Papule Acne

A frustrating and often embarrassing condition, acne appears as lesions on the skin and can lead to infection, permanent scarring, and even emotional and psychological distress. Acne takes many forms, including papule acne, an inflammatory version that forms around hair follicles and produces small red bumps on the skin. While the exact causes of papule acne vary, several treatments exist to mitigate the condition.


Dermatologists classify papule acne due to the presence of papules, or small red bumps measuring between 0.5 centimeters and 1.5 centimeters in diameter. Technically, a papule is an inflamed comedo, or acne lesion 1. Papules rise above the skin, with the contained inflammation causing the red coloring and making the lesion tender to touch. Papules may appear alone or in groups.


Papule acne forms when a follicular wall breaks and white blood cells rush in to confront bacteria, leading to inflammation. Overproduction of sebum, an oily substance manufactured to lubricate the hair and skin, or an excess of dead skin cells may clog hair follicles and lead to papule acne. According to the Mayo Clinic, medical research does not indicate that greasy foods, chocolate or other suspected dietary triggers play any role in acne formation. However, hormones, heredity, bacteria, certain medications and even restrictive clothing may be responsible for increased sebum production.


Papule acne may form anywhere on the body, but it’s most prevalent on the face, back and posterior. The face tends to produce excessive oil, leading to clogged follicles. Likewise, skin surfaces not receiving enough air, such as the back and posterior, run a greater risk of follicle clogs due to sweat and dead cell accumulation.


Papule acne may be treated with over-the-counter topical creams and lotions, prescription drugs, antibiotics, laser and light therapy, or cosmetic procedures such as:

  • chemical peels
  • microdermabrasion

Topical acne treatments all attempt to kill bacteria, dry up excessive oil and slough dead skin cells, thereby reducing the risk of clogged follicles. For more severe cases of papule acne, individuals may require antibiotics to eliminate bacteria and fight inflammation.


Excessive washing or scrubbing can actually damage skin and stimulate oil production, only leading to more clogged follicles. Finally, never pick or squeeze papule acne, as it may lead to infection and permanent scarring. If the lesions don’t respond to over-the-counter remedies, seek professional assistance from a dermatologist before attempting to rupture the papules.