The Difference Between Herpes and Pimples (with Photos)

What does herpes look like? This is a very common question. It is common for people with Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) symptoms to confuse them with skin problems such as a rash or pimples, or for a simple bug bite, a razor burn, shaving cut, ingrown hair, or yeast infection with HSV.

There are two types of HSV. HSV-1 is known as oral herpes and symptoms appear around the mouth. HSV-2 is known as genital herpes and symptoms appear in the genital area.

Here are the symptoms of HSV (and they usually occur in this order):

  • Itchiness and rash.
  • Reddish, sensitive skin.
  • Inflammation.
  • Small blisters that are usually clear, white, or yellow and filled with clear fluid.
  • Flu-like symptoms including fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fatigue, and lack of appetite.
  • For HSV-2 only: painful urination.

HSV can spread to the eyes, causing a condition called herpes keratitis. This can cause eye pain, discharge, and a gritty sensation.

The Difference Between Herpes Blisters and Pimples

Herpes blisters are clear, white, or yellow and are filled with clear liquid. They lie right on the surface of the skin.
Herpes blisters are clear, white, or yellow and are filled with clear liquid. They lie right on the surface of the skin.
Pimples may appear alone or as an outbreak and are filled with white pus. Pimple sink deeper into the skin than herpes blisters.
Pimples may appear alone or as an outbreak and are filled with white pus. Pimple sink deeper into the skin than herpes blisters.

While herpes blisters do look like pimples, most of the time, it is easy to tell the difference.

Herpes blisters are usually a lot more sensitive to touch. The area may be sensitive even before the initial outbreak. After about a week or more, genital herpes blisters normally start to scab over. Then they turn back into regular, healthy skin once again. Occasionally, the new skin might have a different coloring prior to going back to normal. Subsequent outbreaks are usually less severe and recovery time normally decreases over time.

Genital herpes sores and blisters vary in size, from one to two millimeters. These blisters are filled with a clear liquid and will, at some point, burst open. Herpes sores don't extend deep into the skin as pimples commonly do. Instead, the sores are right on your own skin’s surface. Once they burst, they will scab over.

Differences Between Herpes Symptoms and Acne

Sensitive, itching sensation
Only hurts when you poke it
Usually forms in clusters
Pimples can occur alone
Caused by a virus and occurs on the surface of the skin
Caused by trapped oil within the skin
Filled with a clear liquid and will break to form scabs
Filled with white pus
Lie on the surface of the skin.
Tend to skin down deeper into the skin.

If You Still Can't Tell

When in doubt, it’s generally best to see your physician. Don't be ashamed. Genital herpes is extremely common. If you have herpes, it is possible to keep it in check, and understanding your options can help you live with the virus.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Time will tell. Herpes occurs in cycles. Take some time to notice what your body is showing you. Pay attention to the herpes blister life cycle and continue to look for any additional symptoms, such as fever or muscle tenderness. If "pimples" with a burning sensation occur in the same area after a period of time, it is probably herpes.
  • Evaluate the location. Do the "pimples" occur near your genitals, rectum, or mouth? Those are all common areas for herpes. Herpes symptoms are usually the same no matter where the virus is found on the body, although the location may impact the seriousness of the symptoms.

Comments 4 comments

ladyguitarpicker profile image

ladyguitarpicker 6 weeks ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

Great article with lots of important information about herpes and pimples. Thanks, Stella

Soooo 3 weeks ago

Ok so I've tested positive for hsv2 and experienced a mild outbreak in my genital region. Its confirmed. But Lately (last 6 months) I've noticed frequent pimples around my lower lip. Sometimes 1-3 cm away. My question is, can herpes blisters be "popped?" Because they act like pimples but seem to recur more often then I rmemeber. The best i can benignly attribute them to is the fact I'm sitting in front of my computer cupping my mouth my hand for many hours a day. These pimples are red for a few days before clearing. But never develop into "clusters" of a terrible outbreak. Just one at a time month by month....thanks

prodriver08 profile image

prodriver08 2 weeks ago from Houston, TX Author

Can they be popped? Yes they can. Should they be popped? No they should not. Popping a herpes blister releases a clear liquid that is highly contagious which can easily be spread around the affected area, hands, mouth, etc. It's best to leave them alone and let them heal.

You don't have to have a cluster of blisters. Many people only experience one blister and sometimes they are so small that they are hard to see.

I hope that I answered your questions.

Best of Luck!

Andrea 13 hours ago

My problem with herpes has caused me many traumas, especially in my sex life. I was so afraid of infecting my boyfriend, I suffered the embarrassment of visiting dermatologists queries hundreds of times. Unfortunately, they did not find a definitive solution to my problem.The solution came from the least expected place. By reading in a specialized forum on the subject, mentioned a method for eliminating herpes. Many people had tried, with excellent and quick results.I had nothing to lose so I decided to use this method to eliminate my herpes. spent six weeks using this method and my herpes completely disappeared. I recommend this method to all people who want to eliminate the herpes from your body forever should contact DR.PETER via his direct email:

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