red thing on your lip
Zits. Pimples. Blemishes. They go by many names — possibly because they’re so darn common!
People of all ages wrestle with less-than-flawless skin, and pesky little red bumps on the face top the list of complaints.
When the pimples are along your lip line, though, they can be even more irritating.
On top of being unsightly, lip pimples can be a painful skin condition. Ugh.
Fortunately, there are so many treatment options out there.
Yes, it may take some trial-and-error to find the medication or home remedy that’s a winner for you. But, armed with all the helpful information below, you’ll have a great head start.
- What a pimple is
- What causes pimples
- Why people get lip pimples
- How to get rid of a pimple on your lip
Hopefully, you’ll be kissing your facial breakout goodbye really soon.
Is it a pimple?
First, it helps if you know what, exactly, a pimple is. Right?
Pimples are small sores that occur when dirt, excess oil, bacteria, dead skin cells or other debris clog your pores, hair follicles or oil glands.
Pimples are a symptom of the ubiquitous skin disease acne (1). Among other things, side effects to medications, hormone imbalances and heredity can cause acne (2).
So, how do you know if your angry pustules are pimples or something else? Here are telltale signs of a simple zit:
- It’s relatively small.
- It falls somewhere on the pink-red spectrum.
- It may have a white head.
- It goes away in less than a week.
- It may be a little sore.
- There might be a bit of swelling.
- It doesn’t spread to other areas.
Might be something else…
There are about a zillion other things that can cause bumps that’re accompanied by redness, inflammation, pus, soreness, sensitivity, and a host of other yucky symptoms.
If your troublesome spot doesn’t fit the M.O. above, you might have a different condition. Here are some common ones that’re often mistaken for pimples:
- Cold Sores & Herpes: Technically, cold sores (aka fever blisters) are herpes (HSV-1). And the herpes you call herpes (HSV-2) is a different type of the herpes simplex virus. Both can cause tingling, itching, blisters, oozing, scabbing, and crusting. They show up as a solitary boil or in clusters around the mouth.
- Canker sores: These small, flat, yellowish ulcers occur inside the mouth. Unlike cold sores, these lesions aren’t contagious.
- Allergies: Allergies can produce all sorts of skin splotches and irritation.
- Blisters: These small skin bubbles can appear if the skin gets chaffed or burned.
- Razor burn: Hair follicles irritated from shaving or waxing can develop tiny red bumps.
- Other skin issues: Several skin conditions — some quite serious — can appear similar to run-of-the-mill blemishes. Among these are eczema, rosacea, staph infections and skin cancer (3).
- Other sicknesses: Many other illnesses — like measles, chickenpox, rubella, and hand/foot/mouth disease — present as variations of lumpy, bumpy, red rashes (4).
How to get rid of lip pimples
OK, so you’ve determined your lip-area lesion is indeed an ordinary pimple. Without further ado, let’s talk solutions. How can you banish your face acne?
Here are three easy approaches you can try:
Topical spot treatments
A topical spot treatment is exactly what it sounds like: a treatment you apply externally onto the skin only where you’re experiencing a break out.
In the case of your pimpled lip, you’d just put some on the offending spot, and not the rest of your face.
There are whole aisles in your neighborhood drug store with over-the-counter gels and ointments designed for occasional use.
You have to read and follow each product’s directions for use, but in general you simply dab on a small amount of the product onto clean, dry skin.
When shopping for a DIY zit-zapping potion, look for ones with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids and/or sulfur (5).
These elements attack your acne in different ways, so understand what you’re trying to accomplish as well as your skin type.
Also note that the higher the percentage of those power ingredients, the more potent the product — which may be necessary for particularly stubborn lip pimples.
Select the topical spot treatment that best aligns with your needs.
You can almost convince yourself that this is a swanky at-home spa service…. If your lip pimple has begun to develop a whitehead, warm compresses can help relieve pain and draw the impurities and pus out of your skin (6).
Bonus: This common treatment’s so simple to do.
You just soak a washcloth in hot water (but not so hot that it’ll burn you!) and press it onto your blemish for 10-15 minutes.
Repeat three or four times per day until your symptoms are resolved.
Often used after a warm compress, cold compresses can also be used on their own.
Cold can be a godsend as it can numb pain and reduce swelling and redness.
All you do is wrap an ice cube, cool pack or bag of frozen veggies in a paper towel or cloth (You need a barrier between the cold source and your delicate skin).
Apply the compress to your lip pimple for about a minute. If needed, you can reapply the compress: one minute on, five minutes off.
Home remedies work, too
You may not have to venture to the store for your zit cream.
It’s possible you have your skin savior right in your cupboard!
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil (TTO) comes from the Australian tea tree. Because of the oil’s many medicinal properties, it’s a popular and longstanding traditional remedy for lots of skin conditions.
Studies show that tea tree oil gels are effective at treating acne (7). They can reduce the number and severity of blemishes and help minimize scars (8), improving the look of your skin’s surface.
You can make your own tea tree oil treatment (1-2 drops of 100% TTO in a carrier oil or on a wet cotton ball) or buy a skincare product with TTO in it.
Remember: You must dilute the tea tree oil before putting it on your skin and it’s poisonous if taken internally.
Before applying it onto your acne for the first time, do a patch test to ensure your tea tree concoction doesn’t irritate your skin. Then harness TTO’s healing powers by using it on your pimples daily.
Witch hazel is another age-old remedy from Mother Nature.
It comes from the bark of a North American shrub and is well-reputed for its astringent and antiseptic (9) qualities.
Being the versatile superstar it is, witch hazel is readily available at most supermarkets or drugstores.
While witch hazel won’t necessarily make your acne disappear, it will counteract redness and swelling (10).
This will help you feel more comfortable and minimize the appearance of your pimples. Not too shabby!
The clear liquid can be used solo as a toner. But it also plays nicely with your favorite cleanser and moisturizer.
Witch hazel’s gentle enough that it’s considered appropriate for all skin types(including sensitive skin) and OK for use on a regular basis.
But if you do notice your skin drying out, back off.
Simply put some on a cotton ball and swipe it around your entire face or just the flare-up zone.
Turmeric is the bright yellowy-orange spice often associated with Indian cuisine.
But it has dermatologic, as well as culinary, prowess. Turmeric’s magic comes from the compound curcumin.
What makes turmeric so amazing? It has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and antioxidant capabilities (11).
Plus, it can inhibit sebum production in your oil glands (12).
Turmeric is also easy to find, cheap and well-tolerated by most people (13).
For skin health, there are both oral and topical treatments. You can take turmeric supplements to nurture your skin from within.
Check with your healthcare provider first, though. Alternately, you can try a turmeric face mask or paste (turmeric + water/lemon juice) on your lip pimples (14).
Don’t be alarmed if your skin is temporarily stained from this spot treatment.
According to clinical research, green tea’s a promising acne antidote (15).
Its various compounds — like polyphenols and caffeine —reduce inflammation, suppress sebaceous gland secretions and fight microbes. Plus, green tea’s not an antibiotic and has no reported adverse reactions (16).
Topical formulations include gels, masks (17), sprays, or emulsions (18). Apply these to your whole face or just the affected area on a regular basis.
Many skincare products have green tea goodies inside, but you can add matcha powder to any of your beloved (and probably numerous) lotions or serums.
Look online for facial treatment recipes that call for good ol’ teabags.
You can also leverage green tea’s might orally. A couple cups of green tea per day is one option.
If drinking tea isn’t your cup of tea, you can experiment with green tea supplements (19).
Prevention is the best spot treatment
The best pimple defense is a kickass pimple offense. The easiest zits to treat are the ones you don’t have in the first place!
Use a better anti-acne cleanser
The right cleanser may be the answer to your prayers. It will remove blemish-causing impurities and allow other topical treatments to work better (20).
Experts recommend using a mild cleanser made specifically for preventing and treating those painful pimples.
To wipe out whiteheads, opt for a cleansing product with salicylic acid.
If your bumps veer more towards being cystic acne, face washes with benzoyl peroxide may work.
You might need to try several duds before finding one that’s effective for you but doesn’t cause irritation.
Once you’ve got a handle on which cleaning solution to use, make sure you’re following an optimal face washing routine, too.
You should wash your lovely visage once or twice a day, but more often if it gets dirty, sweaty, or oily from your hair.
You can also try lightly exfoliating — with a gentle exfoliating cleanser or a soft facial scrubber — once a week.
This sloughs off residual skin cells and other gunk that could otherwise block pores and lead to dreaded zits and blackheads.
Avoid zit-inducing lip products
There’s a chance that your mouth care products are causing or worsening your blemishes. Everything from makeup to moisturizer to sunscreen can congest your pores.
Your best bet: Use non-pore-clogging products.
Select cosmetics that are oil-free or feature a non-comedogenic oil (e.g., hempseed or sweet almond).
Steer clear of lip products with mineral or coconut oil, waxes, and artificial colorants and fragrances.
Also, make sure your products haven’t expired. (Seriously, how long have you had that lipstick/lip balm?!).
Older items are like a bacteria-dirt-dead skin cell party.
Putting them on your lips is like inviting a cluster of pimples to the bash.
Don your lip goops with light pressure and clean applicators to further reduce the transfer of germs.
Keep your mouth clean (and pimple-free)
We’re talking about literal smut, not your…colorful…language.
Your mouth is frequently in contact with stuff. You eat and drink several times a day. Perhaps you touch your lips? Each encounter is an opportunity to draw dirt and bacteria to this sensitive area.
So, maybe your top meal-time utensil shouldn’t be a fork, it should be your toothbrush.
Brushing your teeth and gums after eating could keep your mouth a zit-free zone.
Plus, you know, fresh breath, that toothpaste tingling sensation, and a happy dentist are good.
Wiping your face with a clean napkin or towel and keeping your hands away from your face are helpful, too.
Combat breakouts with a supercharged diet
This probably won’t be a forehead smacking “Aha! moment”, but there’s a link between what you eat and the spots on your lip.
The current medical understanding is that the quality of your diet overall is what impacts your skin’s health.
A correlation between high-fat and high-refined-sugar foods and acne has been observed (23).
Excessively processed foods can cause your skin to freak out, too, due to certain body-polluting ingredients. And, there’s evidence that cow’s milk (22) is tied to breakouts.
Researchers believe these foods can do things like increase inflammation or trigger hormonal imbalances, which in turn, promote pimples (23).
Good nutrition could help fight bad skin.
A low-glycemic diet may limit your blemishes by regulating your sugar levels or minimizing inflammation.
Well-balanced diets are also generally packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that boost your well-being.
See if consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, and nuts works for your skin.
Maybe it’s time to visit a derm
While there’re plenty of remedies to try on your own, it’s good to know when to go pro. Seeking out a skincare expert is a smart idea if:
- Your acne isn’t responding, satisfactorily, to your personal attempts to manage it.
- You’re suffering emotionally because of your skin condition.
A dermatologist is a medical doctor with additional specialized training in skin health and disorders.
A dermatologist will ask about your health, skincare routine, diet, etc. and perform a physical exam of your skin. Sometimes, other tests may be needed.
From all this gathered data, a diagnosis can be made.
Doctor-recommended treatments vary based on the kind of acne you have and its underlying cause (24).
Your dermie may prescribe a topical spot treatment, oral medication, other therapies (like light therapy or chemical peels), dietary or other lifestyle adjustments.
He or she may also suggest laying off harsh soaps and moisturizer, waxing, and skincare procedures.
If your skin troubles are rooted in another health condition — such as a hormone imbalance, an allergic reaction, or cold sores — your dermatologist can help you get appropriate care.
A professional counselor can help you address any stress, anguish, or other negative psychological impacts your acne may be causing.
Feeling good inside is important, too!
The bottom line
Pimples — aka zits, spots, whiteheads, bumps, or blemishes — are a symptom of acne, which is a very common skin disorder that affects people of all ages.
Genetics, age, hormones, and side effects of medication are frequent culprits.
Because pimples happen when pores, hair follicles, or oil glands get plugged up with dirt, dead skin, etc., you can get them almost anywhere on your body.
When the affected area is smack dab in the middle of your face — on your upper lip or lower lip — it can be extra aggravating.
Thankfully, there are many drugstore and kitchen pantry remedies. You can try a topical spot treatment, supplement, or prescription drug.
Whatever you decide, there’s sure to be an acne therapy that will help you prevent and resolve your breakouts.