Acne is a skin condition that spares no one - some might have spotty teenage acne years and others can be struck by adult acne, well into their late 30s and early 40s. And one of the biggest acne faux pas that people tend to commit is dealing with it on their own. Popping zits, drying out the skin and plastering a number of different DIY home remedies, improperly treated acne can result in long term scarring of the skin. Which is why it is important to educate yourself about the types of acne that can infect your skin, and yes there are more than just the basic variety!

Understanding the type of acne that is troubling you will help you pick the right approach to treating it. It is noteworthy that the core cause of acne remains the same for all acne types (clogging of pores with dead skin cells, skin oils and the acne-causing bacteria propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes)). But the severity with which it can attack your skin health differs significantly. Read on to find out everything you need to know about acne types and the solutions to deal with them effectively.


Types of acne

Types of acne

There can be a number of causes for the types of acne mentioned above. Some of the major causes of acne breakouts are hormonal imbalances, excessive stress, certain medications, lack of skin hygiene (leading to clogged pores), improper skincare routine, sun exposure and an unhealthy diet. Let’s take a look at all of these types of acne in detail.


1. Blackheads and whiteheads

Blackheads and whiteheads

Blackheads and whiteheads are non-inflammatory forms of acne that do not cause any swelling. Both of these conditions are caused by clogging of the pores by sebum and dead skin cells. The only difference is that the outer layer of the pore is closed in the case of blackheads, making them appear as open black dots on your skin’s surface. In comparison, the outer layer of the pore is closed on whiteheads, also called closed comedones, making them look like small bumps sticking out from underneath your skin. Both of these conditions are a mild form of acne and can take anywhere between 6-8 weeks to heal.


2. Papules


Acne papules (pimples) appear in the form of small and red inflamed bumps on your skin. They are caused when a hair follicle’s wall is ruptured, making it easier for bacteria and other pore-clogging debris to enter the skin. The infection is caused in the deepest layer of the skin (dermis) and can also occur on the neck, chest, shoulders, and back. Papules are a moderate form of acne and can take anything between a couple of days to weeks to heal.


3. Pustules


Acne pustules are pimples that develop a white, pus-filled head after the eruption. This is also a result of a rupture in your pores, to which your body responds by sending white blood cells to fight off the bacterial infection on the skin. This is what makes up the pus content of the pustules - which also includes dead skin cells and excess oil in it. Pustules are a moderate form of acne and can take anything between a couple of days to weeks to heal.


4. Nodules


Acne nodules appear in your skin as large, inflamed lesions and are very hard, and painful, to touch. When compared to pustules and papules, which are formed on the skin’s surface, nodules are buried deeper into your skin. They are caused by debris penetrating deep into your skin and infecting the hair follicles concentrated in that region. Nodules will rarely develop a white, pus-filled head because of being so deep-rooted inside the skin. Nodules are severe forms of acne and can appear on the chest and back as well.


5. Cysts


Large, fluid-filled bumps are the most severe form of acne and can be painful to an almost debilitating level. They are similar to nodules, but the cysts are filled with pus and blood. They are soft to touch and always leave behind some form of scarring after healing. Acne cysts can appear on your chest, neck and back as well; and always need clinical intervention to treat completely. It is imperative that you do not pick and prod at cysts as that can lead to significant scarring. 


Ingredients to deal with various types of acne

Ingredients to deal with various types of acne

Once you have an idea about the type of acne you are dealing with, it is easier to adopt the right treatment for it. Here are the ingredients that you need to prioritize to deal with the various types of acne:

i) Non-inflammatory acne (blackheads and whiteheads):

For non-inflammatory acne, popular skincare ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and sulfur can be added to your regular regimen. Salicylic acid is a strong chemical exfoliator, a kind of BHA, and helps slough off dead skin cells gently. It also dissolves excessive oil plugs from pores and keeps them from clogging - thus keeping acne at bay. As for benzoyl peroxide and sulfur, both are antibacterial and antimicrobial in nature. With regular use, you can improve the appearance of your skin significantly; all without having to strip your skin of its natural oils.

ii) Inflammatory acne (papules, pustules, nodules and cysts): 

Inflammatory acne can be dealt with ingredients like niacinamide and prescription medication like Tetracycline, Erythromycin and Isotretinoin. While niacinamide is a common skincare ingredient and easily available in soothing moisturisers and face lotions, prescription medication should only be taken upon the advice of your dermatologist. Other approaches to acne are in-clinic procedures like chemical peels, facials, laser and dermal filler treatments. Your dermat can also prescribe you oral contraceptives to help control excessive sebum production in your skin triggered by an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone in your body. The final takeaway is that while mild to moderate acne can be dealt with a good skincare routine with proper ingredients, persistent, severe forms of acne should be looked over by a professional to avoid any long term scarring of the skin.


FAQs about types of acne

FAQs about types of acne

1) What skin condition can be mistaken as a type of acne?

A. A skin condition that is often mistaken for a type of acne is milia. They look like pale raised dots and appear similar to whiteheads, mostly appearing around the eye area. However, milia are not acne, but keratin cysts that form in your skin’s pores.

2)  What happens if you pop a pustule?

A. Popping an acne pustule might seem like a quick fix, but it can make the issue worse. Applying that kind of pressure on a zit can push the acne-causing bacteria deeper into the skin, leading to more swelling and redness. Popping pustules can also scar your skin and leave permanent pits. So, hands off the pustules!

3) Does drinking water help deal with all types of acne?

A. Drinking a good amount of water helps keep your skin hydrated from within. This is necessary to maintain the health of your skin’s natural lipid barrier, which protects you from inflammation like acne.

4) Why do pimples refill?

A. There is a simple reason why a pimple might keep re-filling. It is because the pore is damaged due to picking and thus, the pimple can keep popping up at the same spot.  These re-appearing pimples are a direct result of the loosening of the cell lining of pores and cause clogged oil to seep deep into your skin and cause inflammation.