Both boils and pimples are skin growths that appear as red bumps filled with white pus or hardened oil and dead cells. However, boils (or furuncles) occur when hair follicles become infected by bacteria, while pimples (or acne) occur when hair follicles become clogged by oily substances and dead skin cells. Whereas pimples are common in adolescents and young adults, boils typically afflict middle-aged or older people who are ill or have compromised immune systems.

Boil vs pimple

A boil begins as a solid, red, and painful lump beneath the skin. The lump, with time, may get bigger and softer and produce a pus-filled head, which may start to exude pus and a clear fluid.In addition, boils are associated with fever, or fatigue. On the other hand, pimples are typically smaller, localized, and only rarely cause pain, fever, or fatigue. Despite their difference in size, some larger pimples are difficult to differentiate from boils. For example, the cystic acne can grow larger than boils and exude pus on their own.  Unlike like boils, regular pimples do not exude pus unless they are deliberately or unintentionally “popped.” Also, not all pimples contain pus. Some are instead filled but with hardened oil and dead skin cells.

Pimples usually occur in groups and commonly on the face, forehead, chest, upper back, and shoulders. This is because these areas of skin have the highest concentration of oil glands. Boils can grow anywhere on the body, but most commonly on the face, neck, armpits, thighs, buttocks, or groins. Typically you can have only one boil at a time, but in some cases, you can have multiple boils at once. Several boils underneath the skin can sometimes converge gradually to form a larger, pus-filled pocket known as a carbuncle. Pimples never converge into larger bumps like boils even though they might be close to each other.

How to treat pimples

Pimples can effortlessly be treated from home through gentle skin care and over-the-counter (OTC) topical drugs like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, retinoid, or azelaic acid.

To treat a pimple from home, without leaving any pit or scar, allow it to fade away on its own without touching it. Occasionally apply a warm (not hot) compress and gentle skin cleansing to help it drain faster and naturally. This can take 4 to 7 days. During this period, avoid popping or squeezing a pimple. Squeezing can lead to swelling and redness by forcing pus and bacteria deeper into the skin. Squeezing may also cause scabs and leave you with scars or pits that never go away. Use 5% benzoyl peroxide gel or cream once or twice a day to help a pimple dry out more quickly.

A pimple inside the nose is more difficult to treat. This is because such a pimple is difficult to reach. Also, it might be difficult to determine if it is due to an infection or if it is just a normal pimple.

If the home care treatment does not work, you will need to visit a dermatologist. At the dermatologist, you will receive prescriptions for topical or oral medications, as well as undergo specialist procedures. Also, see a doctor if your breakouts are severe, chronic, recurrent, or leaving permanent scars. See a doctor as well if your pimples are causing you any distress or anxiety.

How to treat boils

Like pimples, most boils can be treated from home without the need to see a doctor.

Boils typically rupture and heal on their own within two weeks. To speed up the healing process, place a warm (not hot), damp face towel on the boil for ten to twenty minutes, three or four times a day. In the meantime, take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to aid with any pain or fever that the boil may be causing.

If the boil fails to drain or heal within two weeks, then consult a GP to drain it with the help of a sterile needle or scalpel. Otherwise, antibiotics may be recommended if you are in severe pain or discomfort, have high temperature, have developed a secondary infection, or if the boil is on the face.

How to prevent boils and pimples

To lower your chance of developing pimples:

  • Use a non-abrasive cleanser, and gently wash your skin up to twice a day.
  • Make use of skincare products with the label “alcohol-free.”
  • Apply Shampoo regularly and keep oily hair off your face.
  • Remain out of the sun and stay away from tanning beds.

To lower your risk of developing boils, follow these easy steps:

  • Wash your skin and hands with a gentle antibacterial soap on a regular basis.
  • Any cuts, wounds, or grazes (even tiny ones) should be carefully cleaned.
  • Apply sterile bandages to cuts, wounds, and scrapes until they heal.
  • Eat well and get regular exercise to strengthen your immune system.