07/19/2024

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Some papules appear suddenly overnight with little warning. Others are informed of their arrival by pain-inducing bumps long before they surface. The latter are bumps under the skin, also known as blind bumps, which are known to be uncomfortable and difficult to get rid of.

Unlike whiteheads, which sit on the surface and have a pus-filled head, or blackheads, which produce small black spots in your pores, a pimple without a head lurking under the skin is almost invisible to the naked eye. The only way you know it’s there is because you feel it. These types of pimples can be quite stubborn – not to mention impossible to pop.

Getting rid of the hard bumps under your skin is not impossible, but it is not easy. Acne patches are only available for acne with a head, and most spot treatments are designed to treat acne closer to the surface, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope.

Read on to learn more about subcutaneous pimples, their causes, and how to treat them.

What causes bumps under the skin (aka blind bumps)?
All pimples are formed by the same basic factors: bacteria, dead skin cells, and excess oil or sebum. “The skin cells stick together inside the pore, creating a bottleneck that traps the oil underneath,” Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and medical advisor at Jori Skincare, told POPSUGAR. “This can lead to an overgrowth of the bacteria that cause an overgrowth of the bacteria that cause acne, stretching hair follicles and causing inflammation.”

However, some pimples or clogged pores will appear on the surface, while others will be trapped under the skin. “When bacteria and byproducts attract immune cells to a clogged pore, it causes inflammation, which is how painful blind bumps form,” says board-certified dermatologist Michelle Henry, M.D., FAAD. “This bacterial inflammation is what causes a number of pimples to form under the skin rather than on the surface.”

Different people will experience different types of acne, and “we don’t understand why some people get blackheads and whiteheads while others get soft, subterranean pimples,” says Dr. Zeichner.

Why acne becomes hard under the skin
Sometimes, deep cystic pimples can turn into hard lumps under the skin for months. “Deeper papules, also called nodular papules, also form from clogged pores,” says Dr. Henry. “However, when the inflammation caused by bacteria is deeper and more intense, nodular papules appear. This is why nodular and hard papules are found deep in the dermis and have a signature lumpy feel.”

How to get rid of bumps under the skin
Treating bumps under the skin isn’t easy – the best practice is actually prevention. “Think of your face as having thousands of ducts connecting your oil glands to the surface of your skin, [and for] people who are prone to breakouts, all of those ducts are somewhat clogged and we can’t predict which one will turn into a pimple,” says Dr. Zeichner.

To help treat existing pimples and prevent new ones from forming, he suggests targeting the entire area of the face where you typically get pimples, benzoyl peroxide is the best anti-acne ingredient because it helps reduce levels of acne-causing bacteria and decreases inflammation.

However, not all benzoyl peroxide products are created equal, and the ingredient can be potentially irritating. Dr. Zeichner recommends looking for products with no more than 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide, such as Jori Skincare Daily Leave-On Acne Treatment Mask ($52), because it has been shown to be “as effective as higher concentrations, but less irritating. “

Salicylic acid and vitamin A analogs are two other important ingredients in the treatment of subcutaneous acne, but they work in very different ways. “Vitamin A derivatives increase skin cell renewal and reduce sebum production and skin accumulation,” says Dr. Henry. As a result, vitamin A-like is ideal for preventing new acne. Start slowly and be careful of irritation. You should also not use retinoids as a topical treatment, but apply them to the entire face and see results in a few weeks.

Salicylic acid, on the other hand, is great for “removing excess oil from the skin and removing dead cells that clog pores,” says Dr. Zeichner, and can be used as a topical treatment for targeted methods of treating cystic acne. We like the Bliss Clear Genius Acne Spot Treatment ($12) and the Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment ($25).

As Dr. Henry suggests, these ingredients, along with “hot compresses to relieve pain,” are the best way to speed up the subcutaneous acne timeline.

How to Pop a Blinding Pimple
Acne treatments don’t always work overnight, which is why we know you may be asking yourself: Can I just pop this? Experts will never advise you to pop a pimple for a number of reasons, but this is especially true for pimples under the skin. “When we see a cystic bump in the mirror, our first reaction is to pop and push the contents out of the surface. That’s the exact opposite of what we should actually do,” says Dr. Henry. “Cystic papules are usually too deep to pop out, and irritation of the skin can lead to further inflammation.”

Papules like these are located too deep in the dermis of the skin and have no clear connection to the surface to release the contents of clogged pores. Squeezing and poking them with a finger or large-headed needle is likely to do more harm than good. “You can damage the surface of the skin, leading to potential infection, crusting and even scarring,” says Dr. Zeichner. “The trauma you cause on the skin and the healing that follows usually lasts much longer than the original bumps, if you ignore it.”

If you need to get rid of a bump overnight rather than trying to pop one under your skin, you can visit your dermatologist for a cortisone injection, which can produce results in a matter of hours.

Overall, the pimples under the skin only need time to heal. If all else fails, seek professional help.

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