What Are Papules and Pustules?

The two most common types of inflammatory acne are papules and pustules. When a pore clogs and P. acnes bacteria multiply in the pore, the immune system reacts by sending in white blood cells to fight the infection. The surrounding area becomes inflamed, red and swollen. This is called inflammatory acne. It is different from blackheads or whiteheads, which are types of acne that are not characterized by redness and inflammation.
What Are Papules and Pustules?
Papules are small pink or red dome-shaped bumps that are easy to see on the skin. They have distinct borders and can appear in a variety of shapes, most often on the face. Sometimes these papules cluster together to form what looks like a rash and feels rough like sandpaper.

A pustule is the medical term for the classic pimple. Pustules are like papules except they are filled with yellowish liquid pus forming a yellow or white center. The pus is composed of dead white blood cells that were sent by the body to fight infection.

What Causes Acne Papules and Pustules?

Like most forms of acne, papules and pustules are the result of an increase in oil and bacteria trapped inside the pore by dead skin cells. Papules occur when the clogging causes a hair follicle to become inflamed. When this happens, the body’s immune system sends white blood cells to fight the infection. The pus develops when the white blood cells die and collect inside the papule turning it into a pustule.

How to Get Rid of Papules and Pustules

Getting rid of papules, pustules and all forms of acne begins with a daily skincare regimen that includes an acne active treatment. Many people can benefit from a daily, consistent acne treatment to help get rid of papules and pustules and prevent future breakouts.

Additionally, a few simple lifestyle changes can help control papules and pustules:
  • Do not scrub your skin during cleaning; be gentle.
  • Use warm, not hot, water and gentle soaps.
  • Avoid putting makeup or lotions on the affected area.

Papules and Pustules: The Bottom Line

Papules and pustules are the two most common types of inflammatory acne, or pimples. Both are red, inflamed bumps but pustules are filled with a yellowish liquid pus. Both papules and pustules react well to acne treatments containing salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

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