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Your deep zit’s invisibility to your friends doesn’t make it any less painful. You may call it a blind pimple, invisible pustule, or cystic acne. Whatever name you choose, that unseen bump can be stubborn and long-lasting.

Here are some helpful acne care tips, so you can zap! 👏 that! 👏 zit! 👏

What exactly is a blind pimple?

Sometimes blind pimples are completely invisible. Other times, they’re slightly red or discolored, raised bumps.

Unlike most zits, blind pimples don’t have a “head” you can squeeze to release pressure and bacteria.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) refers to these deep zits as nodules or cysts.

woman examines blind pimple in mirror headerShare on Pinterest
Oxygen/Getty Images

Underground zits go away on their own … eventually. If you want speed up the process, follow these tips.

1. Resist the urge to squeeze

Pining for a good pimple-popping sesh? Don’t do it!

That’s good advice for all zits. But squeezing is *definitely* a no-no for blind pimples — there’s no head. You’d be poking and prodding a whole section of skin. This can lead to swelling and redness or discoloration. No one likes those.

Also, your hands will just make things worse. When you pick at your pimples, you help transmit bacteria around to other parts of your face.

Finally, squeezing and pinching cause scars.

It may be tempting. But #JustSayNo.

2. Use a warm compress

The AAD recommends warm compresses for pus-filled infections like boils, styes, and cystic zits.

Warmth helps in a couple of ways:

  • It soothes soreness from any popping or squeezing attempts. (But you wouldn’t do that, would you?)
  • It opens your pores, which may bring a zit to a head.

Warm compress 101

Here’s how to treat a blind pimple with a warm compress:

  1. Soak a clean washcloth in hot water (but not so hot that it hurts to the touch).
  2. Hold the warm, wet cloth against your breakout for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 up to four times a day until the zit comes to a head or heals.

3. Apply a pimple patch

Most pimple patches contain salicylic acid to kill bacteria and unclog pores.

The sticker also protects your skin from dirt or dust in the environment.

You can purchase zit stickers online or over-the-counter (OTC) at your local drugstore. They’re not a cure-all. But they can shorten the life of a stubborn zit.

Make sure you use a new patch every 24 hours to keep things clean.

4. Break out the tea tree oil

Tea tree essential oil has a rep for its antibacterial, skin-nourishing perks. And it’s not just social media hype.

One study found that a blend of tea tree oil, propolis, and aloe vera was better at zapping zits than some common acne creams.

Another study found that folks could improve their breakouts by applying tea tree oil gel to their faces twice a day for 12 weeks.

More research is necessary to confirm how much tea tree oil is effective against blind pimples and if it’ll work for everyone.

5. Try some OTC acne products

There are dozens of pimple products on the market. There’ll be one available that plays nice with your skin.

Here are some common ingredients to watch out for:

  • Salicylic acid. This stuff is great for unclogging pores. It can also help soothe redness or discoloration and inflammation (but don’t go overboard — you’ll get hella dry).
  • Benzoyl peroxide. Remember the old face wash that bleached your parent’s towels? Yep, thank the benzoyl peroxide. In moderation, BP is great for zapping the bacteria that cause your breakouts.
  • Sulfur. Hello, noxious odor — buy-bye, zits. Sulfur helps with whiteheads and blackheads by suppressing bacteria and dissolving clogged pores.
  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). These acid exfoliators are amazeballs for helping you shed dead skin. But a little goes a long way. Using a *lot* can make breakouts worse.
  • Retinoids. These vitamin A derivatives help dial back oiliness and unclog pores.

You can find most of these ingredients in OTC acne treatments. But they’re also available in prescription-strength doses.

6. Ice, ice, baby

The oldest trick in the book, amiright? Ice packs can soothe inflammation, reduce redness or discoloration, and help you feel cool and clean despite the angry volcano under your skin.

Here’s how to do it the right way:

  1. First, wash your face with warm water and a mild cleanser.
  2. Gently pat it dry.
  3. Grab a clean towel or plastic bag. Fill ‘er up with ice.
  4. Press the ice pack against your breakout for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the ice and let your face rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Repeat steps 1 to 5 up to four times a day.

TBH, deep zits and cold sores look an awful lot alike: red or discolored, swollen, and painful. #Twinning!

The main difference? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the herpes simplex virus (HSV) causes cold sores, while blind pimples come from acne — aka clogged pores.

Here’s the lifecycle of a cold sore versus a pimple.

Blind pimpleCold sore
stage 1skin cells, oil, and dirt = clogged porea spot around your mouth starts tingling or stinging
stage 2bacteria builds up (hello, infection)a sore forms
stage 3a sore bump formsthe cold sore starts oozing
stage 4pimple comes to a head and erupts hello, crustiness
stage 5 healing! 😌healing! 😌

What’s triggering my cold sore?

Some of these triggers also apply to acne breakouts. (Stress acne, anyone?) But knowing what to look for can help you work out if you’ve got a cold sore or a blind pimple.

Some peeps only experience one major cold sore breakout. Others get repeat bouts that flare up after experiencing these triggers.

When to call the doc

If you feel like you can’t catch a break from deep zits and cystic breakouts, make an appointment with a dermatologist.

Cold sores are also pretty common and harmless… unless you’re getting sores near your eyes.

If you start experiencing vision probs during a cold sore breakout, call your doctor ASAP. HSV can cause permanent vision loss.

Some breakouts happen whatever you do to look after your skin. But there are a few ways to reduce your chance of getting a deep zit:

  • Wash thy face… Feelin’ sweaty? Wore a full face of makeup today? Use warm water and a gentle cleanser to wash the dirt away.
  • … but not too often. Acne-prone skin is easy to irritate. Wash your face no more than twice a day. This applies even more if you have scabs or inflammation.
  • Skip the scrubs. Exfoliants are harsh. That scrub is more likely to irritate your blemishes than unclog your pores.
  • Read your labels. Could your products be plugging your pores? Choose skin care and makeup that’s noncomedogenic or oil-free.
  • Wash your pillowcase. Close your eyes and imagine all the skin cells, bacteria, and sweat that build up on your fluffy head-bed. Please, for the love of Dolly Parton, wash it *at least* once a week.
  • Wipe down your phone. You know you use it while pooping. It also touches your face. ‘Nuff said. (Tl;dr: don’t indirectly poop on your own face by scrolling through Twitter.)
  • Talk with a dermatologist. If you’re dealing with blind pimples on the reg, talk with your doctor or dermatologist about prevention and treatment methods that will work with your skin type.

Well, we hope it helps to hear you’re not alone. Blind pimples happen to the best of us. But peeps with oily skin are more prone to them. Blind pimples are also commonly related to hormonal fluctuations and often happen during your menstrual cycle.

Deep zits are just the effects of acne that develop below your skin’s surface. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, they’re cysts or nodules that occur when pores clog up with oil and bacteria. The clogged pore can acquire bacteria and cause swelling and pain.

You’re most likely to get a blind pimple in an area with lots of oil glands, like your:

  • face
  • neck
  • shoulders
  • chest
  • back

Your oil glands produce sebum. This traps beneath clogged pores easily.

When the sebum can’t escape, it builds up and turns into a pimple. Sometimes this turns into a breeding ground for bacteria, which leads to more inflammation and infection.

Blind pimples are below-the-surface zits without a whitehead.

It’s possible to treat blind pimples with compresses and over-the-counter zit treatments.

If you get a lot of blind pimples or breakouts, talk with your doctor about acne treatments.

Sometimes, what seems like a blind pimple is a cold sore in disguise.

Peeps who have contracted a cold sore and experience vision problems should seek immediate treatment.