Whether you have problem-free skin or suffer from the odd break-out, almost everyone will experience a blemish in their lifetime. Blemishes can often make us feel self-conscious and leave us searching for ways to get rid of them quickly! If you suffer from the odd blemish, or are simply wondering how they’re formed, then we’re here to help. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about spot-related blemishes! girl touching face Source: Anibal Toro

What Are Blemishes?

  Blemishes are skin imperfections, usually caused when our pores become blocked. Blemishes come in many different forms, such as age spots and uneven skin tone. However, as we are focussing on spot-related blemishes, the main blemishes we will be discussing are: blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.


These are small, black or yellow bumps that are present on the surface of the skin. Blackheads are less visible to the naked eye than other spots, and usually gather on the nose and forehead. Blackheads develop when oil becomes trapped within the pores of our skin. When this trapped oil oxidises, it creates a black spot on the surface of the skin - a blackhead.


Papules are small, rounded red bumps on the skin, usually less than 1cm in diameter. They don’t have a whitehead and are usually red or purple in colour. Papules do not contain pus and tend to be painless. However, if they are scratched, they can open and become crusty, itchy, or infected. As papules are not deep lesions, they tend to heal quickly.


Pustules are raised bumps on the skin, which contain fluid or pus. They usually have a large whitehead and are surrounded by red, inflamed skin. Pustules vary in size, and are often painful. They can progress into deeper lesions, like cysts, and this often leads to scarring.


A nodule is a growth of abnormal tissue. They can develop just under the skin, resulting in large, red inflamed bumps. They are hard and painful, and are particularly prominent around a woman’s monthly cycle.


Not a cyst in the traditional sense, but a skin cyst - more commonly referred to as a ‘severe nodule’. A skin cyst is a large, inflamed lesion which is very painful to touch. They are fluid-filled, soft lumps that lie under the surface of the skin and are the most severe type of spot.

What Causes Blemishes?

  We know that blemishes are formed when our pores are clogged, but let's look at the reasons why we get blemishes in more detail.

Excess Oil Production

Pimples form as a result of oil production, clogged pores, bacteria and dead skin cells. The sebaceous glands within our pores secrete the oily substance, sebum. Sebum is good for the skin in small secretions, as our skin needs the oil for moisture and nourishment. However, when the glands secrete too much, dead skin cells on the surface of your skin begin to stick together, blocking the pores and forming blemishes. oil Source: Skitterphoto

Propionibacterium Acnes & the Immune Response

When pores become blocked, this can encourage the growth of a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). Our white blood cells work to try to kill off this unwanted bacteria. This then causes the skin to become inflamed and red blemishes consequently appear.

Make up

For many of us, when we see a spot developing, we instinctively reach for the heavy makeup to cover up. However, heavy makeup can end up clogging up more pores, resulting in more blemishes. Simple tips such as using brushes to apply your make up, rather than using your fingertips, will prevent transferring any bacteria from your hands onto your face. make up Source: Annca


When we become stressed, our body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Whilst cortisol is important in alleviating the effects of stress, when too much is produced it increases oil production in the body. This oil then tries to escape the body through the pores on your face, which clogs them up. This therefore results in blemishes and a bout of stress spots.


Hormones play a huge role in the appearance of blemishes. Sebaceous glands, which secrete sebum, tend to become slightly overactive during puberty. This means the chances of getting spots is increased when you’re going through puberty, and the reason why so many teenagers have acne. Blemishes also tend to be more frequent around a woman’s menstrual cycle. This is due to there being greater hormonal imbalances in your body, which lead to breakouts.


Papules and pustules in particular can be caused by consuming too much dairy. If you notice large, bumpy spots around your chin and jawline, it could be an indicator that you’re eating too much dairy than your body can tolerate. Your skin acts as an excretory system to get rid of things your body does not need, so when you eat too much dairy it is harder to digest and thus comes out in the form of red, angry blemishes. dairy Source: Pezibear

Touching Your Face

Touching your face throughout the day means you are transferring bacteria from your hands to your skin, leading to a greater chance of spots and blemishes appearing. We often don’t realise just how often we touch our faces, but paying attention to this and making a conscious effort to avoid it can help to reduce unnecessary breakouts! Whether they’re blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules or cysts, blemishes can be a real annoyance to your daily life. But, understanding the kind of blemish you’re dealing with, and how this has formed, can help when it comes to seeking treatment!