Home conditions Cold Sore or Pimple-Differences, Pictures & Similarities

Cold Sore or Pimple-Differences, Pictures & Similarities

Is a cold sore or pimple? What are the differences and similarities in terms of causes, how they form, how they appear and treatment options? Read on to find out more.

Cold Sore or Pimple? Meaning, Causes, symptoms

cold sore vs pimple differences
Pimple[left] Cold sore on lip[right]

Cold Sore Meaning, Causes, symptoms

What is a cold sore?

This represents or means a colony or a group of small swellings called blisters that occur on your lips or around the mouth. They are also called fever blisters. The swellings are filled with fluids and are likely to break any time if they are subjected to friction.[1]


Most of the cold sores are caused by a viral infection of a virus known as Herpes simplex virus. You will contract the virus if you kiss or your lips come into contact with ones of someone with the sore. Usually, once you get the virus, it gets into your body and becomes dormant till there is a trigger that reactivates it.[2]


At  the beginning before the sore manifests, you will have a tingling and burning sensation on your lips or even face. The following symptoms are also likely to occur:

  • Muscle aches from time to time
  • Fever
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes

Pimple Meaning, Causes, symptoms

What is a pimple?

A pimple, also known as a zit is a skin minor swelling (lesion) that is brought about by the normal functioning of the body or otherwise called physiological work under the skin. The process is brought about by some glands that are known as the sebaceous glands that secrete an oil whose role is to ensure that your skin is hydrated and smooth.


There are many factors or causes of pimples. The commonest cause is hormonal imbalances as seen during the puberty stage. Overproduction of androgen hormones cause the pimples. Excess sebum production also leads to formation of pimples. Apart from that, bacterial infections and more so Propionibacterium acnescause the pimples. Other causes include yeast infections, certain medications, depression and stress conditions, some cosmetic products and genetic factors.


There are different types of pimples and this therefore means different signs and symptoms. They are as follows:

  • Blackhead pimples appear black in color and form small bumps that become severe in case of an infection.
  • Whitehead pimples are very small and in most cases are hidden below the skin.
  • Papules look like solid, round lumps that arise from the skin. They appear pink in color.
  • The pustules have red bed and pus on the top. they are severer than the white and blackheads
  • The nodules on the other hand are slightly similar to pustules but they are a bit larger
  • Cysts appear filled with pus and become very painful. They form scars upon their healing.

Pimple vs Cold Sore-Difference between cold sore and pimple

In terms of their appearance, pimple appear to have pus whereas cold sores have very clear fluid in form of blisters.

Apart from that, you have pimples when the glands that produce oil your body, the sebaceous glands become blocked leading to infestation by bacteria. On the other side you will get cold sores from viruses and specifically the herpes virus when it is activated from period of dormancy.

The two are also significantly different in the sense that pimples could occur on the face and the back while cold sores lead to blisters only on the lips and in the mouth at times.

In most and all the cases, pimples cannot be transferred from one person to another. On the other hand, cold sore blisters are infectious and hence transferrable.

When squeezed, cold sores can cause a lot of pain while when pimples are squeezed could lead to formation of scars that could be permanent if left untreated.

Some pimples after healing, lead to formation of a scar. On the other hand, there would be no evidence of a scar forming once the cold sore has healed.[3]

In the case of a cold sore, the first thing that you will identify is the pain and burning sensation on the lips, with small or tiny clusters of blisters forming. On the other hand, you will first notice mild soreness and tenderness when you are about to get a pimple. The pimple afterwards becomes hard and firmer than the cold sores because of the oil that lies below them.

Pimples are most likely to occur during puberty due to changes in the hormones. On the other hand, cold sores come about any time, provided you get pre-exposure to the herpes simplex virus from an infected person.

Cold sores come with a lot of pain and mostly after an illness or a stressful episode. Pimples are also at times painful but they are not connected in any way to an illness episode.

Further, pimples are relatively large and refer to a relatively wide variety of raised bumps appearing on the skin which include black and whiteheads. Cold sores are smaller in size.

To add on that, pimples can last for more months or even years while the cold sores only come at the time you get exposed to the virus or the inactive virus in your body is activated.[4]

You can treat cold sores when you first notice them using over the counter medications. The medications reduce the time required to heal and handle the pain. Antiviral creams are also useful in case the infection is very severe. On the other hand, pimples can be treated using over the counter hydrocortisone creams.[5]

Better still the pain that is brought about by cold sores can be relieved using medications like lidocaine that provide a numbing effect. Severe cases of pimples can be treated using oral antibiotics.

To reduce the chances of getting pimples, you are advised to wash your face at least twice in a day using warm water and some mild cleansing agent. If at all you want to avoid getting cold sores, then you should avoid sharing personal effects like towels and even utensils with persons who are infected

Cold sore or Pimple Pictures

Here are pictures of cold sores and pimples showing how these conditions are different basing on appearance.

Cold Sore Pictures

Here photos of cold sores on upper and lower lip

acne/pimple vs cold sore pictures
Cold Sore Pictures

Acne/Pimple Sore Pictures

cold sore or pimple pictures
Pimple photos

Similarities Acne vs Cold sore

Inasmuch as the two conditions are skin conditions, there is very little similarities if any.

  • The two are similar in the sense that they can heal without any need for treatment.
  • They both have stages of development.
  • They may both cause you a lot of discomfort whenever they occur.
  • The two conditions can be detected or diagnosed at sight by a qualified medical practitioner, who in this case is a dermatologist.
  • The two at the onset start as spots and then grow out to be different. They have the potential of growing bigger.
  • The two conditions can eventually appear like bumps when they occur on the face.
  • The healing time of both cold sores and pimples can be reduced.
  • More still, the two conditions are both preventable by the right measures in place.
  • The occurrence of the of either cold sores or pimples should however not be taken for granted. You should give them the necessary medical attention because they could be predispositions of other serious medical conditions in the body.








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