A pimple, also called a blemish or a "zit," is a small swelling in the skin caused by a blockage of a pore. Recurrent or multiple pimples are termed acne. Many people view blemishes as unsightly, and try to avoid getting them, if possible. There are a number of ways to treat zits before they appear, and there are also some options for dealing with them after they arise. As is the case with any type of medical condition, severe or painful pimples should be treated by a doctor.
A pimple forms when dead skin attempts to slough off but cannot, because of a stoppage in the pores of the skin. Commonly such stoppages are caused by overproduction from the sebaceous glands, which normally work to keep the skin healthy. Dirt and infection in a pore can also lead to a blockage, which will cause a blemish. In some cases, the lesion may become filled with pus.
Many people want to instinctively pop a pimple when they see one. This is not actually advised, since it can drive the blockage and infectious material further into the skin, leading to painful infections and unsightly scars. Only whiteheads and blackheads should be popped, while pus-filled, red zits should be left alone. When a blemish is popped, or extracted, it should be done under sterile conditions, to reduce the risk of infection, and a dermatologist or aesthetician should ideally perform the extraction.
To avoid pimples, keeping the skin clean is the best step. Clean skin is less likely to erupt, since regular washing and the use of an exfoliant will remove built up dead skin and dirt. There may be some dietary changes which can be made to reduce blemishes, such as eating fewer fats and oils, although a clear link between diet and acne has not been established, and it may be different for different people. Avoiding stress is also a good way to reduce the likelihood of breaking out.
Once pimples emerge, they should be left alone and allowed to take their course naturally. In most cases, the lesion will heal after a few days. Try to avoid touching or irritating the zit, and use clean hands if you must touch it. Do not cover the blemish with makeup, as this can increase the severity of the blockage. If the lesion will not go away, or it gets larger, painful, or obviously irritated, see a dermatologist.