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Causes of pimples and what helps against them

Ursachen für Pickel und was dagegen hilft

Everyone knows them and nobody likes them: pimples, blackheads and impurities. The unwelcome companions affect some more, others less. But we all want to get rid of those annoying companions as quickly as possible.

This article shows how pimples develop, how to prevent them and what to do about skin impurities.

What are pimples?

Surely everyone has asked themselves what the meaning of the painful pustules on the skin is. Actually, pimples seem pretty unnecessary to us. In fact, pimples and blackheads are an attempt by the body to protect itself against uninvited invaders such as bacteria and other pathogens .

There are countless small hair follicles and sebaceous glands on the skin of the human body. These secrete an oil that we call sebum , which is supposed to protect the skin and hair from drying out. When these sebum glands become clogged and the sebum can no longer drain freely, bacteria accumulate in the pores. The body wants to get rid of them and fights the pathogens with an inflammatory reaction - and pimples appear.

The pores in the so-called T-zone , i.e. in the forehead, nose and chin area, are often affected by pimples and blackheads, as the skin produces more sebum in these areas.

Pimples or Blackheads?

What is the difference between a blackhead and a pimple? A blackhead, also called a comedon, is the precursor to a pimple, so to speak. When the pore is already clogged but not completely closed, the mixture of sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria inside oxidizes. As a result, the typical dark gray to black blackhead develops.

Pimples only develop when the skin pore is completely closed and the body triggers an inflammatory reaction due to bacterial colonization. The surrounding skin around the blackhead becomes irritated and reddened, swells and pus gradually forms that cannot drain.

Causes and possible diseases

The possible causes for the formation of blemishes are numerous. Therefore, the search for the trigger of the pimple outbreak often leads to frustration and despair among those affected.

Many people who suffer from pimples also believe that the predisposition to blemishes is already in their genes. Indeed, it cannot be ruled out: Experts have found that the basic predisposition to acne is hereditary . This affects, for example, the condition of the sebaceous glands. However, the genetic predisposition only increases the basic probability of the occurrence of impurities - other causes and favorable factors are responsible for the development itself.

In order to get rid of the annoying companions, it is important to know the exact cause. The most common factors that promote skin imperfections are listed below.

environmental influences

Environmental influences such as UV radiation can have a negative effect on the complexion. Excessive UV radiation not only leads to premature skin aging and skin cancer, but can also promote the development of acne by clogging pores.

A high level of air pollution can also have a negative impact on the skin. Air pollution stimulates sebum production and causes the skin to become oilier. In addition, the natural protective layer of the skin oxidizes and hardens due to fine dust - as a result, the pores become clogged and blackheads form.


Psychological factors such as stress or too little sleep can also lead to the appearance of blemishes. The stress hormone cortisol has a stimulating effect on the hormone testosterone, which in turn increases the production of the oil glands.

A vicious circle is the result: the acne itself leads to a high level of psychological stress for the person affected and intensifies the symptoms further. This interaction makes it particularly difficult to combat psychological acne.


Certain medications can irritate the skin and promote breakouts. This includes, for example, drugs such as steroids , hormone pills such as the birth control pill, but also drugs such as anticonvulsants or lithium . The intake of glucocorticoids for rheumatic diseases as well as the intake of psychotropic drugs or neuroleptics are also possible triggers for acne.

food and nutrition

What the body eats has a major impact on skin health. Above all, carbohydrates such as pasta, sugar and white bread promote the production of hormones that stimulate sebum production. Dairy products can also be a potential blemish trigger, as can hot spices. Excessive consumption of alcohol and fast food are also suspected to worsen acne.

skin care products

Proper skin care is crucial in preventing and treating breakouts. The following mistake is often made: combination skin and impure skin in particular have both oily skin areas and dry skin areas. Therefore, particularly rich care and cleaning products are used that clog the pores and thus have a comedogenic effect.

Non-comedogenic care is essential if you have a tendency to breakouts. The following ingredients should be avoided:

  • Fatty oils like coconut oil, olive oil, or cocoa butter

  • vaseline

  • mineral oils and paraffins

  • Oleth-3

  • Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol

  • isopropyl myristate

  • fragrances and perfume

  • Alcoholic ingredients

By the way: A lot of care does not always mean that the skin benefits from it. When it comes to breakouts , less is often more. Frequent changing of products also causes stress for the skin and can irritate it.

hormonal fluctuations

Pimples are typical of phases of life with particularly large hormonal changes, such as puberty . However, hormonal changes such as pregnancy , stopping birth control pills and the onset of menopause can also trigger breakouts in adulthood.

In times of hormonal upheaval, the natural balance between male and female sex hormones is disrupted, which in turn leads to increased production of the skin's own oils . In addition, increased production of male sex hormones leads to keratinization of the top layer of skin . This in turn promotes the clogging of the skin pores with sebum and dead skin cells, resulting in blackheads. These offer an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and thus develop into inflamed pimples.

Possible diseases

Chronic skin conditions like rosacea can increase susceptibility to breakouts and pimples. But other diseases also bring pimples and impure skin as accompanying symptoms. These include, for example, osteoporosis , PCO syndrome , testosterone deficiency or cysts .

Diseases of the intestine or liver can also have a negative effect on the complexion. These diseases can often only be diagnosed based on the changed appearance of the skin - because the skin is often the first to react when internal diseases are present.

Importance of skin areas

Our skin says a lot about our health. The localization of skin blemishes can provide information about the cause behind it - and which organs in the body are affected. There are typical areas that are particularly often affected by impurities and pimples.


Pimples at the hairline are common in people who wear bangs. This is because sweat, dead skin cells and residue from styling products are deposited on the skin and clog the pores.

Pimples and blemishes on the forehead can also be a sign of an unhealthy diet : Excessive alcohol consumption, lots of red meat and saturated fatty acids unbalance the skin and cause excessive sebum production.


The area between the eyebrows is part of the typical T-zone , in which a particularly large amount of sebum is produced. But there can also be other causes behind impurities at this point: A greasy diet and alcohol consumption put a strain on the liver and can promote the formation of pimples between the eyebrows.


Even if they don't catch your eye directly: pimples on the temples are not uncommon and can be particularly painful because the skin in this area is very sensitive. The cause is often deposits from cleaning products, make-up or unwashed pillows. As with the hairline, hair can also cause sweat to collect here and clog pores.

pimples on the forehead

The forehead is also in the famous T-zone and is therefore often affected by pimples and impurities. The particularly large number of sebaceous glands means that the skin here is particularly sensitive to stress and imbalance.


Blemishes on the cheeks can indicate an overconsumption of sugar, dairy products and red meat . However, the cause can also lie in hygiene : Bacteria accumulate on pillows in particular, as well as on smartphones. When making a call, we hold the mobile phone to our face and spread dirt and pathogens on our cheeks.

chin and mouth area

Pimples and impurities on the chin and in the mouth area usually indicate a hormonal imbalance . Especially in times of hormonal changes, for example during puberty, menopause or pregnancy, pimples can appear on the chin. This is because the hormonal fluctuations encourage overstimulation of the sebaceous glands. Many women also experience impurities in this area during their periods.

In addition to hormonal causes, there can also be other reasons behind the pimples: Masks , i.e. mouth and nose protection, but also stomach and intestinal problems are possible triggers. The chin crease is also prone to the accumulation of dead skin cells and make-up residues.

neck and cleavage

The skin on the neck and décolleté is particularly sensitive and reacts quickly to external influences. Wearing perfume, for example, is often enough to trigger blemishes. Sweat that collects in the skin folds and blocks the pores can also cause pimples here.

What helps against impurities?

Even if you get a different impression in times of social media, glossy pictures and advertising: very few people have clear, flawless skin. Instead, everyone struggles with breakouts from time to time. Normally, these can be managed with small tools and a change in eating and living habits.

grooming routine

The right care routine for the respective skin type is the be-all and end-all for clear, healthy skin. Skin care should be carried out carefully both in the morning and in the evening - and regularly.

  1. The key element of clear skin is regular, thorough cleansing . Cleansers that are as mild as possible should be used, which do not irritate the skin and are adapted to the pH value of the skin.

  2. A mild toner helps to remove the last residue of make-up and excess sebum and create a perfect base for care.

  3. A mild peeling can be used twice a week in the evening to remove excess sebum. However, peeling should not be used more often, as it can quickly irritate the skin.

  4. A light, moisturizing day care product and a slightly richer night time product are necessary to keep the skin moisturized and nourished so that it does not produce excess sebum to prevent it from drying out.

  5. Certain serums with effective ingredients can extend the care and provide the skin with important nutrients. Attention: The same applies here: less is more.

  6. Last but not least: During the day, the care routine should always include sun protection - even in the winter months. Special care should be taken to use a light, non-comedogenic product, as sunscreen can quickly clog pores.

The right selection of the products is not so easy in the abundance of possibilities. Basically, the following applies: For skin that is prone to impurities , oil-free water-based products that do not further clog the pores are particularly suitable. The following ingredients are suitable for care and cleaning products to combat impurities:

  • Antioxidants such as vitamin C and niacinamide have an antibacterial effect, protect the skin from environmental influences and prevent inflammation.

  • Fruit acids such as AHA (glycolic acid) and BHA (salicylic acid) regenerate the skin and allow blocked sebum to drain away.

  • Mild moisturizers such as hyaluronic acid or aloe vera moisturize and balance the skin without weighing it down or clogging the pores.

  • Anti-inflammatory active ingredients such as zinc and chamomile can be applied to blemishes in the form of pimple pastes, for example, and significantly speed up the healing of pimples.


The connection between a healthy gut and healthy skin is clear. Therefore, for clear, beautiful skin, a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables should be the order of the day.

Sufficient fluid intake is also crucial: the body needs at least 2 liters of fluid a day to be able to supply the skin with sufficient moisture and successfully fight inflammation.

reduce stress

The following applies: enough sleep, targeted relaxation and sufficient exercise are the be-all and end-all for beautiful skin. Stress factors should therefore, as far as possible, be banned from everyday life - or at least reduced.

Even if it is difficult - in order to break the interaction between the development of pimples and stress, it is important not to let blemishes stress you out. Targeted relaxation exercises and a loving treatment of oneself and the body help to bring the body back into balance and to improve the complexion.

What makes blemishes worse?

Too frequent and aggressive washing of the skin destroys the protective acid mantle and can worsen the blemishes. Instead, the skin barrier should be strengthened so that the body can fight inflammation itself.

Oil-based care products that are too rich make blemishes worse by clogging the pores. This not only applies to care products, but also to wearing make-up . Many decorative cosmetic products contain irritating ingredients such as perfume and clog pores. When buying new products, you should always pay attention to the note "non-comedogenic".

Another mistake many acne sufferers make is poor hygiene . Towels, bed linen in particular, but also smartphones are considered to be bacteria catapults that promote inflammation in the face. Regular washing and disinfection can prevent this and help prevent the pimple-promoting bacteria from spreading further.

Last but not least: An unhealthy lifestyle also leads to unhealthy, impure skin. Above all, greasy foods, little exercise and stress can cause or worsen blemishes.

Should you pop pimples?

When it comes to fighting blemishes, the most important rule is to keep your hands off your face.

Squeezing pimples can promote the development of further inflammation and scars . Instead of doctoring around on your face and spreading the bacteria further, you should therefore trust the experience of an expert and consult a beautician or doctor who will professionally remove the pimples and blackheads.

When should you see a doctor?

While many people experience pimples and blackheads from time to time and will heal on their own after a while, hormone-related acne is considered a condition that requires appropriate treatment by a doctor. But how do you recognize acne?

In the case of acne, the ducts in the skin pores narrow so that the viscous sebum accumulates and cannot escape to the outside. As a result, many painful pimples appear, which in the worst case can develop into boils or abscesses. If acne is not treated properly and promptly, visible acne marks and scars can remain.

If impure skin, blackheads and pimples appear over a longer period of time and across the board, a doctor should be consulted in any case. Likewise, if large lumps, blisters or other skin inflammations develop.

How can the doctor help

The dermatologist will first make a comprehensive diagnosis and ask for the details of the acne history. Information about lifestyle, diet and medication is also collected. In this way, an initial assessment of the cause of the impure skin can be made and the appropriate treatment can be adapted accordingly.

In some cases, the doctor will also take a swab from the inflamed pimples to identify the acne-causing bacteria. A blood test can also help to detect hormonal imbalances.

Dermatologists now have a wealth of products that can help with acne. However, some of them contain aggressive ingredients that should only be used under strict medical supervision.

The doctor usually prescribes a combination of different substances, which is selected according to the severity and form of the acne. For example, locally acting antibiotics are used in combination with vitamin A acid , for example in the form of isotretinoin. Benzoyl peroxide , azelaic acid , and salicylic acid are prescribed in the form of creams and body washes and help break down the calluses and kill bacteria.

Doctors sometimes prescribe hormonal contraceptives for acne during puberty. These help to regulate the excess of male hormones and bring the skin back into balance.

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