Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/25/2020
Pimples are the worst. No matter where they appear, they’re never a welcome sight. But there are some pimples that show up in the worst of places, making an inconvenience totally unbearable.
Just out of reach on your back, on your butt, in that little corner next to your nose, right in the middle of your forehead — zit placement can affect just how annoying a pimple is. And if you think you have a pimple on your eyelid — really, could it get any worse?
Before you go applying a drying ointment to your eye or start picking at this mystery zit, it’s important you be totally certain it’s actually a pimple. There are several other skin conditions that can create an eyelid bump and look pimple-ish, but be something else entirely.
So, hands off! In the interest of your eye health, consider your suspected “pimple” could be one of the following instead:
Also known as a hordeolum, a stye can absolutely look like a pimple. It can appear as a red bump that looks like a pimple in some people. But it’s actually the sign of a bacterial infection in the hair follicle of an eyelash or of the glands of the eyelid.
Styes are tender to the touch, and may start as swelling and redness of the eyelid.
The good news about a painful stye is: it generally resolves itself in about one week. In other words, don’t pop it! it’ll go away on its own.
In the meantime, you can apply warm compress with a clean washcloth or an eye ointment. If the stye is abnormally large or doesn’t resolve itself, make an appointment with an eye doctor or your healthcare provider.
Chalazia are another form of sore that appears on your eye and could resemble a pimple.
While there may be painful swelling before the lump appears, a chalazion is different from a stye in that it’s generally painless.
Chalazia often accompany inflammatory disorders such as acne or seborrheic dermatitis. They can also be associated with viral conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye.”
In most cases, a chalazion will go away on its own, and warm compresses and gentle eyelid massage may provide comfort. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a topical steroid in a mild case, or an antibiotic if it’s believed your chalazion is related to certain types of infections.
If your “‘eyelid pimple” appears yellowish and is on the inner, upper eyelid, it could be xanthelasma palpebrarum.
This is a deposit of fats, mainly cholesterol, that is most often found on the corners of the eyelids. It can take the form of crust or small, soft, yellowish pimple-like sores (papules).
Xanthelasma palpebrarum is an eye condition typically found in people with lipid disorders, diabetes, hypothyroidism, fatty diets, excessive alcohol intake, weight gain or low HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Though fairly uncommon, it is seen more often in women than men.
Treatment involves taking medications to lower lipid (fat) levels and making lifestyle changes.
Seek medical advice (from your healthcare provider or an ophthalmologist) if you think your eyelid pimple might be xanthelasma palpebrarum.
There are several kinds of papillomas that can develop on the edge of the eyelid.
These are benign (non-cancerous), and are often referred to as “skin tags.” Eyelid papilloma may be flesh-colored and soft, have an irregular surface or crust or may have pigment like a mole, depending on the type of papilloma you have.
Papillomas can usually be removed by a healthcare provider or ophthalmologist in their office.
If your eyelid pimple is actually a pimple, congratulations! But still... Don’t pop it!
Picking or popping acne pimples can lead to scarring, worsened and more painful acne and infection. We know — it’s tempting.
It can relieve some of the pain associated with an inflamed acne lesion, but the risks outweigh the benefits.
A better solution is to treat your current acne and prevent future breakouts. If your eyelid pimple is painful, try applying ice to take down the swelling and redness.And whatever the bump on your eyelid is, if it doesn’t go away on its own or becomes painful and distracting, talk with a dermatologist or other healthcare professional about potential solutions.