What May Be Causing Pimples on Your Elbow

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Pimples can show up anywhere on the body, including the elbows. This is a common occurrence that usually is not serious and shouldn't cause concern. This article will cover what may be causing pimples on your elbows.  

Holding elbow

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Acne is a skin condition that causes pimples. When a pimple appears, the hair follicles that are located under the skin are clogged. Pimples can form on most places of the body, including the neck, back, face, shoulders, and elbows.

Acne can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in teenagers. This condition occurs due to hormone changes, lifestyle habits, and not thoroughly cleaning the skin. Although stress is not known to cause acne, it can make it worse.

Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris, also known as “chicken skin,” displays small and painless bumps on the skin. The bumps vary in color, such as white, brown, red, or skin-colored. It can appear on the upper arms and may extend to the elbow. Other common sites include the cheeks, thighs, and buttocks.

The bumpy skin is usually painless, rough, and dry. Typically, 40% of adults will have these bumps, as will 50% to 80% of teenagers.


A boil is a sore lump deep in the skin caused by bacteria forming an abscess. It may start small, looking like a pimple, and grow in size. Boils are known to be painful to the touch.

If left unbothered, it should break down on its own over time. Boils should not be squeezed or picked at, as this may spread the infection. In some cases, a doctor may be needed to drain the boil.


Folliculitis is inflammation or infection of the hair follicles. It can show up anywhere on the skin where there are hair follicles, including the elbow. It occurs when the hair follicles are damaged. It may not have symptoms, or the skin may feel itchy or painful.

Ingrown Hair

An ingrown hair is inflammation due to a hair curling as it is growing and then penetrating the skin with the hair tip. It is more common in people who have curly hair, but it can happen to anyone. It is more common on the face and groin but could occur on the elbow.

When an ingrown hair occurs, there is redness, the area is inflamed, and pus may form. Symptoms may vary, depending on the person. Ingrown hairs are similar to other skin conditions. Speak with a healthcare professional to get the right diagnosis.


Eczema causes itchy, dry skin and rashes. Also called dermatitis, this condition typically appears on the face, behind the knees, and on the elbows, hands, and feet. Eczema is not contagious.

Babies and children typically get a type of eczema called atopic dermatitis. Adults can get it too. There are other common types of eczema as well. Although the cause is unknown, environmental and genetic factors are known to play a role.

This condition can improve over time or get worse. Speak with a healthcare professional for diagnosis and a plan to manage symptoms.


Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects the knees, elbows, back, face, palms, scalp, and other parts of the body. Psoriasis causes sore patches of thick, discolored skin with silvery scales.

Individuals with psoriasis are known to have issues with the immune system. With psoriasis, skin cells grow in the skin and rise to the surface in days because the cells rise too quickly. With normal cells, the process takes a month.

Depending on the severity, lifestyle habits, and person, psoriasis can come and go. This condition can look like several skin diseases. It is important to speak with a healthcare professional so they can give a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.


Although popping a pimple is the first instinct for some, it is important to let it run its course and use proper treatments that will help the pimple go away. Popping a pimple can cause infection and scarring. There are over-the-counter treatments, medication, and home remedies that can help.

Home Remedies

A warm compress may help open the pores and allow the pimple to drain naturally.

There are a number of home remedies and essential oils that can help ease pimples on the elbow. They include:

  • Green tea
  • Aloe vera
  • Cinnamon
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Tea tree oil
  • Rosemary

Over-the-Counter Treatments

Acne treatments that you can apply to the skin for pimples include:

  • Benzoyl peroxide 
  • Salicylic acid
  • Alpha hydroxy acids
  • Sulfur

For eczema and some other conditions, hydrocortisone cream may be used.


Depending on whether your elbow pimple is due to acne or another condition, your healthcare professional may prescribe medication. Acne treatments may include:

Lifestyle Changes

If you have a pimple on your elbow, it is important to keep the area clean. A healthcare professional can give the proper suggestions regarding specified treatment depending on the condition. The proper way to clean and treat the area depends on the diagnosis. It is important to keep the area clean, use clean washcloths, and be gentle.

Some of the conditions are enhanced due to the environment and/or stress. It is important to be mindful of what makes symptoms better or worse. This can help reduce some of the symptoms. Speak with a healthcare professional to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Treating Specific Conditions

There are some skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, that need additional treatment. Depending on the severity, the doctor can determine the type of treatment needed. It is important to follow the doctor's plan and treatment recommendations for certain skin conditions.

When to See a Doctor

It is important to see a doctor if you have any questions or concerns about the pimple. If your pimple is bleeding, infected, warm, or painful, or if there is an unusual amount of discharge coming from it, call a doctor.


A pimple could appear on your elbow due to acne. Other conditions that may produce a pimple-like bump in the area include boils, eczema, folliculitis, and psoriasis. A normal pimple will go away on its own, but some conditions require professional diagnosis and treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Pimples are very common. If you see a pimple that concerns you, don’t hesitate to call your doctor. It could need professional treatment or be a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis. They can provide a plan that will help your condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you do if you have a pimple on your elbow?

If you have a pimple on your elbow and it does not bother you, allow it to run its course. If it increases in size or has pus in it, call your doctor to be on the safe side. Depending on the skin condition, it could be another issue.

You can ask your doctor about the best type of treatment options for the pimple on your elbow. If it is minor, over-the-counter products will do. If the issue is more severe, the doctor may prescribe medication.

How do you pop a pimple on your elbow?

It is not safe to pop a pimple, and so it is discouraged. It could lead to a skin infection. Popping a pimple could also be painful and leave scarring on the skin. See your doctor for a large pimple or boil that may need further treatment or drainage rather than doing it yourself.

 What does psoriasis look like?

Psoriasis looks like thick and scaly discolored patches with silvery scales on the skin.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Medline Plus. Acne, January 26, 2021.

  2. Wang JF, Orlow SJ. Keratosis pilaris and its subtypes: Associations, new molecular and pharmacologic etiologies, and therapeutic optionsAm J Clin Dermatol. 2018;19(5):733-57. doi:10.1007/s40257-018-0368-3 

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Keratosis pilaris. March 29, 2018.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Boils and carbuncle. April 15, 2016.

  5. American Association of Dermatology Association. Acne-like breakouts could be folliculitis.

  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Ingrown hairs.

  7. Medline Plus. Eczema. May 17, 2021.

  8. Medline Plus. Psoriasis. May 3, 2021.

  9. Orchard A, van Vuuren S. Commercial essential oils as potential antimicrobials to treat skin diseases. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:4517971. doi:10.1155/2017/4517971

By Yvelette Stines
Yvelette Stines, MS, MEd, is an author, writer, and communications specialist specializing in health and wellness.