If you have a small red bump on your hand, there’s a good chance it’s a pimple. While it’s not the most common place to get a pimple, our hands are constantly exposed to dirt, oils, and bacteria. All of these things can cause acne outbreaks.

Our hands, however, are also prone to other conditions that can sometimes be mistaken for pimples.

Acne

Pimples are caused by a skin condition called acne, which almost everyone deals with at some point in their lives. Contrary to common belief, not only teenagers get acne — adults do too.

The main triggers of acne are a buildup of dirt, oil, dead skin, or bacteria inside the pores and hair follicles of our skin. These irritants cause that area of skin to swell and sometimes fill with small amounts of pus.

This can happen almost anywhere on your body, and hands are no exception.

One of the best defenses against acne on your hands? Keeping them clean by washing regularly. But be aware that acne can also be triggered by washing too frequently with harsh soaps. These soaps kill the good bacteria on our skin and can disrupt the area’s pH balance, causing inflammation.

Other causes

Think about all of the dirt, oil, grease, and chemicals your hands come into contact with on a daily basis. Now think of all the germs you touch in bathrooms, kitchens, and public spaces every single day.

Despite our best efforts with washing, our hands are susceptible to lots of different skin conditions. The bump on your hand might be a pimple, but it could also be something else entirely. Here are some signs that you may not be dealing with a simple zit:

  • It hurts a lot or is extremely swollen and irritated.
  • It doesn’t go away on its own within a week or so.
  • It contains a large amount of pus or even oozes fluid.
  • It keeps growing beyond regular pimple size.

The tricky thing is that many common skin conditions look similar, meaning they start off as small red bumps that can be easily mistaken for pimples. Here are just a few of the skin conditions common to hands you may want to be aware of:

  • Atopic dermatitis. The most common type of eczema, this condition causes small red bumps, often on the hands, that can be quite itchy. If what appears to be pimples on your hand start to spread, itch and flake, you could be dealing with atopic dermatitis.
  • Ganglion cyst. This cyst, or small sac of fluid, typically appears on the hands and wrist. You should suspect your pimple is actually a ganglion cyst if it grows to a larger size and becomes painful to the touch.
  • Abscess. An abscess is very similar to a cyst in that it’s a small red bump filled with fluid. The key difference is that abscesses usually form due to infection and are often much more serious and painful.
  • Calcinosis. This condition causes a buildup of calcium in or under the skin, sometimes forming small or large white bumps. If the bump on your hand is white, grows, and starts to leak a chalky fluid, it could be calcinosis.
  • Warts. If what appears to be a pimple on your hand spreads into a patch of small bumps that are scaly or grainy, you could be dealing with common warts. They’re usually harmless but might require a doctor’s attention if they become painful or spread to a sensitive area of your body.

If you’re confident the bump on your hand is a common zit, it will more than likely disappear over the course of a few days or weeks with no treatment. If you’d like to speed up the process or prevent more hand pimples, there are a few options.

Hygiene

Switch to a mild soap and wash your hands a few times per day, especially after using the bathroom and after handling dirty or oily items.

Medications

Unless you have major recurring acne breakouts on your hands, a little spot treatment with over-the-counter (OTC) medications — such as a cream or gel that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide — to dry the area out, fight bacteria, and promote healing.

Pain relief

If the pimple on your hand causes you tremendous pain, it could be a cyst or something more serious, and you should see a dermatologist. For minor discomfort from a hand pimple, you can turn to an OTC pain reliever like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

You also have plenty of natural options for treating your pimples at home, whether they’re on your hand or somewhere else.

As an added bonus, natural remedies usually smell great and can sometimes have other benefits for your skin besides fighting acne and inflammation, like moisturizing.

Practitioners of natural healing suggest direct application of substances such as:

Essential oils extracted from natural elements and plants are popular, and for good reason. Certain studies have shown that, among other benefits, they can be useful for reducing inflammation and preventing acne outbreaks.

Concentrated essential oils can be irritating to the skin, so certain types may need to be diluted before use with water or a carrier oil. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

It’s also recommended that you do a patch test before applying diluted essential oils to pimples: Put a small amount on your forearm and wait 24 hours. If the skin is irritated in that area, don’t use that oil for treatment.

Try these essential oils for spot-treating your hand pimple:

“Popping a pimple makes it heal faster” is a common myth. Your best bet is to let the pimple run its course naturally and fade away over time.

Popping the pimple on your hand could push the infection deeper into the skin, spread bacteria, further inflame your skin, or even cause scarring.

A pimple on your hand, or anywhere else on your body, will usually go away on its own if you leave it alone and keep the area clean using a mild soap.

You can also spot treat it for faster healing or prevent future acne outbreaks using inexpensive OTC creams.

Pimples often don’t cause a lot of pain, ooze pus or fluid, or last more than a week or two. If the bump on your hand is showing some of these signs, it’s possible that it’s a cyst or some other skin condition that should be evaluated by your doctor or a dermatologist.