Pimple on Lip: Causes and Effective Natural Treatments

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Pimple on Lip: Causes and Effective Natural Treatments
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Having a pimple on your lip or a cold sore can be very painful and cause some embarrassment. A pimple on your lip may look like a large red bump that is tender to touch and may be filled with pus. A cold sore may start off as an itchy bump before turning into a blister on your lip that oozes fluid before crusting over.

It can be confusing to know the difference between a cold sore (fever blister) and a pimple on your lip. A pimple on your lip can be caused by various reasons like acne, an allergic reaction, or hormonal imbalance. However, cold sores are a viral infection that often flares up when your immune system is low or compromised.

The good news is that in most cases there are excellent effective natural treatments for both lip pimples and fever blisters. Natural remedies like tea tree oil, baking soda, or Manuka honey have natural compounds that can help to quickly heal a pimple on your lip.

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In this article, I will look at why acne-like bumps can break out around your lips and how to treat them naturally. You will also learn how to treat cold sore blisters that appear on your lip or at the corner of your mouth.

First, let’s look in some detail at how to tell the difference between a pimple on your lip and a cold sore.

Pimple on Lip vs. Cold Sore (Oral Herpes)

A cold sore (oral herpes) and a pimple on the lip can both cause lip bumps that look the same. Both lip pimples and cold sores are uncomfortable and unsightly lesions. However, there are clear differences between their causes and how they are treated.

What are cold sores?

Cold sores (fever blisters) are caused by the herpes simplex-1 virus (HSV-1) which is highly contagious. The viral infection causes clusters of small, fluid-filled blisters or sores on the lips, nose, or around your mouth. When the blisters burst, clear to yellowish fluid leaks out and then forms a crust on the sore as it heals.

According to Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on eMedicineHealth, cold sores or fever blisters are very painful and take about 2 to 3 weeks to heal completely. The cold sore starts off as tingling or burning sensation before pimple-like bumps appear. These bumps turn into painful blisters and can make eating or drinking difficult.1

The fever blisters are not just confined to your lips. The irritating sores can also appear on your mouth or nose and spread to your chin, neck, the insides of your cheeks or cause lesions on the roof of your mouth. You may also have symptoms of a viral infection like muscle aches, a fever (hence the name fever blisters), and fatigue.1

There are a number of excellent natural remedies for getting rid of fever blisters. For example, the journal Medical Science Monitor reported that honey has antiviral properties that can combat the HSV-1 virus. In fact, studies have shown that applying honey to cold sores was as effective as the popular antiviral cream acyclovir.2  

What are pimples on lip?

A pimple is a plugged-up pore that can cause a red bump, whitehead, blackhead, or a pustule. Pimples can appear anywhere on your body, however, if pores around your lips get blocked up, you will end up with one or more pimples on your upper lip or lower lip.

Doctors from the American Academy of Dermatology say that dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria cause pimples in your pores. The bacteria in the pores cause an infection that turns the surrounding skin red and forms a bump. This sometimes has the appearance of a blister and fills with yellowish pus.3

The lip zit or acne pimple can become very sore and cause you to feel self-conscious and embarrassed. Sometimes popping a lip pimple can inflame the bump even more and cause the infection to spread.

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Cold sores vs. pimple – the bottom line

So, the bottom line is that there are some similarities and some differences between cold sores (herpes sores) and pimples.

For example, cold sores and pimples on your lips both cause pain and embarrassment. The good news is that you can help speed up the healing time of them both with homemade natural remedies.

According to Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on MedicineNet, there are a few differences between cold sores (oral herpes) and pimples. For example:4

  • Pimples on the lips are caused by bacterial infections whereas cold sores are caused by the herpes virus.
  • Cold sores usually affect the lips and the mouth and pimples can appear anywhere on the body.
  • Pimples generally contain pus but cold sore blisters are filled with a clear fluid.
  • Cold sores are contagious and can be transmitted through physical contact.

Causes of Pimples on Lips

Let’s look at the various reasons why pimples can appear around your lip line, on your lips, or below your nose.

Acne pimples on lips

Acne around the edges of your mouth is a common reason for red pus-filled bumps, zits, and pimples on your lips.

Acne pimples form when excess sebum (the oil the skin produces) combines with dead skin cells and plugs hair follicles. According to professor of dermatology Dr. Jonette Keri, inflammation caused by bacteria in the blocked skin pores cause small to large pustules to form. 5

Dr. Keri explains that some of the triggers for acne appearing include hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, cosmetics that block the skin’s pores, or excessive sweating.

To help treat acne pimples on your lips, you can try my DIY face wash for acne, pimples, and blackheads. There are also many effective acne treatments using face masks that help to dry out inflamed, pus-filled pimples on your face.

Clogged pores around the lips

If there is no infection in your blocked pores, the pimples around your lips could look like whiteheads or blackheads.

According to information published by the National Institutes of Health, blocked skin pores can cause whiteheads or blackheads. The medical name for these clogged hair follicles is comedones. The reason for blackheads is that the comedones are open and the sebum plug oxidizes with the air turning it black.6  

Whiteheads and blackheads on the lip line can appear with or without acne.

Hormonal imbalance

A common reason why many women experience a pimple on their lip is due to hormonal changes in their body.

Depending on fluctuations in hormones, you may be more prone to acne zits on your face and around your mouth at different times of the month. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that hormones control the production of sebum on the skin. This makes it easier for dead skin cells to block pores and acne-causing bacteria to infect the pore.7

If hormonal fluctuations are affecting your skin, you can try some foods that help to balance your hormones. For example, coconut oil, whole-grain foods, dark green leafy vegetables, and broccoli all help to keep your hormones in check.

Poor diet

You may get pimples on your lips every so often if you have a poor diet and don’t get enough vitamins and minerals.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, certain foods may exacerbate the appearance of pimples in some people. Researchers found that foods with a high GI index (glycemic index) may cause outbreaks of pimples in some people. Studies have also found that there is a weak link between dairy and outbreaks of acne zits in some people.8

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The journal Advances in Dermatology and Allergology reported that some studies seem to indicate that omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, vitamin A, and consuming foods rich in antioxidants could have a role in reducing outbreaks of pimples.9

Allergic reaction

Allergic reactions to certain products or environmental triggers could leave you with pimples or blisters on your lips.

People can be affected in different ways by certain allergens in food, cosmetics, and the air. Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD reports that skin products that irritate the skin or cause reactions can result in inflammation and blisters. Sometimes, the pimples or blisters can start suddenly and result in itching, hives, and redness. Usually, the lips, face, eyes, and neck are most commonly affected.10

Dr. Ratini recommends choosing beauty products with as few ingredients as possible to avoid pimples and blisters around your lips or on your face. If you identify the products that are causing pimples on your lips or face, you should avoid using them in the future to prevent lip lesions.

The National Rosacea Society reports that people with existing inflammatory skin conditions may be more prone to skin reactions. For example, many people with rosacea can develop bumps and pimples in response to certain allergens.11

Low-quality makeup

If you often get pimples on your lips after applying cosmetics, your makeup could be to blame for the unsightly lip bumps.

According to the journal Dermatology, scientists have termed a skin condition acne cosmetica. This refers to the appearance of spots and pimples on the skin that are directly connected to cosmetic products. It seems that some individuals were more prone to cosmetic-related pimples than others.12

Hair removal

Waxing to remove hair could be a reason for pimples on your upper lip and may result in infected and inflamed bumps.

According to the International Journal of Dermatology, waxing commonly causes various issues with the waxed area. Among these are outbreaks of small spots, itching, skin inflammation, and redness.17

To find out how to prevent pimples appearing on your upper lip after waxing, please read my article on how to naturally avoid skin rashes after waxing.

Stress

Stress could trigger an outbreak of pimples on your lips as it affects your immune system and makes you more prone to acne.

The journal Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology reported on the relationship between acne pimples and stress. A study found that an increase in stress was directly linked to an increase in acne severity. It was found that to get rid of stress-related pimples, a person should try to manage their stress levels better.13

If you find that it is difficult to relax and wind down after a stressful day, you could try some of my natural remedies for dealing with stress and anxiety.

Canker sores

Although they are not technically pimples on lips, canker sores can cause white ulcer-like lesions on your lips or sores on the inside of your mouth.

Dr. John Cunha on MedicineNet says that canker sores can be caused by eating acidic or spicy foods, vitamin deficiencies, stress, or an injury to your mouth. This results in a painful ulcer on your lip that can make eating and talking difficult. Canker sores usually take between 7 and 14 days to heal.14

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Canker sores shouldn’t be confused with fever blisters or cold sores.

Fordyce spots

White, yellowish bumps on your lips could actually be harmless Fordyce spots and not pimples at all.

You can usually notice Fordyce spots if you stretch the skin of your lips and look closely at them. You will notice tiny white papules in your lips. The journal Annals of Dermatology says that these tiny bumps in the lips affect about 90% of people and usually no treatment is required for Fordyce spots.15

Mucocele

A mucocele is a type of cyst formed by mucus or saliva that forms a round lump on your lower lip, the floor of your mouth, or inside your cheeks.

According to dermatologists, mucoceles are caused by trauma to the mouth. Biting or sucking on your lip can cause the saliva ducts in your lip to fill with mucus. This can cause discomfort in the mouth and make eating difficult. Sometimes, the mucocele resolves itself on its own. However, if they don’t go away, you should speak to your doctor.16

How to Get Rid of Lip Pimples

What can you do to get rid of pimples on your lip that are caused by blocked or infected pores? Here are some of the best natural remedies to treat swollen pimples on your lip.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is an amazing natural remedy for many skin conditions due to its antimicrobial properties.

Tea tree oil can help to quickly get rid of bacteria that infect clogged pores and also reduce redness and inflammation. For example, the Medical Journal of Australia reported that a topical application containing tea tree oil can help to treat whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, and pustules. In fact, it was just as effective as benzoyl peroxide – a popular pharmaceutical for acne.18

How to use tea tree oil for lip pimples:

If you have one or two infected lip pimples, you can apply a drop of tea tree oil directly to the inflamed lesion 2 times a day as a spot treatment.

To make a facial cleanser with tea tree oil to cleanse the skin around your lips and mouth, this is what you should do:

  1. Mix 10-12 drops of tea tree oil with 1 oz. (30 ml) carrier oil like sweet almond oil.
  2. Using a cotton ball, apply some of the mixture to your lips and the area around your lips to cleanse your skin.
  3. Leave for about 30 minutes. (Make sure not to ingest the tea tree oil).

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is a natural astringent that can help to reduce inflammation on a lip pimple and help speed up the healing process.

Witch hazel is excellent if you are treating acne pimples on your lips, canker sores, or an allergic reaction.

For example, the Journal of Inflammation reported on the anti-inflammatory properties of witch hazel. Researchers have found that witch hazel has antiseptic and antioxidant properties and can assist in treating pimples and other inflammatory skin conditions.19

How to use witch hazel for bumps on lips:

It is very easy to use witch hazel for naturally treating pimples on your upper lip or lower lip. This is what you should do:

  1. Dab a cotton ball in some pure witch hazel.
  2. Apply to your lip and hold on the affected area for a few minutes to kill off any infection in the pimple and reduce inflammation.
  3. Use 2-3 times a day until your pimple or canker sore has gone for good.

Baking soda

Baking soda is an effective natural home remedy to dry out pimples on your lips and help them heal quicker. Added to that, baking soda also has an antimicrobial effect that can assist in healing skin lesions like cold sores, pimples, or canker sores.

For example, research into the medicinal properties of baking soda has found that it contains antibacterial activity against certain strains of oral bacteria.20

How to use:

If you want to quickly get rid of the pain and discomfort that a lip pimple or canker sore is causing, this is what you should do:

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  1. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda in a bowl and make a thick paste with some warm water.
  2. Dab the baking soda natural remedy on the sore on your lip and leave for 15 to 30 minutes.
  3. Use the treatment once a day on your lip pimple until the bump has disappeared.

Using baking soda on your skin is a great way to keep to facial skin looking vibrant and healthy.

Apple cider vinegar

The antiseptic qualities of raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) make this a great natural remedy to treat pimples that have appeared on your lip line.

For example, apple cider vinegar contains high levels of acetic acid which is a known antibacterial agent. The journal Advances in Would Care published information showing that acetic acid can help reduce inflammation caused by bacteria. It does this because it lowers the skin’s pH levels, thus killing off bacteria.21

How to use apple cider vinegar:

To use apple cider vinegar to treat troublesome large red zits on your lip, this is what you should do:

  1. Dilute raw unprocessed apple cider vinegar with equal parts of water (never apply undiluted ACV).
  2. Dip a cotton ball in the natural remedy and then hold for 10 minutes on the large pimple on your lip to help reduce the inflammation and soreness.
  3. Rinse your lips with warm water.
  4. Use daily until signs of a lip pimple or canker sore have gone.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a well-researched natural remedy that has many applications in skin care, including treating acne zits and spots. Aloe vera contains many vitamins, minerals, and moisturizing agents that can help to keep skin healthy and pimple-free.

Interestingly, the Indian Journal of Dermatology reported that aloe vera has healing properties that help to treat pimples and wounds. The enzymes in aloe vera also have an anti-inflammatory action and can help to tighten pores to make them appear smaller. Based on scientific research the report stated that aloe vera is used to treat acne pimples, heal wounds, and treat herpes infections.22

How to use aloe vera for lip pimples:

It couldn’t be easier to quickly soothe painful lip pimples or fever blisters and make them go away quicker. This is what you should do:

  1. Use aloe vera gel that has as few added ingredients as possible.
  2. Apply a little aloe vera gel to the bump on your lip and allow to dry.
  3. Use the aloe vera on your lip at least 3 times a day for best results.
  4. Continue using the aloe vera remedy until the lips sores or pimples have disappeared.

How to Pop a Pimple on Lip

If you want to make a pimple on your lip go away really fast, you might be inclined to pop a pimple. So, should you ever pop a small or a large pimple on your lip?

It may seem that squeezing a pus-filled pimple on your lip is the best way to get rid of it. However, according to the National Institute of Health, popping a pimple on your lip or another part of your face may only be a short-term solution. If the pimple is very large, you could end up forcing the infection deeper into the skin.23

So, you should always try to avoid popping lip pimples. However, if the pimple is very unsightly and is causing you embarrassment, Dr. Cynthia Baily, a dermatologist from Sebastopol, CA recommends the following:

  1. Be patient and wait until there is a noticeable firm head on the pimple.
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  3. Sterilize a needle by putting it through a flame. Then clean the needle with an alcohol swab.
  4. Cleanse the lip pimple with an alcohol swab.
  5. Gently pierce the middle of the pimple head.
  6. Gently squeeze only if the pus comes out easily. If not, do not continue squeezing.
  7. Wipe the zit with a clean alcohol swab.

When to See a Doctor

I most cases, a zit, pimple, cold sore, or canker sore on your lip is no more than a temporary annoyance. The lip pimple should go away in a week or so if you care for it properly with natural home remedies.

However, in some circumstances, you should see a doctor about the pimples. According to doctors, you might need to see a specialist in the following circumstances:24

  • The pimples become severe and won’t go away with home remedies.
  • The pustules around your lips appeared after you started taking medication.
  • The appearance of pimples on your lips are causing you a lot of embarrassment.

If you don’t have a pimple on your lip but a cold sore, you should see a doctor if the cold sore (fever blister) is very large and doesn’t heal within 10 days.25

Read my other related articles:

Medical Sources

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  2. Med Sci Monit.2004 Aug;10(8):MT94-8.
  3. AAD. Different kinds of pimples.
  4. MedicineNet. Pimple cold sore.
  5. MSDManuals. Acne vulgaris.
  6. NCBI. Open comedones (blackheads).
  7. AAD. Hormonal factors key to understanding acne in women.
  8. J Am Acad Derm. 2010 July;63(1): 124-141.
  9. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2016 Apr; 33(2): 81–86.
  10. WebMD. Skin reactions to beauty products.
  11. RosaceaOrg. Study finds allergy-like reaction may trigger bumps and pimples.
  12. 2013;226(4):337-41.
  13. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017; 10: 503–506.
  14. MedicineNet. Canker sores.
  15. Ann Dermatol. 2012 Feb; 24(1): 103–106.
  16. DermNetNZ. Mucocoele of the lip.
  17. Int J Dermatol.2014 Jul;53(7):849-54.
  18. Med J Aust.1990 Oct 15;153(8):455-8.
  19. J Inflamm (Lond). 2011; 8: 27.
  20. Compend Contin Educ Dent Suppl.1997;18(21):S17-21;quiz S46.
  21. Adv Wound Care (New Rochelle). 2015 Jul 1; 4(7): 363–372.
  22. Indian J Dermatol. 2008; 53(4): 163–166.
  23. NCBI. Skin care for acne-prone skin.
  24. WebMD. Teen acne: When should you see a doctor?
  25. NHS. Cold sores.
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