Most people experience acne at some point in their lives. But not all breakouts are the same. Acne is a broad term that covers several different types of acne vulgaris.
If you’re experiencing a breakout or can’t seem to get rid of those pesky pimples, the first step towards clear skin is to find out which type you’re dealing with.
This article will explore the different types of pimples and acne. You’ll also learn the best ways to treat acne-prone skin.
Different Types of Acne
Whether you get the occasional pimple or regular full-blown breakouts, being able to identify the different types of acne is key to finding the right treatment.
Let’s take a closer look at the six different types of acne blemishes and how to identify them.
Whiteheads are what most people think of when they hear the term acne. These pimples develop underneath the skin’s surface and appear as small spots with a white head.
The name comes from the thin layer of skin covering the pimple and giving it a white appearance.
The surrounding skin around a whitehead does not show any redness or signs of inflammation. If the area is inflamed, you’re probably experiencing a papule or pustule.
Whiteheads are caused by a pore becoming clogged with dead cells, excess oil, and other impurities. As more oil and dead cells build up in the clogged pore, it causes a whitehead to appear.
Blackheads are very similar to whiteheads but have a dark appearance. While a thin layer of skin covers a whitehead, blackheads are exposed clogged pores that appear as dark spots.
When the oil and debris in the pore reach the skin’s surface, the oxygen in the air causes it to turn black. That’s where the name blackhead comes from.
People with oily skin are more likely to experience blackheads. Some skin care products and medications can also trigger breakouts.
If you want to learn more about this type of acne and the best treatment options, check out our Science of Blackheads guide.
A papule will appear as a firm red bump that may be tender to touch. Papules occur when a pore becomes clogged and ruptures.
The wall of the pore breaks, and the bacteria and oil leak into the surrounding skin and pores. This typically leads to inflammation of the area.
Squeezing a whitehead can damage the pore and lead to a papule. Pores can also rupture due to the pressure from the buildup of oil, dead cells, and bacteria.
The Cutibacterium acne bacteria feeds on the oil trapped in the pore and starts to multiply. This triggers the body to send inflammatory cells to fight off the bacteria, which can weaken the pore and cause a rupture.
Pustules are the next stage of a papule. Your body responds to bacterial growth in a papule by flooding the area with inflammatory cells. This response kills off the bacteria, but it also causes the papule to fill with dead cells, also known as pus.
The buildup of pus in the pustule causes it to have a white cap. This type of acne is usually larger than a papule and softer to touch.
It may be tempting to squeeze a pustule, but that’s never a good idea. Popping a pustule can push the contents of the pimple deep into the dermis and make the inflammation worse.
Acne nodules appear as small bumps underneath the skin. These bumps can become red and inflamed, or they may have the same colouring as your skin tone.
Unlike a pustule, nodules do not have a head. Instead, the nodule fills with pus much deeper in the skin. Nodules can cause pain and discomfort and be very tender to touch.
Nodules are caused by the growth of bacteria and the body’s inflammatory response. The pore ruptures, and the bacteria leaks into the surrounding tissue.
This type of acne can cause moderate to severe scarring if left untreated.
This is the most severe form of acne. It occurs deep in the skin due to bacteria, oil, and dead cells becoming trapped in the pore. This triggers a strong inflammatory response from the body that leads to fluid-filled nodules or cysts forming in the dermis.
When a pore wall breaks, the body creates a membrane around the area to try and contain the infection. This membrane fills with pus and sometimes blood.
Cystic acne is the largest type of acne and often appears as large boils on the skin’s surface. The cysts usually have a red colouring and are very tender to the touch.
When the cyst makes its way to the skin’s surface, it damages the tissue and can kill hair follicles. This type of acne often results in scarring.
Inflammatory vs Non-inflammatory Acne
So what’s the difference between inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne?
Blackheads and whiteheads are the two types of non-inflammatory acne. These blemishes form when the pores become clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells.
But they can become inflamed if the pore becomes infected with bacteria. This can lead to inflammatory acne, including papules, pustules, and sometimes nodules and cysts.
Severe nodulocystic acne can result in multiple cysts and nodules with lots of inflammation.
How To Treat Acne
A good skincare regime can help you prevent acne breakouts. Active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid should definitely be part of your daily skincare routine.
But most people suffering from severe acne and moderate acne need professional treatments and acne medication to get their skin back under control.
Here are the most effective cosmetic treatments for acne-prone skin.
Laser Skin Rejuvenation
Laser Skin Rejuvenation treatments target the acne-causing bacteria and trigger the body’s natural healing process. The laser energy breaks up damaged tissue so it can be replaced by healthy new cells. It also causes a boost in the production of collagen and elastin, with acne becoming less visible over time.
There are several types of laser treatments, and some are more suitable for certain skin types than others. Your clinician will determine the best laser treatment for you based on their assessment during your initial consultation.
You can expect to see an improvement after each laser session. Most people require 3-6 treatments spaced 4-6 weeks apart.
Medical Grade Peels
Medical Grade Peels are a versatile exfoliation treatment that can treat and prevent acne. The treatment uses a chemical solution to stimulate a controlled peeling of the skin.
There are different types of chemical peels, and the strength of the solution can also be tailored to your skin type and acne severity.
For example, a light peel can be an excellent preventative acne treatment, while stronger peels are more effective for controlling breakouts.
The salicylic acid peel is one of the most effective for acne-prone skin. It eliminates the excess oil, bacteria, and dirt that causes blackheads and whiteheads to form. In a 2021 clinical study, a series of six salicylic acid peels was shown to reduce the occurrence of inflammatory papules by over 90% on average.
Clinicians typically recommend a series of treatments spaced a few weeks apart to allow the skin to recover between sessions.
IPL Skin Rejuvenation
IPL Skin Rejuvenation is a non-invasive laser treatment that can improve skin texture and tone while targeting the bacteria that causes inflammatory acne.
IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. The treatment uses a spectrum of light energy directed onto acne-prone skin in short, sharp blasts. The light energy destroys acne-causing bacteria while reducing inflammation.
The treatment also stimulates new collagen production, making the skin appear smoother and more even-toned. After a single treatment, you’ll notice an improvement, but optimal results are achieved over 3-6 sessions.
Acne Treatments at b clinic
Even mild acne can be stressful. If you’re experiencing a breakout or looking for a way to keep your skin pimple-free, our team of skin experts at b clinic can help. We can advise you on the type of acne you have and the best treatment options to help you get clean and clear skin. Book a free consultation at b clinic today.