The difference between a cyst and pimple on the nose

Updated April 17, 2017

People typically use the word "pimple" as a catchall term for skin blemishes. But, technically, on the nose as well as other parts of the face, a pimple is a pustule, a blemish that may contain a red base with a yellow or white tip, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, or NIAMS. Cysts, on the other hand, are deeper than regular pimples.

Pimple Causes

Pimples occur when hair; skin cells; and sebum, a fatty matter that the skin's sebaceous glands secrete, block the skin's pores. According to the NIAMS, the blockage does two things: it prevents sebum from being released to the skin's surface, and it feeds the bacteria that live on the skin. The body reacts by causing the skin on the nose and other affected areas to become inflamed.

Cyst Causes

Cysts and pimples have similar origins. Swollen hair follicles and trauma to the skin are often to blame for those painful cysts that sit on the nose, according to the Mayo Clinic. Skin trauma such as abrasions result in skin cells being blocked below the skin's surface. The Mayo Clinic notes that cyst-causing swollen hair follicles occur when the sebaceous glands rupture. The typical culprits behind these ruptures are inflammation-causing skin disorders like acne.


You can treat a nose cyst by placing a warm and moist washcloth over the nose. This action allows the cyst to drain, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Over-the-counter treatments such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulphur may reduce the size of a pimple on the nose. These treatments are available as gels, creams and pads. If a pimple becomes inflamed, then a dermatologist or another health care provider can provide prescription medications.


The Food and Drug Administration advises consumers to consult a dermatologist before applying over-the-counter treatments to cysts. Clean skin gently and thoroughly with a mild cleanser, as harsh cleansers may make the acne lesions worse, according to the NIAMS. Acne sufferers must also avoid the temptation to touch, squeeze or pinch the nose. This may cause the pimple or cyst to leave a scar behind after it heals.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Streeter has been writing professionally since 2000. She specializes in subjects ranging from how to live a happier life to potentially harmful food and drug-related interactions. Streeter has written for "Family Circle," "Woman's Day," "Natural Health" and "Fitness." Streeter holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition science from Auburn University and is currently working towards a Master of Arts in psychology.