Pimple on Lip: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prevention

Pimple on Lip: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prevention


A pimple is a type of acne that occurs when your pores get clogged with bacteria, resulting in a small, tender, raised bump on the skin that is sometimes filled with pus. Acne is a common skin condition and pimples can appear anywhere on your body, but many people experience acne on the face (including the lips). Certain foods and makeup products are common culprits of lip pimples, but treatments can help reduce their appearance and discomfort.

People often use the terms “pimple” and “acne” interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Dermatologists define acne as a skin condition that leads to breakouts on your skin. These breakouts can include pimples and other forms of acne, including whiteheads, blackheads, nodules, and cysts.

A pimple on your lip forms when a pore gets clogged with bacteria. The most common symptom of a pimple is a small, tender, raised bump on the skin. If the pimple is filled with pus, it’s called a pustule, but pimples without pus are known as papules. When a pimple develops on the lip, it usually appears on the skin surrounding the lip or at the corners of the mouth. Discomfort or irritation while eating can also occur alongside the pimple.

Pimples occur when your pores get clogged with dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil. As the oil sits in your pores, the bacteria start to multiply and cause inflammation. This inflammation then causes swelling, which encourages a pimple to develop.

Several things can trigger a pimple on the lip, including:

  • Using oil-based cosmetics or facial cleansers
  • Eating foods high in sugar or fat
  • Scrubbing inflamed skin with soaps and detergents
  • Exposing yourself to excessive sunlight
  • Touching your face too much
  • Not washing your face after sweating or intense exercise

Risk Factors

While anyone can develop pimples on the lip, some people may have a higher risk. These risk factors include:

  • Having a family history of acne
  • Taking certain medications like lithium, corticosteroids, and drugs that contain hormones
  • Undergoing hormonal changes (e.g., puberty, pregnancy, menopause)
  • Living with endocrine (hormonal conditions) like diabetes, insulin resistance, or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Experiencing high levels of stress
  • Being between the ages of 12 and 24

Most of the time, your healthcare provider can diagnose the pimple on your lip simply by examining your skin. There are no special tests or exams are needed. That said, if your provider suspects an infection is causing your lip pimples, they may perform a bacteria culture test—especially if the pimple has a lot of pus that doesn’t go away.

It’s worth noting that sometimes people see their healthcare provider for what they think is a pimple on the lip, but it is actually a cold sore. While lip pimples develop on the skin around the lip, cold sores appear on the lips themselves and cause additional symptoms like painful blisters and scarring. If your provider suspects the bump on your lip is a cold sore, they’ll take a sample of it and test it for herpes simplex virus (HSV), which is often the cause of a cold sore.

A pimple on your lip can be uncomfortable. Fortunately, treatments are available to reduce their appearance and numb any pain you’re experiencing. A dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin, hair, and nail conditions) may recommend the following treatments:

  • Home remedies: Applying a cold compress to reduce the swelling and numb the pain
  • Topical creams or gels: Using topical antibiotics such as Clindagel (clindamycin), trying treatments that contain retinoic acid or vitamin A, or taking prescription strength medications that involve benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or sulfur
  • Antibiotics: Swallowing oral antibiotics such as Sumycin (tetracycline), Monodox (doxycycline), or Erymax (erythromycin)
  • Hormonal therapy: Taking oral contraceptives (birth control) or Aldcatone (spironolactone)
  • Minor procedures: Trying chemical peels and dermabrasion (to remove scars) or photodynamic therapy (to treat acne with blue light)

Preventing pimples on the lip begins with a good skincare routine. Ideally, you should wash your face and the area around your lip twice a day with a gentle cleanser and warm water. But avoid washing your face too often, scrubbing too hard, or using harsh soaps or cleansers. Look for products that are alcohol-free and non-comedogenic (meaning they don’t clog your pores), and avoid using astringents and exfoliants.

Adopting lifestyle habits such as not touching your face often, using clean pillowcases, wiping down your phone regularly, and using unexpired makeup products can also help reduce the risk of lip pimples.

Generally, there are very few complications related to pimples. However, if you poke, pop, or frequently touch your lip pimples, you can increase the risk of infection, cause the pimple to become bigger, experience more pain, and encourage scarring.

There are some mental health complications sometimes associated with severe acne, particularly among teenagers and young adults. Studies show that people who experience several pimples may withdraw from social situations, have low self-esteem, experience embarrassment or frustration, and have a higher risk of developing depression. That said, getting treatment can reduce the appearance of pimples and improve emotional wellness.

It’s not uncommon to get a pimple on the lip. Pimples occur due to inflammation and bacteria that clog the pores. You may have a higher risk of developing lip pimples if you’re a teenager or young adult, have a family history of acne, or use irritating cleansers and cosmetics. Fortunately, treatments like home remedies, medications, and procedures can reduce the appearance of pimples and relieve any acne-related discomfort.

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