6 Different Types of Acne, How to Identify and Treat Them

6 Different Types of Acne, How to Identify and Treat Them - Normally, human skin secretes oil through sebaceous glands known as sebum. These glands are connected to follicles, ducts that contain hair. The presence of blockages in the pores causes the sebum glands to not release oil properly.

As a result, oil clogged in the pores can lead to blackheads. When blackheads break, acne will occur. The types of acne that affect people vary. Therefore, it's a good idea to identify the various types of acne and the factors that cause them.

Acne which usually appears on the face, back, neck, shoulders, and chest can affect anyone, both adolescents and young adults. Some of the factors that trigger acne include hormonal changes that are common in adolescence and pregnancy.

The key point to dealing with acne successfully is to recognize the types of acne you are experiencing. In general, acne can be non-inflammatory or inflammatory. Non-inflammatory acne includes open comedones (blackheads) and closed comedones (whiteheads). While inflammatory acne includes papules, pustules, and nodules.

Types of Acne: Their Cause and Symptoms


1. Whiteheads

What are whiteheads? This is a type of pre-pimple under the surface of the skin that can turn into pimples, blemishes or acne. Also known as bikou bumps, whiteheads occur when hair follicles become clogged with oil, dirt and dead skin. Whiteheads form when dead skin cells, oil and bacteria become trapped in pores.

In order to treat whiteheads, you first need to find out what caused them. As mentioned above, the main cause of whiteheads is clogged pores for several reasons. One of them is hormonal changes in which sebum production will increase. This usually occurs during puberty, pregnancy and menstruation.

Read Also: Why Stubborn Acne Appears on Your Face? These are The Main Causes

As a mild form of acne, whiteheads are relatively easy to treat. The first-line treatment for whiteheads is topical retinoids. Ideally used daily, topical retinoids take three months to see an effect. Retinoids work by several mechanisms that ultimately prevent the clogging of pores. The skin will be more sensitive due to the use of retinoids, so you should wear sunscreen every time you go outside.

2. Blackheads

Blackheads are a type of open comedo that look like dark spots on your skin. Blackheads consist of follicles under the skin with very large holes or pores. When you have blackheads, these large pores become clogged with a substance called sebum. A chemical reaction with sebum takes place under the skin, turning clogged pores black. Generally, this form of acne is often found on the back, face and shoulders.

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The possibility of blackheads can be triggered by several factors. Hormonal changes and age are several contributing factors. During puberty, there are changes in hornone levels that trigger a spike in sebum production. This can appear at any age. Male sex hormones called androgens trigger greater secretion of sebum.

How to treat blackheads? Use a special scrub to gently exfoliate your face. Choose products for sensitive skin that are fragrance-free. Drying the skin can indeed reduce excess oil production. However, avoid drying the skin too much as it stimulates extra oil production by the glands. You can also use prescription treatments such as azelaic acid, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide.

Read Also: What are Blackheads and How To Treat Them Effectively

3. Papules

Acne papules are reddish lesions that appear on the surface of the skin due to clogged pores. They are usually small in size that do not contain pus. If they accumulate pus, they turn into pustules. It has a yellow or white head filled with pus that is usually larger than papules.

A type of bacteria called P. acnes is on the surface of our skin, under which are sebaceous glands. These glands produce an oil called sebum which is essential for maintaining healthy skin. Sometimes, tiny pores get clogged with oil, bacteria, and dirt. When the body releases chemicals to fight bacteria, there is inflammation that triggers the formation of papules.


Over-the-counter topical creams are available to reduce papule symptoms. Some topical treatments include benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and topical retinoids. You can also use antibiotics which are effective in reducing acne. They also have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce swelling and redness.

4. Pustules

When the walls of your pores are damaged, this can lead to pus-filled pustules. The lumps that come out of the skin are usually red in color, have a yellow or white head on them. Usually, this acne appears on the face but does not rule out the possibility of affecting other parts of the body such as the back and chest.

As with other types of acne, pustules can affect anyone. The signs of pustules that you can identify include a lump 5 - 10 millimeters in diameter that is larger than a blackhead. Pustules that are painful to the touch cause the skin around them to appear red due to inflammation.

To treat pustules, you can take acne medication with the active ingredient benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and salicylates. Make sure you take it according to the instructions written on the medicine package. If the acne does not improve you can use antibiotics, tretinoin or hormonal drugs recommended by a doctor.

5. Nodules


In contrast to papules and pustules, nodules that can grow larger are deeper under the skin. Nodules occur when clogged pores resist further irritation. Usually, a nodule that feels hard and painful can last for weeks or even months.

Nodules that are very deep in the skin cannot be treated at home. You will need to see a doctor or dermatologist for prescription drugs. They may prescribe the oral drug isotretinoin in the form of vitamin A. For four to six months, you need to take it regularly every day.

Unlike other types of acne, nodules can be easily identified based on their characteristics. Nodules that are painful to touch do not have a head filled with pus. The presence of a lump under the skin makes the affected area tighten, causing the skin to appear red due to inflammation.

6. Cystical Acne

When you have large, red, painful pimples deep in your skin, you have cystic acne. This occurs when the infection creates a pus-filled lump that may feel itchy or painful. If the cyst bursts, the infection can spread, causing more pimples. Cystic acne, which can last for years, can affect larger areas of the skin.

Although doctors aren't sure exactly what causes cystic acne, androgens are said to have a contributing role. Other things that trigger cystic acne include a woman's menstrual cycle, pregnancy, polycystic ovary syndrome, and some skin products.

Due to the severity of cystic acne, you will need to see a dermatologist for a prescription because over the counter (OTC) treatments are not enough. You may be advised to undergo certain treatments or combination therapy. Some of the treatments you can take include isotretinoin, oral antibiotics, and topical retinoids. (Beauté Salon & Spa)

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