Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/11/2022
If you’ve ever popped a pimple out of desperation, you may have experienced the aftermath: a larger, more infected pimple or worse, a blood-filled pimple.
Bloody pimples are a common occurrence for people with many types of acne, especially when they take matters into their own fingertips and start trying to hustle their acne to the end ahead of schedule.
But what happens if you have a “pimple” that fills with blood before it’s even popped? Can this happen, and are there ways to prevent it?
Read on to learn what causes those blood-filled bumps and of course, how to get rid of them.
There are a few ways to look at the question of why pimples can contain blood.
Pimples form in your pores — where hair follicles emerge from the skin, and where acne-prone skin forms blemishes.
The most common way to cause a pimple to fill with blood is by damaging the blood vessels beneath the pore, thereby exposing the pimple to blood.
Most pimples are one of a few compositions, which account for the different kinds of blemishes that you and others might have.
Blackheads and whiteheads are filled with oil and dead skin cells, and papules are whiteheads that have become inflamed.
When an inflamed whitehead fills with pus (which is basically just a goo made up of dead, white blood cells), it becomes a pustule. Technically, these are blood-filled pimples, and you can get this kind of blood-filled pimple when a whitehead becomes infected and your body tries to fight the infection off.
That being said, most people asking about blood in pimples are probably talking about the red kind — which look like they’re filled with blood.
That blood usually doesn’t get there without some help from you, and can happen when you’ve been squeezing or picking the pimple in question.
Getting blood in your pimple is really just the result of you injuring your skin in the process of trying to pop a pimple — and aside from the issue of pustules, this will account for 100 percent of your blood sightings when it comes to acne.
There are many reasons why popping pimples is bad, but if you get a blood-filled pimple, it’s really not a reason to panic.
We’re not saying there’s no danger — popping your pimples can inadvertently push infectious bacteria or other material deeper into your skin, which is a contamination you don’t want and potentially lead to more swelling or scarring.
Most of the time, however, this is preventable. If you do pop a pimple and cause blood to enter the equation, treat the area as you would an open wound.
The first thing you’ll want to do is clean the affected area to prevent further opportunities for infection. You’ll also want to use a sterile bandage to cover the are if there’s still an open wound.
You might also want to apply a cold compress to reduce swelling or inflammation from the additional trauma.
Next, you’ll want to stop popping pimples entirely, forever.
It’s totally understandable to want to detonate those little unsightly blemishes on your own terms. But doing so without any professional training or equipment is a really good way to cause extra damage like bleeding and bruising, expose yourself to further infection, and potentially make the blood-filled bump take longer to heal than it would have with proper acne care.
If you really feel the need to pop a painful or serious zit, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional who can help you treat your blood-filled pimple the right way.
It’s not wise to pop pimples on your facial skin, too, because those injuries can sometimes be permanent — and nobody wants acne scars if they can help it.
If pimple popping is a compulsion for you (as can be for some) it might be a good idea to read about ways to stop the compulsive pimple popping.
The best way to prevent blood in your pimples is to prevent the pimples in the first place, and that starts with getting rid of the conditions that make your skin break out.
Since mild to severe acne is both treatable and even preventable, there are a few things you can do for your skin to greatly reduce the risk of getting to the point where you’re popping pimples into a bloody mess.
Here are some ways to prevent and treat acne:
Your skin naturally produces oil to lubricate your pores and help dead cells slide out without a problem. But excess oil can have the opposite effect on your skin, clogging those pores and giving acne the ideal conditions to form.
Controlling your skin oil can mean washing your face, but it’s also about using products like blotting papers, witch hazel and other items to get rid of the excess.
Note: You don’t want to completely rid yourself of all oil on your skin. (You need it as a barrier.) We’re talking about ‘excess’ oil. Contact a healthcare professional to discuss your skin type, oil production and acne medication options.
While your skin might be too oily which can cause blemishes, it could also lack lubrication and be dry — which can also lead to breakouts.
Dry skin and dehydrated skin can leave your cells rough and surprisingly sticky, which can result in dead cells stuck in your pores, clogging things up and providing a food source for acne bacteria.
One of the easiest ways to prevent dry skin is stay on top of your hydration. Drinking water is obviously a great place to start, since every organ of your body (including your skin) needs it to function.
Moisturizers also help skin stay hydrated. Those containing hyaluronic acid — a naturally occurring compound that has been shown to help your skin, joints and other body parts retain moisture at a rate of 1,000 to one — are especially beneficial.
It’s also helpful to apply moisturizer to slightly damp skin, to lock in moisture.
One popular way to exfoliate is with topical retinoids.
Retinoids are chemical exfoliants and synthetic compounds of vitamin A. Their acidic strength helps to remove a layer of skin and dry, dead cells and other debris, clearing a path to fresh, new skin cells underneath.
There are several kinds of retinoids, but the most powerful of these are prescription retinols like tretinoin.
Tretinoin has been around since the 1960s, and while side effects can include things like redness, peeling, inflammation and irritation, the popular topical ingredient is generally considered safe.
If you feel like you may need prescription-level help for your acne — whether you have blood-filled pimples or not, contact a healthcare professional for your options..
Tools and cleaning methods are great, but your habits may be the real root cause of acne issues. Studies have linked dietary-related issues like high-glycemic foods and dehydration along with lifestyle factors like stress to increased risks of acne, not to mention conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
It’s unclear whether diet affects oil production, but there’s research to suggest there may be a correlation.
Skin conditions like acne are not leading to bloody faces on their own. You need more than a regular pimple to create a blood-filled bump.
If you're experiencing blood-filled pimples, you should seek acne treatment from a healthcare provider. (They can also help you understand exactly what’s causing your skin condition.)
Regular acne treatment options like topicals containing benzoyl peroxide or a retinol like tretinoin can also be helpful in preventing or getting rid of pimples in the first place.
In the meantime, be more gentle with your face. it deserves love, just like the rest of you.