Acne, You Don't Even Go Here — How To Spot All The Different Types Of Acne

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Pimples, acne, zits, a breakout, blemishes. Whatever you want to call it, having those pesky red and white-headed bumps on your skin can be an annoying if not debilitating experience. When it comes to treating your acne, it helps to know which type of acne you’re dealing with since not all acne looks or is treated the same. In fact, just to make your life more complicated, there is a number of different varieties of acne, all with their own symptoms, appearance, and treatment.

So before you start drying out that pimple on your nose with an over-the-counter treatment for the chin breakout you seem to get around that ‘time of the month,’ or before you book an appointment at your dermatologist for that huge pimple on your nose, it’s important to know which type of acne you have so you can have a better idea of how it’s best treated and what you can do to help prevent the next breakout. Below, a list of the different types of acne to help you zap that zit fast.

What are the different types of acne on the face?

The most common forms of acne fall into two categories: non-inflammatory and inflammatory. And, yes, it’s possible to have those different types of pimple on your face at one time. Fun.

The most common subtypes of non-inflammatory and inflammatory acne include:

Non-inflammatory acne types

Non-inflammatory types of acne typically don’t appear swollen and is usually treated with over-the-counter (OTC) methods.


Those blackheads, otherwise known as open comedones, that creep up on your nose and chin can be frustrating. Blackheads appear on the skin when the pores become clogged with a combination of sebum (oil) and dead skin cells. Many people assume they’re black because of dirt but their blackish appearance is a result to the pore’s exposure to oxygen. Extraction, exfoliation, and cleaning regularly with OTC measures usually helps clear them up. But be wary of just picking at them, you might be making the pore bigger and damaging the nerves around it.

And while it may be tempting to get that pore strip and pull the blackheads out en masse, those strips may actually do your pores more damage than good. That’s because the strips may stretch and damage your pores, making them larger or, in worse case scenarios, scar them.


Whiteheads are exactly that — red pimples with tiny “white heads” that protrude from the top of the blemish. The “head” is typically pus (gross) and indicates there’s an infection clogged within the pore. Whiteheads are also referred to as closed comedones and forms when a pore gets clogged by sebum and dead skin cells. Basically, when the skin produces too much oil and is not being cleaned or treated proactively or effectively, then a whitehead will develop. Whiteheads are tricky to treat but, according to Healthline, salicylic acid can be helpful.

Inflammatory acne types

Pimples that are red and swollen are known as inflammatory acne, and is usually the result of both excess oil, dead skin cells, as well as the presence of bacteria.


Papules are similar to whiteheads but a little bit more severe as they become more inflamed and infected. They occur when the walls of your pores break down due to the presence of bacteria and quickly become hard and tender to touch, leaving the skin with a red or pinkish appearance. Incidentally, there is typically not a whitehead to be seen. When treating these types of pimples, you want to focus on soothing and caring for the skin. Think gentle lotions and washes before moving onto a prescription. And don’t even think of popping it. That will only make it ten times worse.


This type of acne is another phase of whiteheads. But, unlike papules, pustules have a whitehead filled with yellow or white pus that can be seen on the surface of the skin. The blemish itself is red in color and, not surprisingly, they are often mistaken for being a simple whitehead. However, unlike whiteheads, pustules are sore and tender to touch and typically have a red ring surrounding the white or yellow head on the surface of the skin. When it comes to treating this type of acne, it’s best to leave it to the professionals and book an appointment with your dermatologist.


This different type of acne on the face occurs when clogged pores become even more irritated and grow larger deep underneath the skin. And, yes, they’re typically sore too. Because nodules are so deep underneath the skin, it’s best to leave them alone and seek professional treatment from an expert and receive a prescription.


Cysts are the largest form of acne and they’re usually formed due to a severe infection. They’re also more prone to scar, which is why if you suspect you have a cyst, leave it alone and seek treatment from a professional ASAP. Cysts are pus-filled boils, clogged by excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, and, like nodules, form underneath the skin. They typically require drainage or surgical removal from a medical professional, followed by a prescription.

How do you spot hormonal acne?

Not all acne is created equal and not all causes of acne can be cured with a good face-washing routine. Hormonal acne is just as it sounds like, it’s caused by the changing levels of estrogen and progesterone during a woman’s cycle. But there are specific ways to spot whether acne is caused by fluctuating hormones.

Per Self, the five top ways are:

— You’re getting acne as an adult beyond the adolescent stage

— Your acne appears in the prime hormonal spots around your chin and along your jawline

— You can time your breakouts with your menstrual cycle

— You’re experiencing stress

— You painful cysts and not blackheads and whiteheads

Treating Acne With Facials

Okay. Now what? If you’ve ever tried to get an appointment with a dermatologist, you know it’s nearly impossible. And many insurances are finicky about what treatments they’re willing to cover. If you have a severe breakout, painful spots or just ready to give up on at-home treatments, getting in for a facial might be the easiest, cheapest and safest way to treat your acne.

Take note, though: For your facial to be truly beneficial, you need to be honest with your esthetician. Come with a comprehensive list of what you’ve tried already. Be prepared to share your real skincare routine, too – don’t just tell her what you think she wants to hear. Most importantly, go somewhere with good reviews and make sure you listen and follow any post-appointment instructions they give you. Also, sometimes (though, not often) a facial can cause your skin to flare up before it gets better. In other words: Don’t book a facial too close to any big events.

Pregnancy Acne

Even for women not prone to breakouts, pregnancy acne can still strike and strike hard. Most common in the first and second trimesters, this type of prenatal acne can occur at any time and to any woman during her pregnancy. That’s because the influx of hormones, especially in the androgen hormones, can lead to the production of extra sebum, clogged pores, and breakouts.

It’s important you practice the same best practices you would otherwise but not popping, picking, or extracting, as it may lead to more breakouts, irritation, and scarring. Most pregnancy acne goes away on its own in the postpartum period, although some women do experience acne in the period following birth as well. Both types of acne typically clear up as the hormones settle to their pre-pregnancy levels.

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