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Pimples – what are they?

From a dermatologist’s point of view the term pimple are meaningless. Some people use the term as a synonym for Acne. Other people use the term to refer to any red bump with a superimposed pussy area (pustule) or without a superimposed pussy area (papule).

What are Pimples

Pimples can be found in a long list of skin conditions. To confirm the diagnosis of Acne in someone presenting with “pimples” one or more of the following additional findings are required:

  • Black heads (open comedones)
  • White heads (closed comedones)
  • Scarring
  • Distribution of the pimples on the face, chest and back

So, if you have pimples, but none of the above findings, you probably do not have Acne!

35 thoughts to “Pimples – what are they?”

  1. Good day Dr Louw,

    I am a 34 year old male, I have had bad acne since I was young. I first used roaccutane for 6 months and it solved the problem for a few years. It then started to come back, I have used various creams, face wash etc etc.. My brother also suffers from the same thing acne on face head etc… I have been getting the “pimples” on my head too (painful), I had them on my back etc but that has cleared up. My brother used cyclidox which was prescribed to him, he gave me a few tablets to try and it worked, cleared up the painful pimples on all areas. He told me he recently changed to doxitab as he says it needs to be changed every two months to keep the acne away as using the same one for two long apparently becomes ineffective? I am concerned about using anti biotics daily to keep acne away, is there another way to clear it up? Or should I come and see you? Please advise on consultation fees too if possible.


  2. Hi Dr. Louw , my daugter have a skin problem if i diagnose it it could be White Heads closed
    comedomes. My daughter named Bianca 24 Yrs experienced this issue. Need you to e – mail me your Consultance fee as well as the cost on treatment for it , please.


    Johan Smit

  3. Hi there,

    I have four random small white heads on each cheek of my face and I don’t know how to get rid of them? not sure what products to use on the market for them.

    Please help

    Thank you

    1. Dear Whitney. If the white bumps are milia, they must be opened and removed surgically. If they are closed comedones then a retinoid containing cream will be a good place to start.

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