AskDefine | Define pimple

Dictionary Definition

pimple n : a small inflamed elevation of the skin; a pustule or papule; common symptom in acne [syn: hickey]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˈpɪmp(ə)l/
  • /"pImp(@)l/
    Rhymes: -ɪmpəl


  1. An inflamed (raised and red) spot on the surface of the skin that is usually painful and fills with pus.
    I had to pop that embarrassing pimple, it was huge and on the tip of my nose.
  2. An annoying person.
    He's such a pimple! I wish he'd stop being so irritating!


Related terms


inflamed spot on the surface of the skin
annoying person

Extensive Definition

A pimple is a result of a blockage of the skin's pore.


Inside the pore are sebaceous glands which produce sebum. When the outer layers of skin shed (as they do continuously), the dead skin cells left behind may become 'glued' together by the sebum. This causes a blockage in the pore, especially when the skin becomes thicker at puberty. The sebaceous glands produce more sebum which builds up behind the blockage, and this sebum harbours various bacteria including the species Propionibacterium acnes. Since the body's natural defense against bacteria is primarily phagocytes (white blood cells), these rush to the site behind the blockage (where the bacteria are). This is what gives some pimples the 'whiteheads' (unless the phagocytes are deeper in the skin, which means you can't see the 'white' caused by them). The white blood cells then destroy (by phagocytosis) the bacteria to prevent infection. The pain one may feel when a pimple is present is caused by the widening of skin around the white blood cells.


Over-the-counter medications

Common over-the-counter medications for pimples are benzoyl peroxide and/or salicylic acid. Both medications can be found in many creams and gels used to treat acne through topical application. Both medications help skin slough off more easily, which helps to remove bacteria faster. A regimen of keeping the affected skin area clean plus the regular application of these topical medications is usually enough to keep acne under control, if not at bay altogether. 1-2% of the population is allergic to benzoyl peroxide treatments.

Prescription medication

Severe acne usually indicates the necessity of prescription medication to treat pimples. Prescription medications used to treat acne include isotretinoin, which is a retinoid. Historically, antibiotics such as tetracyclines and erythromycin were prescribed. While they were more effective than topical applications of benzoyl peroxide, the bacteria eventually grew resistant to the antibiotics and the treatments became less and less effective. Also, antibiotics had more side effects than topical applications, such as stomach cramps and severe discoloration of teeth.


pimple in German: Pustel
pimple in French: Pustule
pimple in Latin: Pustula
pimple in Luxembourgish: Pautsch
pimple in Dutch: Pustel
pimple in Polish: Krosta

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abscess, aposteme, bed sore, birthmark, blackhead, blain, bleb, blemish, blister, boil, boss, bubo, bulla, bump, bunion, canker, canker sore, carbuncle, chancre, chancroid, check, chilblain, cicatrix, coarsen, cold sore, colophon, comedo, concavity, convexity, corn, crack, crater, craze, cyst, dactylogram, dactylograph, defacement, defect, deformation, deformity, dent, dilatation, dilation, dint, disfiguration, disfigurement, distension, distortion, dot, edema, embossment, eruption, eschar, excrescence, fault, felon, fester, festering, fever blister, fingerprint, fistula, flaw, footmark, footprint, footstep, fossil footprint, freckle, furuncle, furunculus, gathering, gnarl, granulate, gumboil, hemangioma, hemorrhoids, hickey, horripilate, ichnite, ichnolite, impress, impression, imprint, indent, indentation, indention, intumescence, keloid, kibe, kink, knob, lentigo, lesion, lump, milium, mole, needle scar, nevus, pad, papula, papule, paronychia, parulis, paw print, pawmark, petechia, piles, pit, pock, pockmark, polyp, port-wine mark, port-wine stain, print, pug, pugmark, pustule, rift, rising, rough, rough up, roughen, scab, scar, scratch, seal, sebaceous cyst, sigil, signet, soft chancre, sore, speckle, split, spot, sprinkle, stamp, step, stigma, strawberry mark, stud, sty, suppuration, swell, swelling, swollenness, thumbmark, thumbprint, track, tubercle, tumefaction, tumescence, tumidity, tumor, turgescence, turgescency, turgidity, twist, ulcer, ulceration, verruca, vesicle, vestige, wale, warp, wart, weal, welt, wen, wheal, whelk, whitehead, whitlow, wound
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