What Causes Blemishes That Don't Heal?

Skin blemishes occur in various shapes, sizes and colors, including brown, blue, red, purple and pink. Considered unsightly by adults as well as teenagers, most blemishes are harmless and can be treated with over-the-counter medicinal creams. However, among those that do not heal are those caused by exposure to the sun, hereditary disorders, hormonal changes and bacteria.

Overexposure to the Sun and Radiation

Three kinds of skin cancer can blemish the skin and not heal. Basal cell carcinoma begins as a small lump with enlarged blood vessels. It can appear on the face as an open sore or show up on any area of skin that receives a great deal of sun exposure. The Mayo Clinic reports that damaged DNA can cause skin cells to form a cancerous tumor. Therapeutic radiation from X-rays to the head and neck, from psoriasis treatments or from treatments for childhood ringworm or acne can cause skin cancer depending on skin pigmentation and radiation dosage.

The Mayo Clinic also reports chemical toxins such as the toxic metal arsenic that is found in air, soil and ground water but also in fish, beef, chicken and sprayed on grapes can be a cause of basal cell carcinoma. Immunosupressant drugs administered to prevent organ rejection after a transplant can give rise to skin cancer, although the cancer may develop years afterward. Inherited disorders such as Gorlin’s syndrome, Bazex’s syndrome or xeroderma pigmentosum cause extreme sensitivity to light can increase the risk of basal cell carcinoma.

Excessive sun exposure can cause harmless yet unsightly age spots, commonly called liver spots. It can also cause squamous cell skin cancer, an aggressive skin cancer forming skin lesions. The increased incidence of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is believed to be due to excessive sunbathing and the use of tanning beds.

Hormonal Changes

Acne occurs when there is an overproduction of sebum oil from sebaceous glands connected to hair follicles that can build up and cause a plug in the skin. The walls of the hair follicles may bulge, creating whiteheads, or the plug composed of excess oil and dead skin cells can open, producing a red sore open to infection.

Although it is not known what produces excess sebum oil, hormonal changes together with heredity and certain medications appear to play a role.

Many young women suffer from acne breakouts several days before their menstrual periods, indicating the role of changing estrogen levels in their bodies in the production of acne. Increased testosterone in young men has also been linked to acne breakouts. Hormones, according to the University of Illinois Medical Center, especially androgen, can cause sebaceous cysts, lumps that move freely beneath the skin. Greasy makeup and skin products may contribute to this condition, as can exposure to grease in the air in auto mechanic shops and fast food restaurants.


Bacteria in the air can cause blemishes that do not heal. Present from many sources in the environment, bacteria can cause an infection when they reach the face and create acne. Propionibacterium acnes is one type of bacteria responsible for producing acne.