To rip off the Lion King, everything around us takes part in the circle of life. We are born, we live, and then we pass on to whatever lies after Earth. Butterflies, dogs, people, and everything in between all play a role.
Similarly, pimples have their own little life cycle. Though, I would probably compare them more to something annoying like a mosquito or some sort of fly buzzing constantly next to my ear but slightly out of eyesight.
How long does it take for a zit to form? Oddly enough, the formation of a pimple can start weeks or even months before you notice the bump on your face. Your pores are constantly filled with bacteria, both good and bad.
How Quickly Can a Pimple Form?
In healthy, unclogged pores, the constant flow of oxygen works to prevent any one bacterial type from over growing and causing inflammation. When your pores become clogged, the oxygen can no longer reach the deeper parts of the area, allowing bacteria to flourish. This is why clogged pores and acne typically go hand in hand; when your pores are clogged up you are more susceptible to bacterial breakouts!
So, how exactly do pores become clogged? Your skin produces oil at all times. This is natural and healthy; your skin should have some moisture to help prevent microtearing and other types of damage that could create entrance ways for invading, acne causing bacteria.
How Do Pimples Start?
When your face begins to produce too much oil, either due to hormonal, dietary, or a plethora of other reasons including intense products leaving the skin feeling stripped, the oil sort of clumps together with dead cells to form a mass.
This creates a blockage that prevents oxygen from entering the pore or dead cells from exiting, resulting in a breeding ground for bacteria.
How long does it takes for a pimple to form a head? From there, bacteria begins to spread rapidly. Some types can double every twenty to thirty minutes! Seriously, that is an insane number. It starts at one cell and within a day will be exponential, literally.
As the bacteria grow in number, they begin to cause an infection to form. The skin of the pore becomes irritated and bacterium begin to work into the microtears that result from the irritation. The infection grows and causes the skin to begin to swell; once it reaches a certain point the skin will begin to rupture, creating a painful papule. For the first time, your zit will be truly visible.
Before this point it was just maybe a spot of redness or random tenderness.
This alerts the immune system, which begins sending an army of white blood cells to the area. The white blood cells begin to fight the infection and, as they die, begin filling up the papule with pus, creating something called a pustule.
This is what we call a “whitehead” and so commonly squeeze, poke, prod, and pop.
If you resist these urges, the infection will likely subside on its own and the swelling will go down. The head of the pustule will become a small scab then flake off, leaving a discolored spot that will eventually go away due to your facial cell turnover rate. If the zit does not go away and the infection persists, a trip to the dermatologist is in order.
If you just cannot help but squeeze a pimple when you see one, there are some tips to make it a little less risky. Popping a pimple can cause the pus and bacteria to go deeper into the pore, prolonging the duration of the breakout.
It can also spread the bacteria to other microtears within the skin, starting the process anew in a different area. If you are going to pop a pimple, do so with clean fingers and wait a day or two after you first notice the spot to give it a squeeze.
This will reduce your risk of sending the bacteria back down into your pore and help you get it all out. Once the whitehead appears, give it a good squeeze with clean hands and make sure you get all of the insides out.
Follow up with an acne treatment of your choice to keep the bacteria at bay and kill any bits left inside of the zit. Please understand that squeezing a pimple does increase your risk of permanent or semi-permanent scarring; if you leave it alone you will likely see better results.
It is important to note that not every pimple will take the same route in formation. Sometimes the bacteria causing the zit will be more potent and will seemingly cause the bump to form overnight. Other times the spot will take forever to reach the surface then, once it becomes a pustule, it will disappear without a trace in just a couple of days.
Your skin’s healing timeline will depend heavily on your immune system. If you frequently have acne breakouts, taking a probiotic or basic vitamins will give you a bit of an immunal boost to help combat any bacteria invaders. Many people swear by immune boosting supplement blends, as well.
All in all, there are many factors that contribute to the formation, duration, and termination of a pimple. Your own hormones, diet, immune system activity, and a ton of other factors all have to be taken into account in figuring out your own skin blemish timeline.
If a zit is particularly stubborn, consider seeing a dermatologist to get an antibiotic prescription or some advice to help clear up the spot. Breakouts do not have to be a massive pain; if you need help, feel free to seek it! There is no reason a zit has to hang around when you do not want it to.
How long does it take for a pimple to go away? Generally it take a bit less than a week for it to fully go away.