I thought acne was something that I’d outgrow, like knowing all the lyrics to Evanescence’s first album or a tendency to succumb to ennui. But many years later, all of those things are still here—and it turns out at least one of them can be explained. You can get acne at pretty much any age, and acne is the most common skin condition in America. This is all to say, I’ve had enough experience with breakouts that I know what to do when a pimple pops up (yay?), but there’s one kind of pimple that still baffles me—the pimple inside the nose.
Face and body breakouts can occur due to a variety of factors, including, hormones, stress, and not washing your face before you go to bed. If you’re wondering “why do I have a pimple inside my nose?” the cause is completely different, explains Jeffrey Fromowitz, MD, FAAD, a Florida-based board-certified dermatologist.
“These are typically from bacteria that colonize the nostrils and in many cases can be caused by staphylococcus aureus,” says Dr. Fromowitz. So the acne that can show up inside your nose is more likely to be a pustule or cyst than a whitehead or blackhead. (Here’s a refresher on the different types of acne.) This bacteria often gets into your nose from nose-picking with dirty hands or grooming with dirty tweezers or clippers.
While nose pimples aren’t as visibly noticeable as, say, a pimple on your forehead, they can be far more painful. Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, says that’s because the inside of the nose has “more nerve endings and more sensitive skin.” Plus, since these bumps are often caused by infection, they tend to be more tender.
So you wanna know “how do I get rid of a pimple inside my nose?” The derms explain below.
How to get rid of a pimple inside your nose the right way
1. Make sure it’s an actual pimple
When you notice a sore inside your nose, see if you can take a peek at it to make sure it’s in that cyst-pimple family Dr. Fromorowitz explained. If it’s a bump or lesion that seems different, head to your doctor to figure out the best way to move forward. A nasal polyp, for example, can be treated with medication.
2. Use a warm compress
The only thing you can do at home to get rid of a pimple in your nose is to apply a warm compress. “Take a clean washcloth and get the tap running till it’s fairly warm but not scalding hot, wet the cloth and ring that out so it’s not dripping. Then, apply that using a finger right over the area.” Hold it on with gentle, light pressure for five minutes a few times a day until the pimple is gone, which Dr. Kwan says can take up to two weeks.
3. Resist the urge to pop it
When you’re dealing with a particularly painful pimple, your first instinct might be to pop it and get rid of it. But, William Kwan, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in San Fransico, says that’s a bad idea.
“One of three things can happen either when you squeeze it,” says Dr. Kwan. “One, all the contents can come out, which is what people want. But, oftentimes, if it’s not coming out and people are putting pressure, you could actually explode that pimple under the skin. And then the third thing that could happen is some comes out and some explodes under the skin.” When the pimple explodes under the skin it leads to increased inflammation, the potential spread of bacteria, and a prolonged healing process.
4. Don’t apply regular acne products
While solutions like pimple patches and salicylic acid serums are a great quick fix for pimples pretty much everywhere else, they’re a big no-no inside of the nose. “You don’t want to put irritating things up inside the nostril,” says Dr. Kwan. And because the nostril is so sensitive, products you don’t usually find irritating can do damage inside the nose.
“The inside of the nose is mucosa,” says Dr. Kwan. “It’s much more delicate—it’s like the inside of your mouth to a certain extent, whereas the surface of the skin is a little bit more durable. If you put something that you would normally put on the surface of the skin to treat a pimple inside the nostrils, it can potentially get very irritated. And if you put something up in the nose, you’re probably going to be in inhaling some of the particulate matter as well. So I wouldn’t recommend putting any type of over-the-counter-acne medications or products inside the nostril.”
5. Avoid topical antibiotics unless they’re prescribed by your doctor
Even antibacterial ointments that seem harmless aren’t a good idea. “Most topicals are an ointment that’s occlusive and it’s not going to help the pimple inside the nose,” says Dr. Kwan. “The things that would help it are not appropriate to put inside the nostril—like benzoyl peroxide. Um, if they have a prescription topical antibiotic like clindamycin in a solution, that might be okay. But anything over the counter like Neosporin, any triple antibiotic ointment, then Polysporin, I don’t think you’re gonna really do much.”
6. See a doctor if it’s not getting better
If it’s been four weeks and it’s not getting better, Dr. Kwan says to head to your dermatologist. “Sometimes we can inject it with a little bit of steroid to try to flatten it out. Although again, it is uncomfortable to have the nostril injected,” he says. And since bacterial infections inside the nose can be commonly mistaken for a run-of-the-mill pimple, Dr. Gohara going to your dermatologist can rule out an infection.
7. Do what you can to prevent them in the future
The key to preventing a pimple in the nose is to keep your nostrils clean. Keep out of your nostrils and if you need to get in there, make sure your hands or whatever tools you’re using are clean. That means washing your hands before you blow or pick and disinfecting tweezers and nose-hair-trimmers before you use them. But because hair removal can irritate the nostril and lead to pimples like ingrown hairs, it’s probably best to avoid hair removal to begin with. If you aren’t introducing bacteria to the area, you have a lesser chance of developing a nasal pimple.
Learn more about treating acne in not-so-common spots: