Difference Between Pimples and Herpes Sore

A bump on your genital area may be a simple pimple or some infection like herpes. Herpes is one of the most common infection affecting that area.

Hence, it’s worthwhile differentiating its lesions from a simple pimple.

Appearance

If you observe carefully, the two appear quite different. A pimple is a hard to firm elevation above the skin. It appears tight. It is filled with a white pasty material inside. This is sebum. The surface of a simple pimple appears just as your skin. Until infected, there is no head over it.

If it gets infected, a pimple may present differently. It becomes larger in size. As the pasty material inside it becomes infected, the pimple softens. Pus replaces sebum to fill the pimple. It may be soft to firm to touch. This pimpl may become smelly.

Bumps you get in herpes are small. They are more like blisters and usually appear in clusters or groups, unlike pimples. They are soft to firm to touch. They appear transparent and are filled with a clear fluid inside.

Surrounding Skin

Skin surrounding a pimple is your normal skin. However, if it gets infected, skin around the base of the pimple may become red and slightly swollen.

In herpes, skin surrounding the little bumps is red in color and looks irritated. You get a constant burning sensation over it.

Number of Bumps

Usually, pimples are solitary, or one to two in number over your genital area. In cases where they are infected, the infective material from inside them may spill out affecting the near by skin. This may give rise to a few more pimples.

Herpes always produces lesions in group. A minimum would be two or more in number. Usually there are five to six bumps in a cluster.

Symptoms

Whereas, pimples are symptom less, Herpes always gives some symptoms.

It is essentially a viral infection affecting the skin. There is a typical burning sensation in the affected area of the skin. Some lesions may itch.

There is no pain unless you get an add on bacterial infection over the herpes lesion.

Pimples are quiet, until they get infected. Infected pimples may pain, present with pus inside them that requires drainage.

Location

While herpes affects the genital regions, pimples may occur anywhere over the body where you have oil secreting glands. This may include your face, armpits, nape of the neck, back, groin area etc.

Herpes lesions are common in the genital region. There may be lesions near the mouth in some cases.

Both these conditions affect the teens and early adult life. It’s advisable to consult a doctor and go for a physical examination of the lesions for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

How Herpes Looks in Men?

Herpes is essentially a viral infection affecting the skin. Since it is genitally transmitted, the affected areas include the genitals, skin surrounding the anal opening and area around the mouth, in certain cases where oral sex is practiced.

  • In men, you find all general symptoms that you get in a viral fever. This would include fever, headache, fatigue or muscle aches. There is a general feeling of not being well.
  • Then you see blisters appearing over the genital area. Commonly, they may appear over the upper part of penis, scrotal sacs, around the anus, inner thighs.
  • They are small and occur in group. They area filled with a clear fluid. There is a pricking or burning sensation over and around these blisters.
  • Gradually, these blisters may rupture to ulcerate. At this stage, bacteria may get attracted to grow over the ulcers. It may pain.
  • Ulcers scab with time and finally heal.

How Herpes Looks in Women?

The presentation of the disease is similar as in men. There are general symptoms of any viral fever. Blisters appear over the genital area. The areas commonly affected area the labia, lower inner vagina, around the anus, area between the vagina and the anus.

Women show an additional symptom, as compared to men. There may be a vaginal discharge. This off white to yellow in color. There is pain during sex and urination.

Role of Condoms In Preventing Herpes

Condoms are not 100% efficient is preventing the disease from getting transmitted. This is so because apart from spreading through body fluids, the disease also spreads through viral shedding.

Superficial cells of the affected skin area continuously sheds off with the virus in it. This shed skin may touch the partner’s normal skin to infect it.

Medical Advice (Q&As) on “Distinguishing Between Herpes and Genital Pimples

  1. nd

    I have pimple white head on clitoris and some are in small size on top of clitoris. They pain less. What to do. Please tell me cream to get rid of it.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      If you are sexually active, it is advisable to rule out the possibility of STDs. You may visit a doctor for genital examination.

      You may read more about genital pimples.

      Reply
  2. disturbed

    I have one single small bump that is painful, close to the hair line in my labia near my vaginal opening. I am only sexually active with one person and neither one of us have stds. It just randomly popped up. I don’t know what it is but I would love to get rid of it what is this. It has me freaking out.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Likely to be an infected pimple. Apply mupirocin (bactroban) antibiotic ointment over it for a week. It will subside gradually.

      Reply
  3. RA

    I’m a 19 year old girl and puberty probably started when I was 8. I became sexually active at 17. I’ve had pimples developing in my groin area, on my bum, and armpits and sides, like wear my bra is, since I was 10 years old. The pimples are only on the outer labia and in the crease between thigh and labia and on my inner thighs. They are larger than facial pimples and are painful and they tend to come back. When drained the pus is usually accompanied by blood. I’ve never seen a doctor about it but when I had my first exam with a gynecologist at 17 she didn’t say anything. Also, I find it kind of odd that none of my sexual partners ever had a problem with it; I’ve always been embarrassed about it.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Recurrent pimples can be a cause of worry. This may be related to your lifestyle and diet.

      Pimples erupt at places which are moist, infrequently washed and tightly clothed.

      To stop them, take a warm bath daily. Soaps are not required every day, a mild gel would be enough. Wear loose cotton clothes, when ever possible, as at night times.

      Watch your diet. Take less of fried fatty stuff and caffeine drinks. They lead to pimple formation. Consume more of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are natural detoxifiers. Drink plenty of plain water.

      Read more on recurrent pimples on vagina.

      Reply
  4. JustAGal

    Few months ago, I had a pimple on my outer labia on the left side and it first seemed like an ingrown hair but I think it was a pimple. I never had acne on my face so I had nothing to compare it to! Well just now I was in the bathroom and realized the bump is back and I shave completely this time using a cheaper razor though and cheaper shave cream so I’m thinking it’s from that but this time instead of the bump being just hard and round it was fragile and upon examining it it popped (gross ik). I was disgusted because pus was filled in it after wiping that all out blood followed and I looked hard to make sure I had no more bumps and to make sure this one wasn’t a blister or something that’s more alarming. It had one dot in the middle like a hair would grow from it like a pimple but like I said I never had acne so I wonder if this is a pimple please help! I haven’t been sexually active for years but I do shave and just got back from Vegas and Cali where it was very hot and all my underwear were not cotton plus my partner lives out there and we didn’t have sex just touching down there could that cause this bump? I’m worried.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      This is likely to be an ingrown hair that has become infected. The infection could have come from touching down there with contaminated hands, or may be too much of trapped moisture contributed to it.

      Pubic hair are thick and curly and so they have a tendency to form ingrown hair.

      Just keep the area clean and dry. Since it has been drained already, your bump is likely to get better on its own in 3 to 5 days.

      Reply
  5. Stacey d.

    Me and my boyfriend have pimples and we had them for 2 days already. We are in our teens 14 and 16. We did not have sex, but we make out we do not know what to do. The pimples are on our lips. Please help, people think that we have herpes but we know we do not. We do not know what to think. HELP!

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      All pimples present on the lips are definitely not herpes. It is common to get pimples anywhere over the body in your age group.

      Let us know the exact locations of the pimples. How many are they in number? Are they present on the genitals as well? Are they painful? Do they seem to have pus inside them.

      Reply
  6. stacey d.

    I am very sorry. I just found out that we do not have pimples, we have cold sore. Where do they come from. We need your help.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      It’s alright. Both of you need to go to a doctor for examination. This is essential to rule out herpes.

      Herpes does not require sex to spread. It may spread while kissing someone carrying the virus, with no open ulcers or sores. You won’t come to know when you get infected.

      Reply
  7. Anonymous

    I’m 17 years old and I am sexually active with only 1 partner. My boyfriend has no sexual diseases, he was a virgin until we began having sex. I get these irritating itchy bumps that come in about more than 10 pimple like group and they are close by each other. I was examined by a doctor at a Women’s clinic and she claimed it as herpes, but I wasn’t exactly positive because I read that herpes can only be spread by those who are infected and I have never met anyone infected by Herpes. I am afraid that I could be diagnosed with herpes, What should I do?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Herpes lesions do come in clusters.

      Herpes may spread through kissing, hand contact or a simple fore play.

      It is recommended you get yourself screened for herpes. Nothing to worry, this is a treatable condition.

      Reply
  8. sharon

    Hello friends I’m Sharon had herpes for 3 years, but do not know, I was desperate to find a solution. The medicine the doctor prescribed seemed to me that would work, but I only relieved the symptoms and not solved my problem of herpes.
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    Reply
  9. Julie

    I have pimples on my vagina. I am sexually active. But I don’t wanna go to the doctor because I don’t want my mom to know. Any creams you can suggest?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      It is recommended that you go to a doctor for a physical exam. These simple looking pimples may be an early sign of some STD. Read above in detail.

      For the mean time, you may apply mupirocin over these pimples. This is an antibiotic cream. It may help.

      Reply
  10. jack in tacoma

    I recently discovered a swollen are on the right side shaft of my penis. It seems symmetrical and overall has a reddish color. It is raised and has 4 dark colored spots on it. It does cause discomfort occasionally if it rubs on my clothes. I have been working lately in hot conditions and have to wear a neoprene suit that cause me to sweat a great deal generally soaking all my clothes, as I am in this suit for hours. I do dry off and change clothes afterward but can’t shower for a couple hours till I get home. I have had jock itch before and this seems similar I am treating it with an antifungal product but wanted a second opinion.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      This is very likely to be a fungal infestation. Is the lesion responding to the anti fungals you are using?

      Just keep the area clean and dry. Wash it twice daily with plain water. Soaps or gels are not required there. These may lead to dryness of the mucosal skin.

      Avoid friction while movements over the lesion.

      Reply
      1. jack in tacoma

        Yes it has been. The rash has gone down and the redness is gone. The spots are still there but seem smaller. Thank you for the tip. I think the soap has dried it out a little.

        Reply
  11. Katie

    I have a few small, relatively flat bumps near my vagina (around the actual opening, on both sides) that itch like crazy when irritated. I am a virgin, and have only ever done other sexual actions with one person, who is also a virgin. I have been experiencing this itch down there for about two months. It isn’t a problem, and doesn’t bother me until it’s stimulated, which has allowed me to tolerate it for so long. Any ideas as to what I’m experiencing?

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    I have had little white bumps all over my labia (both of them) and anywhere on my vagina where hair doesn’t grow excepting my clitoris and vagina hole. I am sexually active, but I have had these for years before that. They don’t itch or hurt, but are clustery. They are small and white, and I can pop them and make pus come out. They don’t seem to disappear though, like permanent pimples. Every once in a while I get a real red pimple down there and it goes away instantly. I have had this one though that has been there for months and won’t pop, like it is solid. It is the size of a normal pimple and has no coloration. I also recently had a pimple develop on my minor labia, and it does hurt, but it popped and a little pus came out, it just hasn’t gone. My mother had an STD when I was born but they vaccinated me for a few days before releasing me. Am I okay?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      It’s not normal to have such pimples down there. It is recommended that you visit a gynecologist for physical exam.

      This may be some STD lesions.

      Reply
  13. Ana

    First off in 22 and had my son at age 19. While I was pregnant I started getting these blister like sores. At first I thought was a pimple and I popped it. It was very painful. It oozed and bled. I regularly saw an ob/gyn and they never brought up the bumps. They kept coming back and they were painful, more so when I walked a lot. After they went away within days some times weeks they started leaving these scar looking marks. They were hollow in the middle. It wasn’t until the day I had my son (by c-section) that one nurse pointed out “what are those” I told her I don’t know and she looked worried but asked “maybe cysts?” I have been worried they might be hpv or herpes. But I have looked up both and my bumps look nothing like either. These bumps come and go and I feel like they happen mostly when I walk too much and irritate myself. I forgot to mention from the beginning where the bumps are. They are mostly in the crease of my leg/thigh and outer vaginal lips. They almost seem they are identically to each other although sometimes they flare up mostly on the right side. Done times I see pimple like bumps on my actual vaginal lip and once on the inner lip. It went away. This last week I’ve been in discomfort and slight pain because I’ve been over active and they flared up on both sides and today one much much closer to my vaginal lip. Small pea sized and seems to glow slightly in size when agitated. I am seriously afraid it could be hpv because when I was a teen I was getting the hpv vaccine but never returned for my final dose. Please help!

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      You may get yourself screened for herpes.

      Also, make sure you are wearing loose cotton underwear most of the time. This is to allow ventilated in the groin area. Accumulation of moisture down there leads to pimple formation.

      Reply
  14. Meyer

    Hi! I’m a 19 year old boy. This morning I just noticed a pimple like object above my penis where my pubic hair is. I was given unprotected oral sex about 5 months ago. It looks just like a pimple and I’m probably just being paranoid. Do I have to worry about any STDs?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Start treating it like a pimple. Apply mupirocin ointment over it, thrice daily.

      Let us know if it does not improve.

      Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Be observant. If they grow or discharge or show any suspicious sign, as listed above, you may go to a doctor.

      Otherwise, it may be a simple pimple that is likely to go away with time.

      Reply
  15. Joseph Perez

    Hello I am a male, 20 years old. About two weeks ago after receiving oral sex from a female friend, immediately after I knew something wasn’t feeling right I had a tingling sensation when wearing clothes at the head of my penis and it was tender and sore. Went to my school doctor a week after that we tested for =chlamydia & gonorrhea which both came back negative she said it was Non-Gonococcal-urethritis cause by a bacteria infection, I was put on doxycycline for 7 days twice daily and my symptoms are gone and I feel a lot better. But call me paranoid but she did take a swab of my urethra to rule out herpes but that test takes weeks and I’m feeling uneasy and nervous I had no discharge or sores with my NGU, and just my luck I get a ingrown pubic hair yesterday which was completely painless it did hurt or even burst open with any fluid. I literally pulled the hair out & put some rubbing alcohol and it’s literally almost gone it’s dark at the base (I’m African-American) and a light pink at the center with dried edges cause of rubbing alcohol, am I being paranoid? Or should I be worried? Even though I tested negative for the other two, is there a chance it may be something else?

    Reply
  16. Josh

    I am a 16 year old male. I am a virgin and have never had any type of sexual intercourse. I do masturbate, and I have 4 red pimples on my scrotum, they irritate me. They do not hurt unless they rub against my clothes. I put rubbing alcohol on them and they feel better after a couple minutes of extreme pain. Any ideas what it could be?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      May be clogged sebaceous glands. If they are red or irritate you, start applying mupirocin ointment over each of them, twice daily for a week.

      If they don’t bother you, leave them as such. They’ll regress on their own with time.

      Reply
  17. Tori

    Hey I have an yeast infection. I do not get itches but it burns a lot. I recently noticed parts of the inside of my vaginal wall appearing chewed up. CAN YEAST EAT MY VAGINAL WALL? This is URGENT, please help!

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      No, yeast infection cannot eat up the walls. If you are sexually active, you need to get screened for STDs.

      It may be herpes.

      Reply
      1. Tori

        Not even if you have had it for a few years ?? I have never been sexually active and this chewed up bit is on the inside of the vulva walls (the pink area). At first it was small but now it seems as tho it has grown in size and the vulva becomes red and sore at nights and the area hurts a lot. I also notice a lot of flow out now. That’s why I asked.

        I remember i think I hurt the vulva from stretching but at the same time i was douching apple cider vinegar. That’s around the same time I started noticing the increase flow of the vaginal yeast. Now it hurts as hell and it is especially painful during night time. Worried

        Reply
        1. Tori

          Not even if you have had it for a few years? I have never been sexually active and this chewed up bit is on the inside of the vulva walls (the pink area). At first it was small but now it seems as though it has grown in size and the vulva becomes red and sore at nights and the area hurts a lot. I also notice a lot of flow out now. That’s why I asked.

          I remember I think I hurt the vulva from stretching but at the same time I was douching apple cider vinegar. That’s around the same time I started noticing the increase flow of the vaginal yeast. Now it hurts as hell and it is especially painful during night time. Worried.

          Reply
          1. Buddy M.D. Post author

            This sounds like an infection. You need to get examined to know what infection it is.

            It may be yeast. For that, anti fungals like canesten, needs to be used twice daily for a week.

  18. Winsome Hinson

    Woke up this morning and felt two to three watery looking bumps on the outside of labia. I had felt a slight irritation for few days before but didn’t think much of it. I’m curious as to what could cause this and if it’s imperative I see a doctor. Thank you.

    Reply
  19. Confused

    I am an African American Lesbian. My partner and I were recently diagnosed with Trichomoniasis last year. Her doc gave us both meds and that was that. However, after that I started experiencing 2 bumps on my left rectum cheek, in the crease, almost at the bottom of my vagina. I had, had ingrown hairs before when I shaved but this one was out of control so I went to the ER the Doc cut it open and it was Funky as you know what! he drained it and I didn’t go back because I felt like it would heal on its own and when he poked me it hurt really bad but I was relieved so I didn’t follow up. So I started noticing that near my menstrual cycle this bump-because he sliced both of them and made it one-became more frequent. I thought it might have been because it never fully healed. It’s hard to keep that part of rectum dry. I do wear boxers if that helps. So anyway, I went to get a full STD test HIV/herpes everything they did a blood and urine test and told me I tested positive for Herpes 2 Genital herpes. I immediately asked my partner (again) who she slept with and we both referred back to earlier when she got tested at her docs. But the problem is that test did not test for herpes just the standard sti’s. She has moderate acne that comes and goes so it’s really hard to say. Is this just my way of coping or denial. Or do my symptoms line up. They did not test my bumps as I had been taking extra effort to keep dry because of the frequency and this last period I did not have a bump.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      If you have been tested positive for herpes, you are likely to be carrying the germ.

      Both you and your partner are likely to be infected.

      Reply
  20. April

    About a month ago, I noticed two small bumps on both sides of my outer vagina. Two days later, they grew in size. It’s like the bump was under the skin. The outside skin looks normal. No change in skin color. They were very uncomfortable. They only bothered me when I was walking. So I did warm compress and hot baths. It drained, I cleaned them, and they went away. Two days ago, I got them again. 2 of them. Its kind of embarrassing with my husband. I’m sure my husband is faithful and I am too. What could these things be? What can I do to make sure they don’t come back?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      They may be pimples. Pimples which have pus in them may recur due to repeat infections. The pus inside them may touch the surrounding area to give rise to another pimple.

      Just keep the area clean and dry. Start applying mupirocin (bactroban) ointment over the pimples, twice daily for a week.

      If the recur, may be you need to get screened for STDs.

      Reply
  21. Vanessa

    I have what appears to be a white flat long sore on my labia majora. What could this be? It’s not in clusters. It’s the one longish sore like thing. It burns a lot but doesn’t itch.

    Reply
  22. Anonymous

    I took the tests and it isn’t herpes, vdrl, hiv or hep B. I already visited the Gyne, awaiting results for test. What else do you think it is likely to be? I am a virgin by the way. It’s freaking me out, it’s like the inside of my labia is eating away.

    Reply
      1. Vanessa

        Ok, along with the std tests, I did pelvic ultrasound, CBC, RBS, urine and microscopic culture and sensitivity and Genitals swabs. She scraped piece of the sore and placed it into some brownish liquid. Anyways results are back. She said everything is normal. No yeasts, no bacteria, std, uterus is fine. So she wonders if I stuck my finger up my vagina.

        A month ago, my bf and I were dry humping with our clothes off and he was jabbing me with his penis a bit till it was sore. South of the hymen was bleeding a bit but that has stopped and then I notice this sore or bruise? If it is a bruise then why hasn’t it healed by a month? And it appears jagged. What do you think?

        Reply
        1. Buddy M.D. Post author

          Delay in healing may occur commonly due to two causes, either there is some constant irritation over the affected area or you have high blood sugar levels.

          Reply
          1. Vanessa

            My blood sugar tests came back neg. It was 5.0 and the standard range is 3.5 to 6.1 on the sugar test result, so that’s normal?

  23. Ashley

    I have a few itchy pimple looking spits with white heads either side of my vagina on my buttocks. They are irritating and the area that they are in is very red and raw. I have recently stopped breast feeding. I have been using canasten cream but it seems to be getting worse.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      If you are sexually active, you may have to rule out the presence of STDs.

      For now, you may start applying mupirocin ointment over the affected area. Apply it twice daily for a week.

      Reply
      1. Ashley

        I have been to the doctor. He said it was folliculitis but he didn’t really look properly. There are no visible sores around the vulva and the sores that are present on my buttocks are filled with white pus. Does this seem like folliculitis or herpes?

        Reply
        1. Buddy M.D. Post author

          This appears to be infected glands or hair follicles of the area.

          You need to keep the area clean and dry. All secretions, be it sweat, urine or feces are irritants for the skin. Wash the area with plain water twice every day. Then apply some moisturizer / emollient over the area.

          Apply mupirocin over the pimples twice daily.

          Reply
  24. Terry taylor

    One morning, I woke up with a raised yellow/red head on the middle of my penis shaft. I popped it and yellow stuff and blood came out of it. I showered straight after, but a week or two later, I got a couple red dots around my shaft and penis head. I also noticed I got an increase in dots half an hour after sex on the head of my penis. Can you help me out on this, thanks.

    Reply
      1. Buddy M.D. Post author

        Likely to be an infection. You may need to take antibiotics for this.

        You need to see a doctor for examination.

        Reply
  25. Larah

    I’ve got a really sore pimple. Should I pop it with a butter knife or a sharp knife or should I try to suck it in with the vaccuum cleaner. Sorry if it’s gross but what to do. I feel like jumping off a cliff right now. On my gen gens.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Just start doing warm compresses over it. This would soften the skin over the bump and help in drainage, if possible.

      Also, after the warm compress, apply mupirocin ointment over it.

      This needs to be done twice daily.

      Reply