In Real Life, acne is a fairly common thing that people go through, usually when they reach a certain age. 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Anthony is using a band-aid to cover a zit.
- 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. Book 3. The Red Spot. It's not funny, either.
- 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.
- 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: overall as something to be shunned and avoided at all costs (even considering the cast frets about it a lot but largely doesn't exhibit any), and in one episode when Screech is so overjoyed to get his first zit (as he considers it a rite of adulthood) that he names it.
- In an episode of The Wonder Years, 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.
- 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 had a similar plot, with 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.
- 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 of her trying to cover one up by wearing antlers to match her "red nose".
- 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.
- One episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy 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, 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.
- In an episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot, 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 huge sources 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 deaging 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.
- 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", Vicky became Cosmo and Wanda's godchild. One of her wishes was for Timmy to have zits.
- 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.
- On 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 that 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 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.