Acne is a recurring issue in many adolescents and young adults, though it affects people of all ages.
It is a persistent condition that occurs when the hair follicles become plugged with white blood cells, dead skin cells, bacteria, and sebum.
Depending on its severity, acne can cause scarring of the skin as well as emotional stress and low self-confidence. While effective treatments are widely available, acne can be very persistent and heals slowly.
It often causes whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, and papules and while it typically appears on the face, it can also affect the chest, back, shoulders, buttocks, and legs.
There are different types of acne and each type is distinct and requires special treatments, therefore it is crucial to know what type of blemishes you are dealing with in order to treat the problem with the correct approach.
In this article, I will be describing 8 different types of acne and how to treat them.
Blackheads are also called open comedones and they are the most common type of mild, non-inflammatory acne everyone gets from time to time.
They are small, raised bumps with a black tip.
Blackheads are plugs sebum, the buildup of dead skin cells, and bacteria. They are open and widened so when the contents in the follicle are exposed to air oxidation occurs and this makes them dark in colour.
Whiteheads are also called closed comedones and are small, white spots or bumps that stay closed at the surface of the skin.
This happens when the hair follicle is clogged from opening by the build-up of sebum and dead skin cells that stay trapped inside and raise a small, white-coloured lump on the surface of the skin.
Whiteheads along with blackheads are mild and non-inflammatory acne lesions which typically do not cause scarring and are relatively easy to treat with a number of options.
How To Treat Whiteheads?
There is a huge number of over-the-counter products that can help treat non-inflammatory acne blemishes.
They are sold in forms of cleansers, gels, toners, moisturizers and special creams that help dissolve the build-up of sebum and dead skin cells inside the follicle.
These products contain a mix of active ingredients and here are few of them that have shown effectiveness in treating this type of acne:
- Salicylic acid
- Glycolic acid
- Lactic acid
- Benzoyl peroxide
There are many homecare remedies that can decrease the appearance of blackheads and whiteheads such as:
- Avoid over washing and further irritating the skin
- Avoid using harsh products with a high alcohol content
- Focus on eating a healthy and balanced diet
- Keep yourself hydrated
- Limit sun exposure
- Do not pick, scratch or try to pop blackheads and whiteheads
Papules are a small, superficial, raised area of the skin with the skin around the papule usually appearing slightly swollen and red.
They are solid, tender and lacking in fluid.
Papules do not have a visible centre and the pores of the papule are not widened. They are classified as mild to moderate inflammatory acne lesions that develop when whiteheads and blackheads cause irritation and damage the surrounding skin.
The damage leads to mild to moderate inflammation and picking or trying to squeeze a papule can further aggravate the inflammation and lead to scarring.
Or most commonly known as pimples are papules that develop at the mouth of the hair follicle and they usually look like much larger and inflamed whiteheads.
They are classified as mild to moderate inflammatory acne lesions and they become purulent in the center when infected with bacteria.
White blood cells, dead skin cells, and bacterial cells form this pus and this type of acne are almost always surrounded by red and inflamed skin.
5. Acne Mechanica
Acne mechanica is a mild skin condition that can develop anywhere on the face or body if a person is already prone to breakouts.
It is especially common in adolescents, athletes, construction workers, soldiers as it is typically triggered by excess heat, pressure, friction or rubbing of the skin.
Its appearance varies from small comedones to mildly inflamed papules and pustules. It is easy to treat in its early stages, but if it is left to progress, these mild breakouts can become rapidly irritated and turn into more prominent, inflamed blemishes.
How To Treat Acne Mechanica?
Mild to moderate inflammatory acne can be a bigger challenge than treating whiteheads and blackheads. These usually require stronger percentages of topically applied creams.
Some topical agents that can improve these conditions are:
- Salicylic acid
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Topical antibiotics
Depending on the severity of your acne concern, your dermatologist might recommend oral medications such as:
- Birth control pills
- Anti-androgen agents
Some home remedies can also help treat and relieve some of the symptoms of mild to moderate papules and pustules.
Pay attention to the following tips:
- Apply a warm compress to the affected area to soften and encourage trapped bacteria and debris to rise to the surface of your skin
- Wash the affected area with cool water to relieve symptoms of inflammation
- Wash your hands before washing your face
- Do not pick or try to squeeze – this type of bacteria can easily spread to the surrounding area
- Use tissues to gently pat your face after washing
- Avoid spreading acne bacteria on towels
Nodules are large and inflamed lumps that feel firm to the touch and are located deep within the skin. They are painful and look like larger papules that have no visible centre.
These are one of the most severe forms of acne that are not always red but they can appear like your normal skin tone or mildly bruised bumps.
Nodular acne usually needs a more intensive treatment as over-the-counter products are not powerful enough to clear them up.
Antibiotics and other oral medications can be prescribed as this severe form of acne blemish can cause further skin complications such as dark spots and scar and it is always recommendable to seek medical attention when faced with this type of inflammatory condition.
Cystic acne lesions are very large and soft lumps situated deep in the skin. They are filled with pus and can be very painful.
Cysts form deeper within the skin than nodules and are classified as the most severe type of acne blemishes. Hormonal changes can be the main trigger that leads to infection and severe inflammation inside the skin.
This type of severe inflammatory acne lesions can cause further complications such as scarring if not treated adequately.
8. Acne Conglobata
Acne conglobata is a rare but probably the most severe combination of several acne types that interconnect with each other.
It occurs when cysts and nodules begin to grow together deep inside the skin and it is classified as a severe form of nodulocystic acne.
The cysts often contain purulent and foul-smelling discharge and this condition may occur on the face, chest, back, upper arms, buttocks, and thighs.
This condition may occur gradually following the sudden worsening of pustular acne breakouts that have been quiet for a long period of time.
Acne conglobata is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention as it can cause significant scarring and skin disfiguration over time.
How To Treat Acne Conglobata?
You should never attempt to treat severe inflammatory blemishes at home. This type of lesions strictly requires medical attention.
Your dermatologist will prescribe an adequate approach to treat nodules in cysts after your consultation and these treatments may include:
- Antibiotics such as amoxicillin or tetracycline
- Oral contraceptives to treat hormonal-related acne conditions
- Retinoids such as isotretinoin
- Topical steroids
- Chemical peels
- Drainage and extraction in case of severe cysts that need to be removed
While undergoing some or most of these treatments you should always be responsible for how you treat your condition when you are at home.
- Always wash your hands before washing your face
- Use tissues to blot excess water
- Do not use towels as this is the easiest way to spread bacteria
- Change your pillowcase daily
- Clean your phone with a surgical spirit after each and every use
- Never pick or try to squeeze the acne lesions
- Don’t apply anything on your face unless it is prescribed by your doctor
Always remember to be patient with these conditions.
Besides being physically painful depending on the severity, acne breakouts can have a massive effect on your self-confidence and contribute to high emotional stress levels.
Remember that this is temporary and that you need to work hard and be responsible in order to improve it.
Trying to cope with my obnoxious acne breakouts forced me into finding a solution to my problem by pursuing a career in the beauty industry. Today, I’m a certified esthetician & I’m passionate about sharing what I know to help you achieve healthy, glowing skin. You can learn more about me here.