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Why does pimple keep refilling?

Pimples are a common skin condition that affects many people, especially teenagers and young adults. They occur when pores become clogged with excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. After the initial pimple goes away, you may notice the same area continues to fill up with pus repeatedly, almost like clockwork. This can be frustrating and make you feel like the pimple is never going away for good. But why does this happen? Here are some of the main reasons pimples seem to keep refilling.

The Life Cycle of a Pimple

To understand why pimples refill, it helps to first understand the life cycle of a pimple. Here are the key stages:

  • A pore becomes blocked with oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells. This forms a whitehead or blackhead.
  • Inflammation occurs as the clog accumulates. This causes redness and swelling around the pore.
  • Pus builds up beneath the blocked pore as your body’s immune cells try to fight the bacteria. This results in a pimple with a white/yellow head.
  • The pimple resolves either on its own or with treatment. The clogged material drains out, and the inflammation goes down.
  • The pore may remain enlarged or scarred after healing. This makes it vulnerable to clogging again.

As you can see, once a pore becomes clogged, it is prone to clogging again unless proper treatment is applied. The cycle often repeats at the same spot.

Hormonal Fluctuations

Hormones play a major role in pimple breakouts. The androgens (male hormones) that increase during pubertycause the sebaceous glands in your skin to get larger and produce more oil (sebum).

Hormonal changes related to your menstrual cycle can also trigger monthly breakouts in the same area of your face. The week before your period, progesterone levels drop while testosterone increases. This leads to excess oil and clogged pores. Pimples may keep refilling around your chin and jawline each month due to these hormonal shifts.

Some other hormonal triggers include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Starting or stopping birth control pills
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Whenever your hormones are fluctuating, sebum production ramps up, setting the stage for recurrent pimples.


Some people are just genetically prone to getting pimples more than others. Your risk for chronic breakouts and refilling pimples is higher if acne runs in your family.

Studies show that hereditary factors account for 80% of acne cases. Your genetics regulate how sensitive your oil glands are to androgens. They also control how rapidly your skin cells turnover and shed.

Faster turnover leads to a buildup of dead skin that can clog pores. If your parents battled acne as teens, you are more likely to struggle with recurring breakouts in the same spots.


The main acne-causing bacteria is called Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes for short. This normal skin microbe thrives inside clogged follicles.

Even after a pimple goes away, some P. acnes bacteria remain deep inside the pore. This allows pimples to quickly form again once a follicle becomes blocked.

Certain strains of P. acnes are more aggressive than others. People with chronic acne tend to harbor higher levels of inflammatory strains. Killing off these bacteria with topical or oral antibiotics can help prevent pimples from refilling as fast.

Picking and Popping Pimples

Popping or picking at pimples can make them last longer and refill more often. When you squeeze a pimple, you push some of the clogged material deeper into the pore. This makes it harder to clear out the follicle and leads to further inflammation.

Picking can also damage the pore walls and cause scarring. Scars provide ideal hiding spots for P. acnes bacteria. The deeper a scar is, the more likely pimples will continue to reoccur.

Friction and Irritation

Friction and irritation from things like sports equipment, tight collars, backpacks, and cell phone use can instigate breakouts. Constant rubbing and pressure on the skin pushes debris into pores while also stimulating oil production.

Areas that are frequently touched and irritated often suffer from recurrent clogged pores and pimples. Changing out of sweaty exercise clothes promptly and cleaning your phone screen can help minimize this irritation.


High stress levels stimulate your body’s production of cortisol and other hormones that increase oil secretion. Stress also causes inflammation. These effects make existing pimples worse and more likely to refill.

Studies demonstrate a clear link between stress levels and acne severity. Exams, jobs, relationships, and other stresses can contribute to recurrent breakouts by altering your internal balance. Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation can help minimize stress-related pimples.

Poor Diet

Your diet affects your hormones, inflammation, and more. Eating lots of processed and sugary foods can worsen factors that contribute to repeat breakouts. Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread and potato chips, influence acne by:

  • Increasing insulin and androgen levels
  • Raising sebum production
  • Causing inflammation

A diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can improve your skin and prevent recurrent pimples.


Certain medications are linked to acne flares, including:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Testosterone and anabolic steroids
  • Lithium
  • Some anticonvulsants
  • Iodides
  • Bromides

Always read medication labels carefully. Talk to your doctor about potential acne side effects. Adjusting your prescription or dosage may diminish recurrent breakouts.

Not Clearing Out the Pore

When you treat a pimple, it is crucial to completely clear out the clogged follicle. Any trapped sebum, dead skin, and debris left inside can lead to another pimple.

Using acne spot treatments or extracting a pimple properly helps ensure the pore drains entirely. Follow up with a gentler product that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to keep the pore clear.

Moisturizing Too Much or Too Little

Proper moisturization keeps your skin balanced and pores clear. Using too much or too little moisturizer can actually make acne worse. Here’s how:

Too much moisturizer can lead to:

  • Clogged pores
  • Excess oil production
  • Bacteria growth

Too little moisturizer leads to:

  • Flaky, irritated skin
  • Increased oil to overcompensate
  • Damaged skin barrier

Figure out the right moisturizing routine for your unique skin. Focus on oil-free, non-comedogenic formulas if you are acne-prone.

Harsh Products

Many anti-acne products contain powerful ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, retinoids, and sulfur. While effective, these can also dry and irritate your skin if used incorrectly.

Overwashing and overusing certain pimple treatments can damage your skin’s barrier. This can cause more oil production and inflammation, leading to recurrent breakouts.

Be gentle with your skin. Start with lower concentrations and work your way up. Use additional moisturizer as needed to counter dryness from harsh acne medication.

Not Exfoliating Enough

Buildup of dead skin cells in pores is one factor that clogs them up. If you do not slough off this debris regularly, it mixes with oil and bacteria to create pimples that keep coming back.

Gently exfoliating 1-2 times per week can help prevent this blocked debris accumulation. Use a chemical exfoliant containing alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids. You can also try a soft washcloth, cleansing brush, or facial scrubs with soft, rounded beads.

Masks and Cosmetics

Oil-based creams, thick masks, and heavy makeup provide the perfect environment for trapping impurities in your pores. Cosmetics containing pore-clogging ingredients like coconut oil or cocoa butter are also problematic.

Avoid using greasy products. Check labels and steer clear of these acne-feeding ingredients:

  • Isopropyl myristate
  • Myristyl myristate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Lanolin
  • Dimethicone
  • Mineral oil

When possible, opt for oil-free, non-comedogenic makeup and skincare products designed specifically for acne-prone skin. Carefully remove all cosmetics before bedtime.

Infrequent Face Washing

Cleaning your face too rarely allows a buildup of oil, bacteria, dead cells, pollutants, and other pore-clogging substances. This fuels recurring pimples.

As a general rule, wash your face twice daily and after sweating heavily. Use a mild cleanser that removes impurities without stripping your skin. Change pillowcases regularly to avoid transferring dirt back to your skin.

Touching Your Face

Keeping your hands away from your face can help prevent recurrent pimples. Each time you touch your skin, you transfer dirt, germs, and oil. You also spread bacteria from one part of your face to another.

Break the face-touching habit by becoming more mindful. Keep your hands busy with activities like squeezing a stress ball when the urge strikes. Cleanse your hands and cell phones often.


Smoking causes your skin to age more rapidly. The carcinogens and heat from smoke destroy collagen and elastin while reducing blood flow. This leads to a loss of glow and firmness.

Tobacco smoke also increases inflammation and inhibits certain hormones. Together, these effects increase sebum production. Research shows smoking worsens acne, especially in women over 30.

Not Seeing a Dermatologist

Sometimes OTC products and home remedies aren’t enough to combat recurring cystic breakouts. See a board-certified dermatologist if you’ve tried unsuccessfully to clear acne for several months.

A dermatologist has the expertise, tools, and prescription medications to get to the root of your refilling pimples. After examining your skin, they can devise a tailored treatment plan. Follow-up visits help ensure you get the best results.

When to See a Dermatologist

Visit a dermatologist promptly if you experience:

  • Severe, painful cysts and nodules
  • Acne unresponsive to OTC treatments
  • Scarring or dark spots from past breakouts
  • Flare-ups before your period
  • Lingering pimples in the same area

Book an appointment as soon as possible if your acne is wreaking havoc on your self-esteem. There are many new medications that can stop pimples in their tracks when other methods fail.

Treatments a Dermatologist May Recommend

A dermatologist has access to both medications and procedures that can stop recurring pimples. Some treatments they may recommend include:

Topical prescription medications

Such as retinoids, antibiotics, dapsone, or benzoyl peroxide in prescription-strength concentrations

Oral antibiotics

Such as doxycycline or minocycline to combat bacteria

Oral contraceptives

For women, to regulate hormones and decrease androgen stimulation of oil glands


An oral medication that blocks androgen effects on the skin


A powerful oral retinoid drug for severe, scarring acne

Light and laser therapy

Using pulses of light to destroy P. acnes bacteria and reduce inflammation

Chemical peels

To remove outer layers of skin and unclog pores

Steroid injections

To shrink large, painful pimples quickly

Comedone extraction

Removal of blackheads and whiteheads with precision tools

Drainage and incision

Of severe cysts and abscesses to accelerate healing

With professional help, you can finally stop the cycle of recurring pimples. A combination approach often works best to clear pores and keep them that way.

Lifestyle Changes That May Help

Certain lifestyle adjustments complement medical and procedural acne treatments:

  • Take a daily probiotic supplement to improve gut health
  • Eat more fiber, vegetables, and antioxidants
  • Stay hydrated with water
  • Exercise regularly to reduce stress
  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night
  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake
  • Try relaxing activities like yoga and meditation
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure
  • Wear oil-absorbing face powder and cosmetics

A holistic approach enhances your ability to prevent recurring pimples. Be patient. It can take 3 months or longer to see major improvements.

Home Remedies That May Help

Although not scientifically proven, some natural remedies are thought to improve acne when used consistently:

Tea tree oil

Has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Use diluted.

Green tea

Contains antioxidants that fight inflammation. Apply used bags or drink it.

Aloe vera gel

Soothes swollen breakouts and heals damaged skin.

Apple cider vinegar

Has antibacterial effects. Mix with water and use topically.


Anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Apply raw organic honey as a mask.


Helps dry out existing pimples. Make a paste with water.

Fish oil

Rich in omega-3s that reduce inflammation. Take supplements.


Support healthy gut bacteria. Eat fermented foods like yogurt.


Important for wound healing. Eat zinc-rich foods like nuts and red meat.

The Takeaway

It’s normal for a pimple to occasionally reappear in the same spot. But when breakouts seem never ending, it usually indicates an underlying factor like hormones, genetics, or bacteria. See a dermatologist if OTC remedies aren’t working. Prescription-strength acne medication coupled with lifestyle changes offers the best chance of stopping recurring pimples for good.