June 7, 2023

Lip Service: How To Get Rid of Lip Pimples

Using salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can help clear up breakouts near your lips

Closeup of pimple on person's lip.

Unfortunately, we’ve all had a pimple — maybe one that’s smack dab in the middle of your forehead or takes up residence on your nose.

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But what about one that creeps near the border of your lips? A pimple on lip lines is common and can be caused by irritating foods, lip products, sweat and stress. And they can be particularly painful.

How do you treat a lip pimple and are there things you can do to prevent one from forming?

Dermatologist Vickie Baker, MD, explains what you can do to keep those pimples on the lip at bay.

Why do I get pimples on my lip?

Like other pimples you may have dealt with, lip pimples are typically caused by clogged pores or inflammation. They may appear in the corners of your mouth or along your lip line. It could be a pimple on your upper lip or on your lower lip. You may notice a whitehead or a blackhead or it can even be a red irritated bump.

“Anywhere where you get a pimple, you have a hair follicle,” explains Dr. Baker. “So, the hair follicles can become inflamed or blocked for different reasons.”

Other pimples on lip line causes include:

  • Foods that irritate the skin on and around your lips.
  • Lip products like lipstick, lip gloss or lip balm.
  • Stress.
  • Sweat.
  • Dirt.

“You can also have an underlying condition like rosacea, which can cause little pimples around the lip area. This is known as perioral dermatitis,” says Dr. Baker.

And you may notice that lip pimples hurt more than other pimples. Why is that?

“There are a lot of nerve endings in the area,” explains Dr. Baker. “Your lips have extremely sensitive nerve endings and the skin in that area tends to be thinner.”

A common mistake is to think a lip pimple is a cold sore, but a cold sore is a cluster of small blisters that are filled with fluid. You may feel pain and a tingling sensation with a cold sore.

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How to get rid of pimples on your lips

So, what can you do at home to get rid of a lip pimple? Dr. Baker outlines your options:

Apply benzoyl peroxide

Whether it’s a cleanser, lotion or cream, try a skin care product that contains benzoyl peroxide. This popular ingredient found in skin care products can help unclog your pores, as well as kill bacteria lurking in the pimple.

Use salicylic acid

Dr. Baker also recommends looking for a skin care product that contains 2% of salicylic acid. The ingredient, used commonly to treat acne, helps with inflammation and dries out the pimple.

Try heat and ice

On the first day of your lip pimple, Dr. Baker says that applying ice or a cold compress to the area for about 10 to 15 minutes can help with any pain and swelling. You can also use a warm compress for about 10 to 15 minutes, which can bring more blood flow to the area and help it heal.

Consider prescription medication

If over-the-counter treatments aren’t working or you frequently get lip pimples, you may want to ask your healthcare providers for other options. Some prescribed options include oral antibiotics or prescription-strength topical medications.

Think twice about using natural remedies

Natural remedies like apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil may pique your interest, but Dr. Baker says to proceed with caution.

“There’s no real scientific evidence to back up those methods,” she states.

Apple cider vinegar may be antibacterial and tea tree oil may be anti-inflammatory, but Dr. Baker says both can irritate your skin.

Take preventive measures

Sounds like a no-brainer, but simple basic skin care can help you prevent a lip pimple from forming. Make sure you wash your face twice a day, taking care to clean the area around your lips. A gentle exfoliating cleanser can also help.

And if you’ve just finished a grueling workout, make sure you take the time to cleanse your face.

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Should I try to pop lip pimples?

The short answer? No, don’t pop a lip pimple.

“It usually just aggravates it,” says Dr. Baker. “When you try to push on something that’s very red and painful, you’re just going to make it worse because you’re putting more pressure on it and causing more inflammation. It can also spring a leak backward into the skin, which makes it even worse.”

If you do see a whitehead pimple on your lips, it may be easily extractable.

“If you use a warm compress and it doesn’t take much to push them up, that’s fine,” she says.

When to see a doctor?

A lip pimple may take up to two weeks to completely heal. And most lip pimples don’t require being seen by a healthcare provider.

But if you’re continually dealing with lip pimples or have one that keeps growing or stays the same size, you may want to talk to a professional.

“You might need an oral antibiotic,” says Dr. Baker. “We typically only do an extraction if it’s very superficial. But sometimes, the area needs to be lanced to remove any fluid building up in the lip pimple.”

Sure, a lip pimple isn’t pleasing to look at or deal with, but with some patience and the right at-home treatment you typically can take care of any acne near your lips on your own.

“If you’re not sure of the diagnosis, it’s best to see either your primary care physician or see a dermatologist,” advises Dr. Baker.

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