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How to get rid of a hard pimple

Hard pimples can be painful and long-lasting. They are some of the most difficult kinds of pimple to get rid of.

Most types of pimples form when dead skin cells, oils, or bacteria block a pore. Hard pimples, such as nodules or cysts, are often deeper and more inflamed.

In this article, we talk about how to treat and prevent hard pimples. We also look at different types of pimples and their causes.

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Moisturizers, lotions, creams and facial oils on slate background.
Cleansers and moisturizing creams may help to treat hard pimples.

Hard pimples can be more difficult to remove than other kinds, as they tend to be larger and deeper. They are often blind pimples, which means they do not have a head.

Depending on the severity of a pimple, a person may be able to treat it at home; sometimes a pimple requires medical treatment.

To treat a hard pimple at home, a person can use the following methods:

  • Creams and ointments. The American Academy of Dermatology recommend over-the-counter creams that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur.
  • Warm compress. A warm compress can soften the spot, allowing pus to come to the surface. It can help also help a blind pimple come to a head.
  • Ice packs. Using an ice pack is a good way to reduce inflammation and pain. Ice may be especially effective for hard pimples, such as nodules and cysts.
  • Cleansers. Some studies have found non-soap cleansers to be better at treating acne than traditional soap.
  • Tea tree oil. A study from 2007 suggested that, compared to a placebo, tea tree oil was 3.5 times more effective in reducing the number of acne lesions and 5.75 times more effective at reducing the severity of an outbreak.
  • Vitamin-based creams. The data on how well these products work is not conclusive, and the concentrations of active ingredients, such as retinol or zinc, can vary between products.

Some studies suggest that there may be a link between gastrointestinal (GI) health, acne, and depression or anxiety. The researchers suggest that taking probiotics may help.

Popping pimples at home should be avoided, especially when they are hard, deep pimples. Attempts to do this can:

  • make a pimple larger
  • increase inflammation
  • push pus and dirt deeper into the pore
  • increase the risk of infection
  • result in scarring

If a hard pimple is causing distress, a doctor can remove it safely and effectively. They may be able to drain it, or for deeper pimples, they may use a corticosteroid injection.


Man washing his face in bathroom sink.
Regularly washing the skin with gentle products may help.

Acne is typically caused by the skin producing excess oils and is not directly caused by poor hygiene.

However, keeping the skin and hair clean can reduce outbreaks and prevent all kinds of pimples from developing.

  • Regular washing. Use a gentle cleanser to keep the pores open, prevent build-up of dead skin cells, and help keep bacteria at bay.
  • Wash hair regularly. Regular washing is especially important if hair is naturally oily. Keeping hair away from the skin on the face can help reduce the frequency and severity of pimples.
  • Avoid touching the face. Frequent touching can spread dirt or oil and cause flare-ups.
  • Choose products carefully. Always read the labels on make-up and facial products, opting for gentle, oil-free brands. These are sometimes called noncomedogenic.


Many different elements influence the development and growth of a hard pimple, including:

  • Excess oil on the skin. When the body produces lots of facial oil or sebum, dead skin cells can stick together and block up the pores. This increases the chances of developing a hard pimple.
  • Changes in hormone levels. Increased levels of testosterone in men and women can trigger an increased production of sebum. This is common during puberty.
  • Bacteria. Once a pore becomes blocked by a combination of sebum and dead skin cells, it is easier for bacteria to enter and create a pimple.
  • Family history. Acne may run in families.
  • Medications. Some medications cause pimples or acne as a side effect.

For individuals who already have pimples, the following can make outbreaks worse:

  • stress
  • rubbing and chafing across affected areas
  • trying to pop or squeeze out existing pimples
  • rough scrubbing of affected areas


Woman with hard pimples on her face.
Nodules and cysts are types of hard pimples that form deep below the skin’s surface.

Types of pimples include:

  • Whiteheads, also known as closed comedones, do not break the surface of the skin.
  • Blackheads break the surface of the skin, which is why they are called open comedones. Their black appearance is not because of dirt but because of air reacting to the inside of a pimple.
  • Papules. These form when an infected skin pore or follicle is near the skin surface. Papules can be sensitive to the touch.
  • Pustules are similar to papules but are redder and contain pus.
  • Nodules are a type of hard pimple that can be large and painful. They form when an infected skin pore or follicle is located deep below the skin surface.
  • Cysts are found deep below the skin when a pus-filled membrane forms around the infection. They are likely to scar.


Pimples and acne are a common experience, with an estimated 80 percent of people aged 11 to 30 having an outbreak at some point.

In general, the outlook for individuals dealing with a hard pimple is good. The kind of pimples most people get tend to develop and disappear reasonably quickly.

Blackheads or whiteheads are typically considered to be mild acne. Nodules, papules, and pustules are regarded as moderate acne. Severe acne is when a person has tender, red nodules, which can be painful.

In more severe cases, scarring is possible. Scars can be flat and barely noticeable, or, if the connective tissue was damaged, create pockmarks, or indentations.

If at-home treatment has not worked within 4 to 8 weeks, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends visiting a dermatologist to find out the best course of treatment.

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