Your face is a common acne spot, even though pimples can show up in other places, too, such as on your shoulders, neck, back and chest. Some pimples are small and unobtrusive, but many are noticeable bumps that can be red and inflamed. You may even experience pain if you touch certain pimples. Some of these red, painful blemishes need special treatment to avoid scars.
Pimple is a general term for acne-related skin lesions that take many forms. The most minor pimples are called blackheads and whiteheads, and they stay mostly below the skin's surface, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Both involve blocked pores, but the blockage is only partial with a blackhead, resulting in a dark spot capping the pimple. A whitehead is a complete blockage. Papules and pustules are larger, red pimples that are tender to the touch, and pustules have pus inside. Nodules and cysts are more severe. They are big, red, hard and painful, and cysts often scar without medical attention.
Red, painful pimples result from inflammation. All acne forms because skin oil, also called sebum, mixes with dead skin cells, which are naturally shed by your face and body, and fully or partially blocks your pores. Bacteria joins the mix, sometimes resulting in inflammation that makes pimples red and sore. You cannot completely prevent pimples. They are a natural part of adolescence due to hormones and sometimes persist through adulthood. You can keep them from getting infected by not touching, picking or roughly scrubbing them, even if they itch or hurt.
Most pimples are treatable with store-bought products, even if they are red and tender, although severe acne cysts need medical attention. Salicylic acid, sulfur, resorcinol and benzoyl peroxide are all popular, effective acne cream ingredients. Stubborn papules, pustules and nodules should respond to prescription creams or antibiotics, and doctors can inject cysts with cortisone to relieve the pain, improve their appearance and reduce scarring risk.
Pimples can get red and sore if they get irritated by washing them roughly and using harsh cleansing products or wearing helmets, headbands and other items that rub against the affected skin. Backpacks and other tight accessories or clothing can irritate acne on your body if the items rub on your skin lesions. Leave mild pimples alone, other than washing them gently with plain water and applying appropriate treatments, and make sure nothing causes friction that might irritate and worsen them.