Kelly: That's easy for you to say — you don't have a light bulb attached to the end of your nose.
Lisa: Kelly, there's barely anything there. It looks like a freckle.
Kelly: It may look like a freckle now, but by the end of the day, it'll look like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
In Real Life, acne is a fairly common thing that people go through, usually when they reach a certain age during puberty. It's not uncommon to see pizzafaces left and right in the real world, and no one really makes a big deal out of acne unless it's really noticeable on someone. It's also not as time-limited as most people make it out to be; while your first brush with it does tend to occur in your teenage years, some people are just unlucky and can continue to get occasional bouts as adults.
The world of fiction, however, didn't seem to get the memo. In fiction, especially shows and movies aimed at kids and teens, any character who develops acne (usually a girl, but there are male examples too) will treat it like it's the end of the world, even if it's just one pimple.
Usually this is used as a plot device when a female character is preparing for a date, school dance or something similar. She is bubbly and excited that she'll finally be going out with the boy of her dreams and knows in her heart that it will be the best day of her life. But then, the night before her plans, she notices in the mirror that she has a huge zit that in many cases resembles a flashing LED light (except for the "flashing" part, of course, unless Rule of Funny is in play), usually right in the middle of her forehead. She will then spend the remainder of her time fretting over the fact that she doesn't have perfect skin and will usually take drastic measures to hide or remove the pimple. Her attempts usually fail and the acne is eventually revealed to her peers, who treat it like some kind of hilarious mutation the likes of which they've never seen.
Often, though, her date will tell her that it doesn't matter to him if she has perfect skin or not, saying she's beautiful just the way she is. If a female character with bad acne succeeds in having it removed, it usually reveals that she was beautiful all along.
With male characters, however, this is usually played completely for laughs and there is no sympathy shown to them by any of the other characters at all. There's also an urban legend that having sex will cure acne, so the implication that a guy with bad skin...
Strangely, most shows that use this trope depict the character as only having one pimple, with the rest of their face being completely clear. If a show is known for anything supernatural (like Wizards of Waverly Place) or the protagonist has a vivid imagination (like The Amanda Show), expect the zit to become a speaking sentient creature, and as such, it overlaps with a Garrulous Growth.
This seems to be becoming a Discredited Trope these days, as it rarely turns up outside of parody.
- Naota treats the horn he grows in the first episode of FLCL like this.
- Nitori from Wandering Son has quite the reaction when she starts getting pimples, however part of it is because she doesn't want to enter puberty.
- The Junji Ito story "Greased" from Voices in the Dark turns this into pure Nightmare/Nausea Fuel. Goro and (eventually) Yui suffer hideous acne from the oily atmosphere of their restaurant. Oh, and Goro squeezes all of his face pimples onto his sister.
- In the English dub of Tokyo Mew Mew Zoey complains about having a pimple in her 'late for a date' sequence at the start. Ichigo in the Japanese version complained about how she hit her nose on the floor falling out of bed.
- Shining Star: In episode 16, Nara gets a pimple and freaks. She constantly covers her face, tries putting on makeup, and even borrows a pimple cream from Lily and Rose, which ends up making the pimple bigger. In the end, she learns that pimple or no pimple, she's still herself, and she takes the stage with the zit still on her face.
- One issue of Teen Titans Go! had Raven getting a zit that was actually a manifestation of her inner evil, which later emerged as a scaled-down Trigon.
- In Supergirl: Being Super, Kara has a pimple on her chin that everyone, including her parents, bugs her about. When she pops it, the pimple bursts and she gets gunk everywhere. It's one sign Kara isn't a normal teenage girl.
- Archie Comics:
- In one story, Betty gets a pimple and acts like she has a huge cyst on her cheek, demanding to be allowed to stay home and throwing a tantrum when her parents make her go anyways. She frets all the way there until she literally bumps into Archie. The nurse gives her a band-aid to cover her zit.
- Another story has Archie fret over a huge zit on his forehead and goes out of his way to cover it up. His attempts to hide the zit ends up attracting more attention and even started an accidental fad, which the Bee scolds him for. When he finally admits that he's just trying to cover up his zit, everyone else went, "Big deal," and went on their way.
- Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed: Diana hates pimples, as they are an extension of her puberty which is a constant reminder that she's not like the other Amazons and the reason the healers started calling her a changeling since puberty has her exhibiting multiple mortal traits the Amazons do not share.
- Taken to the extreme in the Malaysian 4-panel comic, Lawak Kampus, with Bepop, an acne-ridden teenager whose face is coated in a layer of zits 24-7. Him trying to get rid of his (endless) zits using exaggeratedly outlandish methods is a frequent Running Gag, and he even weaponizes his acne sometimes by squeezing it's contents at anyone who pisses him off. Bepop's zits even helps him in a few Mundane Utility ways, like one instance where Bepop cheats during an exam by squeezing out a cheatsheet hidden inside a particularly large acne. Yes, it's exactly the type of comic it sounds like.
- In Sev Trek: Pus in Boots, an Australian send-up of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Commander Piker gets an enormous zit on his nose, seriously impeding his ability to charm hot alien babes. Unfortunately, the zit turns out to be an evolving sentient lifeform, and so he can't pop the zit without violating the PC Directive, until the zit detaches and goes rampaging through the ship, resulting in the deaths of numerous expendable ensigns.
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Anthony is using a band-aid to cover a zit.
- The teenage Adrian Mole is plagued by spots, which he describes in his diaries in detail. He is convinced that a good bout of lovemaking would clear them up.
Pandora says she is not going to risk becoming a single parent for the sake of a few spots. So I shall have to fall back on self-indulgence.
- Animorphs: Played for Drama in Elfangor's story when in a dimension created by the Time Matrix from his, Loren, and Esplin's memories. Loren takes Elfangor to a McDonald's where the clerk's face is nothing but a pulsating mass of zits because Loren could only think of how bad his acne is and the Time Matrix extrapolated from that.
- Exaggerated in Scorpion Shards. Supernatural circumstances result in Tory being covered completely in horrible acne. Even her acne has acne. She is very shunned. And it's not funny.
- Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: "The Red Spot" mostly consists of the protagonist complaining about the disgusting, itching, hurting and growing spider bite — which is basically a zit — on her cheek. However, it turns out to be much worse than just a zit...
- Another unfunny example turns up in Thinner. Duncan Hopley, the local police chief, is cursed with a horrible case of acne all over his face and arms that eventually drives him to suicide.
- Galaxy of Fear: The Planet Plague has a funny example in the opening, when Tash frets over some of her first pimples. She puts those worries aside as soon as alarming unrelated things start to happen, though.
- An off-page example in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. During a lesson on bubotuber pus, Professor Sprout mentions its use as a cure for acne. Somebody brings up a girl named Eloise Midgen whose pimples got so bad that she tried to curse them off, the result being that she had to go to the nurse to get her nose re-attached to her face. Apparently it did not work perfectly, because later Ron mentions that her nose is off-center.
- Aliens in the Family: One episode involves Heather having a zit on her forehead and having Snizzy remove it with one of her radioactive concoctions.
- The subject of an entire episode of The Cosby Show. Vanessa freaks out because she gets a pimple on her forehead, so Denise lends her a headband to cover it up. Naturally, everyone loves the new accessory.
- Brad got a pimple in the B-plot of an episode of Home Improvement. It's a textbook example of this trope, where he and the other kids act like having one noticeable pimple is a rare and horrible occurrence.
- In Saved by the Bell, acne is only mentioned in the high school setting twice, one in which the trope is played straight and the other in which it is subverted:
- In the episode, “Cream for a Day,” Kelly develops a small pimple on her nose right before Homecoming queen is going to be crowned. Coincidentally, a few days before in Freak Lab Accident, Zack develops a cream that clears away all acne. He sells this to all the students in the school, including Kelly, which at first clears their acne, but then turns their faces completely purple. Their faces all turn back to normal within a few days, with the lesson being not to be too obsessed over small imperfections.
- In another episode, Screech is so overjoyed to get his first zit (as he considers it a rite of adulthood) that he names it.
- In The Wonder Years episode "The Pimple", Kevin gets a zit just several days before a nice girl is supposed to visit his family's home. Kevin doesn't want that zit to be her first impression of him and tries several measures to hide or get rid of it to no avail, including covering it up with a bandage with the excuse that he got into a fight. When the girl and her family finally arrive, it turns out that she has a zit too, and so the whole thing becomes no big deal.
- My So-Called Life, "The Zit". However, as usual for a deconstruction, the zit doesn't get very much attention.
- Ready or Not
- The episode "Crater Face." Danny is hit with an acne problem, causing Amanda to distance herself out of embarrassment.
- "Members Only" has Amanda, because she just growing a nasty pimple, which is particularly distressing since Justin and a bunch of other dudes take it upon themselves to rate the girls as they're walking up or down the stairway, holding up their scores as they pass.
- Wizards of Waverly Place Justin gets a magical zit that talks, and hits on older women. He tries to cover it with a hat with a limited degree of success.
- Justified in the series 3 episode of Men Behaving Badly, "Cleaning Lady". Tony has signed up with a modelling agency to try and impress Deborah, but a zit ruins his only actual job (despite rubbing his face with a concoction containing caribou's placenta) and he gives up.
- An episode of Married... with Children has Kelly getting her only zit ever on the day she was due to appear on TV and trying ridiculous remedies to get rid of it.
- In a sketch from The Amanda Show, Amanda is on a date with a boy who has a large pimple on his forehead. She has a disturbing claymation fantasy about chiseling it off of his face, and it becomes sentient; she fights it and then falls in love with it.
- All That: The "Ear-Boy" sketch had his best friend Pizza Face - who was a Literal Metaphor for this.
- One episode of Victorious starts with Tori being embarrassed when Robbie films her dealing with a zit.
- Young Sheldon: In "A Clogged Pore, a Little Spanish and the Future", Sheldon gets his first pimple, and has him thinking about what will happen when he grows up. When he becomes concerned about the pimple growing bigger, Missy offers to pop it.
- In the Full House episode "Aftershocks," DJ gets a zit right before the school play and spends most of the episode freaking out. She gets over it when she discovers half her class has the same problem.
- Game On (2015): In "The Pimple", Toby tries to fix a pimple on his face before a presentation.
- With a name like Zits, acne has come up a fair number of times.
- Foxtrot: Paige panics over zits often enough. There was once a week-long story in December of her trying to cover one up by wearing antlers to match her "red nose".
- For Better or for Worse:
- Elizabeth went through a week-long arc trying to cover up one on her forehead.
- Years later, April angsted over having a face covered in acne while some of her friends didn't. (She even tried the same method as Elizabeth to cover them.)
- Ben 10: Omniverse: Ben starts breaking out with giant pimples thanks to Swampfire's alien puberty. He doesn't catch on until he notices that the Omnitrix keeps turning him into Swampfire, and Swampfire's head is progressively becoming a yellow flower. His pimple-disfigured face, meanwhile, is helpful for getting around the horror movie-themed Anur System without causing the inhabitants to flee in terror.
- The Trope Namer is the title of an episode of Invader Zim, in which Zim gets a giant, pus-filled pimple from having GIR's greasy pizza and bacon soap rubbed on his face. It starts out as a more typical example of this trope, with Zim using acne products (which actually make it worse, since he is an alien) to try and get rid of the blemish... until he discovers that the pimple has hypnotic powers. After GIR draws a face on it with a marker, Zim attaches a toy body to it, names it "Pustulio" and uses it to control the kids at Skool.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "X Marks The Ed" deals with Eddy getting a large pimple on the top of his head. He tries to hide it, but the other kids in the cul-de-sac eventually find out and tease him mercilessly. He goes to Rolf, who claims to have a special method of removing zits used in the old country, hoping to get rid of his problem. It works, but with the unfortunate side-effect of shrinking his head in the process.
- In the Doug episode "Doug's Huge Zit", Doug gets a pimple that makes him too embarrassed to go to Beebe's party. In the end, it turns out that it's a costume party (which Skeeter tried to tell him about), so he just wears a mask. And when he does take off his mask, no one notices the zit at all.
- Johnny Test had an episode involving a new miracle pimple-removing skin cream. Of course this being Johnny Test, the cream has side effects, namely causing all the removed zits to merge together into one creature.
- In Dave the Barbarian, Candy develops a zit that grows into a huge sentient being... which Candy falls in love with.
- In Family Guy, Chris gets a pimple that's both sentient and evil. It's somehow able to hold a gun to Chris' head, threatening to kill him...despite having no hands (or appendages of any sort) to hold the gun.
- In an episode of Teen Titans (2003), Starfire gets a "pimple" that she frets over and tries to hide until Raven tells her that "everybody gets them". However, the "pimple" begins to grow and she develops more deformities on her body until she becomes grotesquely ugly in appearance, leaving Earth after being laughed at. An alien, however, tells her that these are merely symptoms of her Tamaranian puberty, which climaxes with her transformation into a chrysalis. Said alien then tries to eat her, but the other Titans come to rescue her. By the end of the episode, she's back to her usual appearance.
- My Life as a Teenage Robot: In "Hostile Makeover", Jenny becomes the host of a Cluster robot that slowly transforms her into a mechanical monster. The symptoms begin with bolt-like structures growing on her body, which she treats as pimples and which become a huge source of embarrassment for her.
- Apparently in the world of Kim Possible, not only does the one zit thing stand, but having to use products to prevent potential acne makes you a freak among your peers.
- In one episode of The Simpsons, Cletus is dismayed that his show pig has a zit on the day of a county fair competition.
- An episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold has a de-aging Batman freaking out more about this than the more obvious problems as a quick gag. Complete with Gross-Up Close-Up.
- SpongeBob SquarePants treats barnacles the way other shows would treat zits; the episode "Barnacle Face" was this trope for Pearl. She starts off with one but gets several more after washing her face with Mr. Krabs' homemade soap, which as it turns out was made out of Krabby Patty grease.
- In Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, the episode "Krumm's Pimple". Krumm gets a huge pimple that develops a personality and becomes very popular among the other monsters while causing Krumm to be somewhat ignored. This makes him question if his new friends are only hanging around him for his pimple.
- In one of the "Katie Kaboom" segments on Animaniacs Katie got a pimple, with predictable results.
- The Fairly OddParents!:
- Elmer the Boil Kid. His boil (Bob) has a mind of its own and wants to take over the world.
- Timmy once gained a Bob-sized boil as punishment from Jorgen in "A Wish Too Far". Timmy tried to hide it by hanging his hat on it.
- In "The Switch Glitch", a de-aged Vicky became Cosmo and Wanda's godchild as a consequence of being made miserable by Timmy indulging the opportunity of exchanging their positions as Babysitter from Hell and the babysitter's helpless victim to humiliate and torture Vicky. One of her wishes was for Timmy to have zits.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), Michaelangelo rubs a reject batch of retro-mutagen on his skin (he read the label that said to keep it "Super Cooled" and thought it would make him "super cool") and develops a bad case of "shellacne" which gets progressively worse. If Donatello didn't make an antidote soon, Mikey would eventually turn into one big zit.
- The Futurama episode "Benderama" features an ugly giant with this problem.
Bender: Shield your eyes! It's like Edward James Olmos on IMAX!
- In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Just the Two of Pus", Sperg gets acne all over his face that he can only cure by rubbing his face with Grim's bones. At the end of the episode, he cures it with Billy's batch of stew, but it has the added effect of making his mouth disappear.
- One episode of American Dragon: Jake Long has Jake start breaking out with acne. Turns out, it's a sign that he's about to shed his skin.
- In the Bob's Burgers episode "Purple Rain-Union", Bob gets a pimple on his nose on the night of Linda's high school reunion. Subverted in that it makes him the belle of the ball with Linda's many former classmates who ended up in pharmaceuticals/skin care.
- In one episode, Mr. Cat gets an outbreak of acne on his face, and the audience gets a Gross-Up Close-Up of the pulsating zit. Kaeloo says it's probably puberty. It's later revealed to be an effect of a disease that causes the person's face to temporarily break out in acne, meaning he hasn't hit puberty yet.
- In Episode 118, the Alpha Bitch Pretty gets a zit on her face, and Quack Quack takes a picture of it and posts it on the internet as revenge for her posting embarrassing photos of him earlier in the episode.
- The Oh Yeah! Cartoons short "Fuzzy Bunny Presents: A Kid's Life" was about a girl named Suzy freaking out over having sentient blackheads on her nose the day before the school dance.
- The Sidekick episode "My Brother, My Pimple" revolves around Eric getting a pimple on his face which eventually grows into a Siamese twin named Derek. Said twin turns out to be The Ace at everything before Eric accidentally pops him by hugging him too hard.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "Molt Down" has Spike develop a variety known as "stone scales" as part of the "molt" (the dragon equivalent of puberty). Said stone scales are basically pimples that push up from underneath his scaly skin. Twilight tries to cheer him up by noting that she once went through a really pimply period during her teens, though we sadly don't get to see it.
- An episode of Hero: 108 begins with Mystique Sonia getting a zit, then ends with her being equally despondent over getting another zit in addition to the first one.
- Inverted in the Amphibia episode "Breakout Star". Because Anne is in a world of talking frogs and toads who normally don't think much of humans aesthetically, the presence of zits actually boosts Anne's popularity around the townsfolk considerably, them thinking they're ruby red warts. It gets to the point Anne is rubbing butter on her face to get more zits and retain her newfound popularity, and Mayor Toadstool is riding on her coattails to boost his poll numbers.
- A flashback in DC Super Hero Girls shows that Zee got her first pimple at the same time she unlocked her Puberty Superpowers.
- The Life and Times of Juniper Lee: In one episode, June gets a pimple the day class photos are taken, so she tries to cover it up. Later on, her brother Ray Ray uses it to successfully identify her in a Spot the Imposter situation, much to her dismay.