Not all types of acne are the same. There are 6 basic types of pimples, below we will cover how to identify and take care of them.
Not all types of acne are the same.
You may be dealing with one or two shallow, non-infected, blackheads which will likely clear up with a little over-the-counter acne cleanser in a few days. Or, you could have a handful of large, deep, infected nodules that seemingly take forever to heal.
There are 6 basic types of pimples, and while you may have a mix of these types, it is important to identify which ones you are dealing with to make sure you get the proper treatment.
The following 6 types are listed in order of approximate severity, so, if you find that you have the acne types towards the bottom of this list, you are better off speaking with a doctor about professional acne treatment options.
Blackheads are pimples that look like little black dots in your pores, and they are not considered inflammatory acne, so there is normally no pinkness, swelling, inflammation, or redness along with these.
They are formed by skin oils (sebum) and dead skin cells lodging themselves into an open pore, and appears greyish or black from the contents oxidizing through exposure to air.
Blackheads are relatively shallow blemishes, and tend to clear up with the use of over-the-counter acne cleansers like those containing salicylic acid. They can sometimes be removed by manual extraction by a professional, but avoid doing this yourself as you may infect, inflame, or scar the area.
Whiteheads are similar to blackheads in that they are non-inflammatory pores clogged with sebum and dead skin cells. But, whiteheads differ because the pore is closed and holding in these contents, and producing a slightly raised white bump or “head” to the blemish.
Since whiteheads are also relatively shallow, they are normally treated with over-the-counter acne creams and cleansers containing salicylic acid. And, while those white bumps may be tempting to pop, leave extractions to a professional as picking at these can cause infections and scarring.
Papules are an inflammatory type of acne, but they generally do not have any sort of “head” to them. Papules form when the walls of a pore clogged with sebum, skin cells, and bacteria start breaking down and becoming inflamed. This causes a pinkish small bump to form, which may feel swollen and inflamed.
Papules are slightly more severe than blackheads or whiteheads and may be treated with over-the-counter or prescription acne medications.
Pustules are similar to papules, and also form when a clogged pore start breaking down the pore walls, but they are redder and filled with white or yellow pus. Pustules are also inflammatory and may be raised, tender, or swollen.
These should not be popped, unless by a professional, and may be treated with over the counter or prescription medications.
Nodules are a more severe and painful type of acne.
Nodules form when a clogged and inflamed pore worsens and they are located deeper inside the skin than papules or pustules. This type of acne tends to be much larger and appears as a large, red, painful bump on the skin. Since these are so deep, they often cannot be treated with over-the-counter medications alone. A doctor may prescribe antibacterial medications or retinoids like Tretinoin to help clear these deeper blemishes.
Cysts are the most severe acne type. Cysts are similar to nodules in that they are deep within the skin and can be extremely painful. However, cysts are even deeper than nodules, can be large and red or white, contain a lot of pus, and are the most likely blemish to leave a scar.
If you are developing cysts, it is recommended to see a doctor for prescription antibacterial or retinoid treatment to help clear the cysts and prevent scarring.
Regardless of the acne types you find popping up for you, if acne is persistent, moderate to severe, or bothersome, getting professional help may help clear breakouts and keep them at bay.
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