Pimples on the lip are often confused with cold sores (fever blisters or herpes), among other conditions that are characterized by swollen blister-like, acne-like zit appearances near, around and on your lips ( including on lip corners, side, upper, lower or even on the inside).
To make everything clear, let us start by doing a small analysis of acne vs. cold sores. This will ensure that immediately you get this problem, you know if it is a cold sore or just a normal zit. We will then look at the causes of and much more.
Cold sores, Oral Herpes (HSV-1, Herpes Simplex Virus-1)
- Lip pimples due to cold sores
Cold sores are “are small and somewhat painful blisters that usually show up on or around a person's lips, are caused by herpes simplex virus-1(HSV-1)” [kidshealth.org]. These painful fever blisters can show up on your lips, in your mouth, face, gum, chin, neck, mouth roof, throat, tongue, on your genital area among other parts of your body. If you have these sores on your genitals, they are caused by specifically herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2.
Some of the common symptoms of sores caused by oral herpes include “pain, burning, tingling, or itching occurs at the infection site before the sores, bumps, pimple-like lesions, or blisters” [emedicinehealth.com] appear.
Afterwards, you will have “clusters of painful blisters or vesicles erupt or ooze with a clear to the yellowish fluid that may develop into a yellowish crust” [emedicinehealth.com] and they will tend to quickly break down, become crusty and yellow.
You should definitely know you have cold sores if you have other symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, irritability and unexplained tiredness. Therefore, if you have acne like bumps and feeling sick, it might be herpes.
A normal pimple on lip (including acne or zits)
On the other hand, a lip zit “is a kind of a condition of the skin in which the dead skin cells and oil get stuck in the hair follicles, turning them into small reddish lesions [med-health.net]. Most people will tend to have a whitish tip, an indication they are filled with pus and/or are an inflamed hair follicle.
In most cases, they do not heal fast and there is a tendency of them reappearing again. You might also end up with some sort of marks or scars.
The pimples can be in your corner, inside, under the nose, upper, lower or on your lip line or inside the mouth.
If you are wondering whether it is possible to get a pimple on your lip, the answer is yes. In fact, many people often suffer from these zits at certain points of their lives. In some extreme case, they may be the ones that won’t go way no matter what they do!
In general, acne on a human body are caused by bacteria build up, hyperactive oil glands and hair follicle irritation as the dead skin cells are being shed off. So why would one have zits on their lips:
1. Hormonal imbalance
Hormonal imbalances during various stages of growth can cause acne including the ones on your lips. For instance, most women will have pimples on lips during pregnancy due to hormonal changes at this critical stage of their lives. Similarly, during puberty (especially in teenagers) there is a higher likelihood due to hyperactive glands and hormonal changes.
2. Sexually transmitted diseases
As seen already, contracting herpes, a sexually transmitted infection, can cause bump-lip pimples. However, you can easily know them since they will be in small clusters, have an ulcer-like look and be painful.
3. Skin type
Another possible reason could be your skin type. Generally, people who have oily skins have been found to be more prone to acne even on their lips compared to other skin types. Therefore, if you have an oily skin type, these could be the reason.
4. Inexpensive and low-quality lip makeup
Some of the inexpensive lip glosses, lipsticks, moisturizers, and balm have been associated with pimples on lips. Most of these products may contain harmful and low-quality ingredients which get absorbed into your skin. Furthermore, they “clog the pores on the skin surrounding your lips” [cosmopolitan.com]. This can promote bacterial build up and be behind your zits.
5. Allergic reactions
If you often develop zits each time you use certain lip care products, you might be allergic to some of the ingredients present. In addition, some people are allergic even to the finest products due to the ingredients they have.
6. Contaminated and expired lip care products
Using contaminated and expired lip makeup cancan be another cause. Once these products expire or get contaminated they can easily harbor some pathogens which can trigger and other infections.
7. Greasy, fatty and poor diet
Eating greasy unhealthy foods as well as a poor general diet can result to acne anywhere on your body. You are likely to develop acne-like pimples or even whiteheads on your lips because of such foods.
8. Personal hygiene
Just like body pimples, poor hygiene that might include not cleaning your lips after eating greasy foods (this can result in oil build up that will block pores including on your lip line). Ensure you also exfoliate them regularly
9. Medication that contains corticosteroids or lithium
People who use medications that contain corticosteroids or lithium tend to suffer from acne. These medications are thought to be behind the zits.
There are many other causes that affect some people while they do not affect others. Some of these causes include:
- Smoking – it has been observed that smokers tend to have this problem that nonsmokers
- Fluoride in toothpaste – some people react to fluoride in toothpaste and they may develop zits.
- Stress – some people complain of ‘pimples near lips that come when one is stressed’. They deserve to know that too much stress can also cause acne anywhere on the body.
- Harsh environment conditions and pollution
- Genetic factors in some people.
If you suffer from chronic pimples on your lips, some of the common causes will include the following:
We have included a few to help you see how they actually look like, one below and others at various sections.
One common area you are likely to have pimples is on your upper lip. They can be either be a cold sore or a normal acne (zit ). The symptoms are not different depending on whether it is cold sore or not. If big, it could make your upper lip to swell if it is big or if you try to pop (popping it then it does pop) or irritate it.
Other than the already discussed causes, other causes including those under nose are:
- Waxing – If you get it after waxing, it can be as a result of irritated hair follicles. However, if it happens after some time, it could also be due to ingrown hair.
- Threading – if you develop them after threading, this could be the cause.
- Lip piercing – if you have an upper lip piercing, an infection could cause a bubble. However, the bubble or bump will be on the piercing. This is due to infections.
The various ways we will discuss in the section on treatment sections will be helpful to deal with upper lip pimples. Quick fixes or home remedies you can try include applying toothpaste or a mixture of baking soda and water to help dry it out.
Many people have reported that Clearasil Night Cream is also very helpful. If it won’t heal, you should see a dermatologist.
Note: a can also be reddish in color i.e. a red pimple on lips and its causes include sores, cankers or acne,
It is possible to also have a pimple on your lower or bottom lip. Its causes are just the common causes we have seen. However, treading, waxing, and piercing could also cause them. Furthermore, it could be swollen, big, small or a cluster (if caused by herpes), depending on the causes.
Other common locations you might get pimples are near, around and at the corners or next to your lips. You can also have them on side of lip.
Causes are the usual ones we have already mentioned that include stress, STIs, hormonal changes especially during puberty and pregnancy among others.
These zits can also be painful, swollen, small or big depending on the cause. For instance, a cystic acne might be big, painful and it won’t pop easily. To manage them, you will follow the various ways we will discuss later in this article.
One common area that often has pimples is the chin and on the lip crease. Those on the chin are generally bigger, more painful and often pus-filled. They are as a result of the reaction of the excess sebum and bacteria on your skin. To get further details, see chin acne.
If you have pimples on your lips, they could be caused by cold sores, “canker sores, mucous cysts, oral lichen planus and inflamed papillae” [livestrong.com]. You will generally feel a pimple-like bump on inside mouth. They do affect toddlers, teenagers or even adults.
In terms of location, they can be on the surface of lip surface, on the corner, roof of your mouth, and on the inner surface of your cheeks.
On treatment, most of these conditions can heal on their own. However, you can also see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment especially for cases where they make it hard for you to eat, swallow or talk. Furthermore, in case it won’t go away and it hurts, treatment will be necessary to do away with the discomfort.
At times, you might end up with swollen lip from a pimple, especially if you have a very big one that is infected or if you tried to squeeze or pop it.
Swelling can also be aggravated by accidentally biting it or food touching it as you eat. Don’t be surprised if you end up with a fat lip.
Other than it being big, irritating it or you trying to pop it, another common cause of the swelling could be cystic acne which is normally very huge
Sometimes, you can have a swollen pimple not just on the lip but also on your chin.
To help soothe it, go for warm compresses, cold compresses and apply some toothpaste on it. It is advisable not to use some of the topical products which can be harmful if ingested. Finally, avoid licking or trying to pop it.
When compared to cold sores, they are not very painful unless you irritate or try to pop them unsuccessfully. However, it is normal to have “inflamed lesion you call a pimple” [livestrong.com].
If you have it hurts so bad, it could be cystic acne under your skin. This kind will always be very painful and any attempt to pop it will only make things worse. You are also likely to develop a scar if you attempted to forcefully pop it before it is ripe.
To soothe painful ones, try home remedies such as cold compresses, warm compresses and avoid touching or irritating it. If you have redness, you can try Neosporin to reduce it.
In terms of size, you can have a small or a huge one. If you have little pimples on lips that are clustered and any of the other symptoms of cold sores we saw earlier in this discussion, it could be an indication you have cold sores.
As shape.com reports, when you have cold sores “small groups of fluid-filled blisters will form, usually on the outer border of one of your lips. Eventually, these will pop, crust up, or form a yellowish scab”. However, a single small one that is not painful or not accompanied by other symptoms of cold sores might just be a zit.
A big pimple can be caused by an insect bite or ingrown hair. The other common cause is a hormonal imbalance. It is advisable not to mess up with it as it can get bigger and or swell. To soothe it, try applying cold compresses.
The most important part of this discussion is perhaps how to get rid of these pimples. As we look at treatments, will discuss various ways including home remedies that will be helpful. So, what do you do to these zits?
1. Careful choice of lip makeup
As seen previously, makeup can clog pores and cause acne. When choosing makeup, go for sheer lip glosses and those that have less pigment (less opaque brands). The more pigmented a brand is, the more likely it will clog air pores.
Furthermore, go for lip makeup whose main ingredients are olive oil and panthenol while you avoid coconut oil (it’s oily and can clog pores). Olive oil and panthenol are less irritating. The Kiehl's Light Lip Gloss is a perfect choice. Avoid any lipstick that will tend to encourage dust and dirt to stick with it or any that has ingredients you are allergic to.
2. Keep good lip hygiene and anti-acne products
Another way to get rid of lip pimples is to ensure you always keep them clean. After eating greasy foods, ensure you get rid of excess grease. Using a pad soaked with salicylic acid toner can ensure your lips are thoroughly clean. A good product to use after washing your face is Clear Blackhead Clearing Daily Cleansing Pads.
If you have stubborn ones that won’t go away easily, you could try using the various anti-acne products in the market as well as some medicated mouthwashes. It is also advisable that you do not use soap when cleaning them.
Creams containing 20 percent of azelaic acid and 5% benzoyl peroxide are good for acne. In addition, go for lotions and creams that have zinc as it helps fight zits.
Finally, avoid licking your lips since this can worsen the problem and ensure you also keep your bed sheets and you general environment clean. Do not put dirty mobile phones close to your mouth.
3. Lip scrubbing and exfoliation
Ensure you always scrub your lips to get rid of any dead skin regularly. Exfoliation can be done with any of the recommended exfoliators available in the market or homemade and natural ones.
An easy way to exfoliate them is gently scrubbing your lips after you have brushed your teeth. This will remove any dead skin whose accumulation can lead to acne zits.
4. Hot or cold compresses
A good home remedy is a hot compress. Take a clean piece of cloth, soak it in warm water and apply it on the part with a pimple. This will help soothe it and reduce its appearance especially if you have a swollen or one that hurts. At times, cold compresses can also be equally helpful.
5. Face care products
Some of the face care products might be affecting your lips and causing it to have zits. Try changing the face washes, lotions and soaps to see if the problem can go away. Cleanser with lavender oil, tea tree oil, and Arctium lappa can be of help.
6. Do not pop or squeeze pimples
If you are trying to get rid pimples fast, one temptation you are likely to get into is popping them. Do not pop them. This does not just apply to those on the lip (upper, lower or inner areas) but to all of them. Popped will only worsen the situation since they might spread bacteria and cause new breakouts.
7. Apply foods with alpha hydroxy acids
Another simple home remedy for zits on lips is to topically use foods rich in Alpha hydroxyl acids. Try to use citrus fruits such as grapes, apples, and oranges to help remove any dead skin as well as open any clogged pores on your lips.
8. Good diet and plenty of water
Always ensure your diet is rich in zinc, magnesium, vitamin A, and E as they can work well in reducing acne breakouts. Retinol, for instance, is rich in vitamin A and that is why it is used. Keep away from products that have caffeine and ensure you drink enough water. If you smoke, quit it.
9. Stress management
If you lead a stressful life, ensure you use various ways and therapies to manage it. Stress is also harmful to you in many other ways including generating free radicles that can cause early aging.
10. Try herbs
Some herbs and herbal medicated ointments can be of help. Get for herbs such as castor oil, eucalyptus, basil, and neem and apply them on the affected areas.
To be realistic, waiting for a pimple to disappear on its own is not easy. Popping is not recommended but it is a fact that some people cannot stand seeing that zit. I once tried popping it and it won’t pop because I did it so early. Wait until you see the yellow or whitish head. To pop it:
- Apply a hot compress for a minute to make popping easier
- Get two cotton swabs and gently start pushing them towards each other, one on either side of a pimple. Be gentle as you increase the pressure until the pus begins oozing out after the skin has broken.
- Continue squeezing until all the pus gets out. When you see blood, you can stop because it means all the pus has come out. Do not wash it immediately as this can cause irritation.
Note that if you pop it before it is ripe, you can end up with a scar that will take so long to disappear.
When to seek treatment
If in trying all the above, you do not see any signs of improvement, you need to see a dermatologist for further treatment and advice. This is recommended for individuals who have chronic pimples on their lips. Treatments such as vaporizing laser therapy can be ideal if you have chronic cases especially if one ends up with dark marks and spots.
References and sources