Pimple or Cold Sore: Difference, Causes, Prevention, And Treatment

Pimple or cold sore
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It is hard to notice anything brewing under your skin until the bump shows up, leaving you wondering if it’s a pimple or cold sore. You reach for a tissue, or you scratch the spot and notice something is wrong: It looks like there’s a blackhead on your lip.

It could just be a pimple, but it’s also possible that this isn’t a pimple. So how do you tell the difference between those two things? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between a cold sore and a pimple. The two are often mistaken for each other because they share similar symptoms.

A cold sore is usually red, swollen, and painful with a white or yellowish crust. A pimple is typically red, swollen, and sometimes painful, with pus or fluid at the top of the skin. You see, they are also quite similar. So is it a pimple or a cold sore read on to find out?

What Causes a Pimple?

A pimple is a skin infection caused by bacteria. The bacteria can get into the pores and cause an infection. Spots are standard on the face, neck, and chest. They are often red and painful.

What Causes a Cold Sore? The herpes simplex virus causes a cold sore. Cold sores are more common in the mouth and may be found on the lips or around the mouth.

It can get contracted through contact with someone who has it or through kissing someone who has it. Cold sores are contagious when they’re active, but they’re not infectious when they’re not engaged or after they heal up.

When you have a cold sore, your lips might become tingling and itchy. Some people experience flu-like symptoms before a full-blown outbreak of sores.

If you spot a pimple before anything else happens with your skin (for example, if you notice that it’s inflamed), there’s likely no cause for concern. However, suppose your pimple appears after other symptoms have already begun like redness or swelling.

In that case, this could indicate that something else is going on with your body—and those other things might require medical attention.

Cold Sores Vs. Pimples: How They Look, Causes, & Treatment
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What is the Difference Between a Pimple or Cold Sore?

A cold sore is a small, painful blister on the lip or around the mouth caused by the herpes simplex virus. It can be spread from person to person through kissing or sharing food, utensils, or drinks.

They are generally red but can also be white or yellowish-brown depending on what part of the body was exposed to sunlight. Cold sores can also change colour when active before spreading elsewhere due to scratching or flaking off dead skin cells, which may cause discolouration if left untreated.

A pimple is a red spot on the skin. Pimples are usually caused by oil and dead skin cells blocking hair follicles and pores. If you have a pimple on your face, it will look like an extra bump on your skin.

Abscesses are usually round or dome-shaped, while cold sores look like small bumps on the skin that may also hurt when touched by others (or yourself). It can be challenging to tell the difference between a pimple and a cold sore, and sometimes it is hard to know which one to treat.

Here are some tips to help you determine the difference and treat each appropriately:

1. To tell the difference, look for redness around a pimple or hive-like activity near a cold sore.

2. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 or a few other conditions.

 The best way to tell if it’s a cold sore or pimple is to look at it closely. A herpes sore looks like a cluster of liquid blisters that may ooze fluid when touched. It is pretty difficult to differentiate between a cold sore and acne.

Cold sores usually appear on the lips, nose, and chin. Acne usually appears on the face and around the neck. If you are unsure whether it is a cold sore or pimple, you can apply pressure to the area with your fingers for 10 seconds, and if there is no pain, then it’s probably not a cold sore.

How can you Prevent Pimples? 

Acne can be a frustrating condition, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are a few things that you can do to help prevent pimples from forming in the first place. Firstly, keep your skin clean and dry.

This will help to prevent the formation of acne-causing bacteria. If a pimple forms, treating it as soon as possible is essential for optimal results. Some people also find success using over-the-counter acne treatments, but these won’t cure the acne – you’ll need antibiotics if it’s fungal acne.

If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, acne treatment products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can help. However, these treatments won’t prevent pimples from returning in the future – you’ll need to continue using them every time you get a new breakout.

Finally, a few natural remedies can help break the acne cycle and restore skin. 

What do Cold Sores and Pimples Look Like? 

It can be tough to determine whether you have a cold sore or pimple. Both lesions look similar, and it can be challenging to decide which. Here are a few key differences to help you make the proper diagnosis:

-Pimples tend to be raised and typically have a whitehead or pus discharge at the centre.

-Cold sores will crust over and may appear as an open sore with yellowish skin surrounding it.

-Pimples may heal faster than cold sores, but both lesions are treated with lidocaine cream, or ice packs applied several times per day until the lesion heals (usually within four days). 

Should I Pop my Cold Sore, Good or Bad Idea?
source: StrutBlog

Tips to Getting Rid of Cold Sores 

Treatment involves taking the medication regularly and often applying topical treatments like creams or ointments to help heal quickly. You can also cure HSV-2 infections with medications that block the virus from spreading to other body parts. 

Apply a topical cream or gel 

The most effective way to heal cold sores is by applying a topical cream or gel. To do this:

  1. Rinse the area each time with warm water and soap, and dry it off completely.
  2. Avoid touching the sore directly – only feel it if you put on a fresh layer of cream or gel.
  3. Follow these simple steps religiously, and you’ll be on your way to healing your cold sore quickly and easily.

Use a humidifier 

A humidifier to keep your mouth and nasal passages moist. This will help to prevent dehydration and other complications from the virus. If you’re suffering from cold sores, try using over-the-counter wipes or solutions that contain benzoyl peroxide. 

Drink lots of fluids 

Drink plenty of fluids to flush the virus out of your system and speed up the healing process. And finally, try green tea, cranberry juice, or water with lemon for a refreshing drink that will help clear your throat and boost your immune system. 

 You should also avoid sunlight and acidic foods, which can aggravate the condition. Lastly, avoid using toothpaste on the affected area, as it can increase the number of cold sores. Drink plenty of fluids to reduce swelling and moisture levels, which might lead to more cold sores forming in future outbreaks. 

Frequently Asked Question

What are some of the best over-the-counter treatments for cold sores? 

When treating Cold Sores, acyclovir (Zovirax) and valacyclovir (Valtrex) are two of the most used medications. These drugs suppress the replication of the herpes simplex virus, which is responsible for causing Cold Sores.

You can use several topical cream treatments to alleviate the pain and discomfort of Cold Sores. Some popular options include ebselen, lidocaine, benzoyl peroxide, or sulfur. Remember to consult your doctor before using any over-the-counter treatment, as some may not be safe for everyone. 


When dealing with a pimple, you must know which one you’re dealing with. A cold sore is caused by the herpes virus, while bacteria cause a pimple. The best advice is to get professional help from your dermatologist.

Some medications will make any skin condition disappear faster and more effectively than doing it yourself, so don’t be afraid to make an appointment with them.

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Fanti Tukuwei
I'm a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle enthusiast, and the ultimate curves queen. Here, I share beauty, fashion, and lifestyle tips to teach, inspire, and give confidence to all women.