Acne vs. Pimples: Are they both the same?

Pimples, acne, zits, breakouts – none of these words bring joy to any teenager’s life, but understanding how they are caused is the first step in preventing them!

How Acne and Pimples start

We often use the terms acne and pimples interchangeably to talk about those unsavory breakouts troubling our skin. However, in truth, they are not the same thing.

If you’ve had your run-in with acne, then you might have noticed how different parts on your body show different varieties of acne and pimples – acne can have many varying symptoms, ranging from blackheads to cysts.

Before we quickly differentiate between acne and pimples, it’s important to understand how they actually start.

In general, acne and pimples are caused by clogged pores. Sebaceous glands – your skin’s oil producing glands – are linked with your pores and secrete oil to keep your skin hydrated.

However, when the sebaceous glands produce more oil than needed, dead skin cells and debris can mix with the additional oil secretion, causing excessive build-up. As you might imagine, this leads to a breeding sight for bacteria, which in turn, causes the swelling and redness you see with breakouts.

Some teenagers experience acne and pimples more than others after reaching puberty as an increase in androgen hormones (such as testosterone) cause the skin to produce more oil than necessary.

What causes pimples exactly?

From the moment you wake up, it’s understandable that you want to look and feel your best. But wait – what’s that pesky little thing right in the middle of your forehead?

Relax – this may be among the signs that you’re physically transitioning into adulthood, although that doesn’t make it any less distressing. Luckily, there are skin care regimens you can follow which we’ll recommend at the end of the article to help!

Pimples are a direct result of clogged pores becoming infected. That unsightly bump on your skin is because of a bacteria infestation, but there are steps you can take to remedy it, so don’t worry. Keep reading!

What causes acne exactly?

Scientifically referred to as acne vulgaris, acne typically occurs due to multiple breakouts on the skin. Whereas a pimple is a single infected bump, acne is when multiple pus-filled breakouts occur on the skin.

If you have been the victim of frequent breakouts, it’s probably safe to say that you suffer from acne.

But don’t worry, we have recommended specific and highly effective treatments for you towards the end of the article to help you keep that acne under control.

For now, it’s important to understand the varying types of spots caused by acne, which are:

Understanding different types of spots

There are generally 6 types of different spots you may experience due to acne:

Blackheads – These are small yellowish or black-looking bumps which pop up on the skin. They’re not dirty from the inside but look black because your hair follicle’s inner lining produces that colour.

Whiteheads – These tend to take a similar appearance to blackheads, although they are firmer to the touch and nothing will ooze out if you squeeze them.

Papules – Small red bumps which feel tender to the touch and often sore.

Pastules – These are similar to papules, but have a clearly visible white peak in the centre due to pus build-up.

Nodules – Large bumps which are hard to the touch and build up beneath the skin’s surface; they can be painful as well.

Cysts – The most severe spot due to acne; large, pus-filled lumps which resemble boils and can potentially cause permanent scarring. 

Here’s additional info on the different types of acne according to the NHS.

What is the key difference between a Pimple and Acne?

The key difference is that acne itself is a skin condition while a pimple or ‘zit’ is simply a symptom of acne. With that said, it can be far more daunting to deal with acne as it’s not something that you can simply pop or apply a solution and call it a day. It’s a specific skin condition which affects the skin’s hair follicles and oil-producing glands.

In addition, when we talk about pimples, we are referring to whiteheads and blackheads only.

Now, how severe your acne is will be the determinant factor in the kind of treatment you should undergo.

Acne severity is categorised as:

Mild – These include blackheads and whiteheads mostly, along with a few pustules and papules.

Moderate – Blackheads and whiteheads are more widespread, with a lot of pustules and papules.

Severe – Multiple, large and painful pustules, nodules, papules and/or cysts; there may also be visible scarring.

For mild acne, all you need to do is ask a pharmacist for some general advice. For moderate-severe acne, it’s always a good idea to speak to a GP. You can learn more about diagnosing acne symptoms here.

Some people only get a pimple or two every now and then, while others experience annoying breakouts with a fair amount of pus-filled pimples which can last several weeks at a time.

If the latter has happened to you, then you likely have acne. But the good news is you’re not the only one – acne is a common condition suffered by many people after puberty. The NHS suggests 95% of male and females between 11 and 30 years old are affected by acne at varying levels.

It’s also important to know where symptoms of acne typically show up. This includes:

  • The face – affects nearly everyone who has acne
  • The back – affects over 50% of people with acne
  • The chest – affects around 15% of those with acne

You can learn more about acne symptoms and other useful information here.

Treatment for Acne and Pimples

To get rid of a few pimples, you should make some lifestyle changes in order to keep your skin as oil-free as possible. This includes:

  • Washing your bed sheets regularly
  • Change out of dirty/damp clothes and gym clothes as soon as you can
  • Shower right after your workout or physically intensive activity
  • Keep greasy and processed foods to a minimum – (greasy foods don’t affect every one’s skin the same so see if it works for you)
  • Maintain a balanced diet full of natural, whole foods
  • Stay adequately hydrated

All of the above will prevent excess build-up of oil within your skin and keep the formation of pimples to a minimum. Furthermore, staying hydrated, getting out of dirty clothes right away and working out regularly will not only keep your skin healthy, but also give you a much needed confidence and self-esteem boost. Be sure to shower right after as sweating can irritate your acne.

Also, avoid touching your face with your hands unless they’re clean, and wipe down your phone regularly as it can be breeding grounds for bacteria.

Mild acne, on the other hand, requires a proper skincare routine which is why we recommend our 4-step clear skin regimen which includes washing, balancing and hydrating the skin:

  1. Cleanse and renew with our 2% salicylic acid Daily Foaming Gel Cleanser:

  • Unclog pores
  • Target spot-causing bacteria
  • Reduce excess oil

  1. Clear and rebalance with the Anti-blemish Serum:

  • Hydrate and renew
  • Target redness, size and appearance of spots and pores

  1. Reduce and soothe with our Rapid Action Spot Cream:

  • Quickly minimise the appearance of spots and pores
  • Moisturise and soothe to reduce redness

  1. Follow AM/PM routine:


Moisturise and protect with our Daily Defence SPF Moisturiser:

  • Blue light and broad spectrum protection
  • Target spot causing bacteria
  • Control shine


Moisturise and rebuild with our Nightly Refresh Moisturiser:

  • Refresh from daily skin stress
  • Even skin tone

Target signs of hyperpigmentation

Will squeezing cause pimples to go away?

It can be tempting to do this, but don’t. It won’t necessarily get rid of pimples or prevent them from popping up again. In fact, squeezing or popping your pimples can push the bacteria and pus even deeper into the skin, causing more swelling and redness. It can also cause acne scarring, which you want to avoid! Use a fast-acting spot cream instead.

How do I get rid of Acne and Pimples for good?

In addition to following the advice we’ve outlined for you throughout the article, follow this AM/PM routine each day:


  • Cleanse – Cleansing will help you get rid of acne-causing bacteria and unclog pores.
  • Serum – Use a lightweight serum so that it doesn’t clog pores and has active ingredients to moisturize the skin.
  • Spot Cream – Ideal for reducing swelling and redness, and preventing the formation of pimples.
  • SPF Moisturiser – Use at least an SPF30 moisturizer to keep your skin smooth and naturally radiant.


  • Cleanse – Same as above.
  • Serum – same as above, the night cream should be sufficient but if you want a booster then grab a serum.
  • Chemical Peel (1-3 times a week) – This will help keep those pores unclogged and prevent pimples
  • Night Cream (swap out for a sheet mask 1-3 times a week) – The perfect way to nourish and moisturize your skin as you sleep.

There – you’re all set. Stay carefree and classy!

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