What Is The Difference Between Acne And Pimples?

It is common for the terms “acne” and “pimples” to be used interchangeably.

However, they have totally different meanings.

One of these words refers to a form of blemish while the other word refers to a skin condition with several signs, causes, and treatment options.

It is important to understand the nature of your skin so that you can manage the condition effectively.

Whereas non-inflamed pimples can be treated with over-the-counter treatment products, serious acne could require a visit to the doctor or dermatologist.

In this post, I’ve covered the following:

  • Acne and pimples – what are the differences?
  • Causes of acne and pimples
  • Symptoms of acne and pimples

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1. Acne and Pimples – What are the Differences?

The best way of distinguishing between pimples and acne is that the former is a symptom of a health condition whereas the latter is the condition itself.

A person with acne-prone skin is likely to have pimples as part of their health condition.

However, not every person who gets pimples has acne-prone skin. So, what is a pimple, and what is acne?


A pimple is an informal term that refers to open or closed comedones which are known as whiteheads or blackheads.

They are tiny, non-inflamed blemishes that take place when pores become blocked. Such types of blemishes usually occur in the epidermal layer closer to the skin’s surface.

Blackheads (open comedones) feature a core that is typically exposed to the air which gives them their oxidized, dark appearance.

On the other hand, whiteheads (closed comedones) feature a core that is typically covered with a thin layer of skin.

However, pimples can appear even to people with “normal” skin but they can be improved significantly with over-the-counter treatment options.


If you’re suffering from acne, you must be aware that this condition is persistent, serious, and usually more painful as compared to the occasional pimples.

Acne-prone skin is evidenced by recurring and persistent pimples that are accompanied by deeper and bigger lesions such as cysts, nodules, papules, or pustules that occur in the subcutaneous and dermal layers of the human skin.

Management of acne-prone skin could require over-the-counter medicines, oral medications such as tretinoin and antibiotics, as well as topical treatments that have been prescribed by a doctor or dermatologist.

2. Causes of Acne and Pimples

Acne-prone skin and pimples have several causes that are common but there are other causal differences that you need to take into consideration.

After all, the better you understand your skin concerns, the better you’re likely to pick the most effective treatment option for your skin.

Causes of pimples

Pimples are caused by several factors such as environmental pollution, excess oil (sebum), hormonal imbalances, diet, genetics, just to name a few.

They form when a person’s pores are clogged with ingrown hair, sebaceous matter, among other impurities.

Some bacteria could be involved but are not adequate to cause inflammation.

Causes of acne

Acne is caused by the majority of the causes of pimples, although other factors could lead to this long-term condition.

When pimples progress to acne, the condition is more likely to occur in people who have extensive production of excess sebum.

The reason? Sebum acts as a source of food to the bacteria that results in blemishes and therefore, more oil results in more inflamed lesions.

Additionally, people that have acne also have higher chances of having genetic predisposition or hormonal imbalances.

3. Symptoms of Acne and Pimples

Symptoms of pimples

The main symptoms of pimples are a shallow blemish that features a black or white head, but with no inflammation.

The blemish could either be minimally raised or flat as well as minimal redness, tenderness, and swelling.

If you notice worse symptoms than this, then you could have acne-prone skin.

Symptoms of acne

Acne is characterized by several pimples and inflamed lesions across a big area of the face, neck, or back.

The lesions are more raised and they are located deep in the epidermis.

You will also experience inflammation and redness.

However, the main differentiator between the two is the persistent nature of acne. Acnes are long-lasting and frequent.

What’s The Difference Between Acne and Pimples?

Pimples are typically the symptom of another health issue or lifestyle issue where as acne is an actual healh condition.