So you've got a pimple on your cheek. Days after stressing over that red bump, it finally disappeared. You were extremely happy, but the zit resurfaced again and again and again in exactly the same spot. Why does this happen?
While we know that pimples are caused by dirt, stress, and hormones, the case about why certain pimples keep turning up in the same place remains a mystery. So we decided to take the matter to a pro.
"Pimples have the tendency to recur. It occurs in areas with many prominent and active pilosebaceous (hair-oil) units—[like those in one's] forehead, cheeks, beard area, upper back, shoulders, chest," explains Dr. Michael Marc Maaño, a dermatologist in Skin MD Medical & Cosmetic Dermatology. "All pimples come from the pilosebaceous units of your skin. As one pimple heals, another pimple may form from the pilosebaceous unit next to it."
A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information adds that pimples don't clear up until the inflammation is gone. Therefore, you should not touch your pimple as it can push dirt and oil into those areas and lead to a new pimple.
Dr. Maaño agrees, saying if pores are plugged, the flow of oil to the surface of the skin will halt.
"Initially, little lumps (comedones) will form from the trapped oil pushing from beneath the skin. Eventually, bacteria will proliferate just like in a clogged canal," he says.
This may result in the formation of large, painful, inflamed, and sometimes cystic lesions. "Since pimples have several forms or degrees, it can recur as any one of these from black heads, to white heads, to papules, to pustules or cysts and may even become abscess."
Asked if a recurring pimple can go away for good, Dr. Maaño says both oral and topical antibiotics are needed to kill bacteria. He adds: "Once the lesions are not inflammed, maintainance with retinoic acid and keratolytics help remove remnants and help reduce chances of pimples recurring."
For more on this and other skin concerns, visit Dr. Michael Marc Maaño at Skin MD Medical and Cosmetic Dermatology.