Types of Acne and How to Treat Them

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Acne types

You may hear the term “breakout” used to describe all forms of acne, but this isn’t always an accurate description. Not all types of acne spread across the skin.

Clogged pores cause acne itself. These may be attributed to:

  • excess production of oil (sebum)
  • bacteria
  • hormones
  • dead skin cells
  • ingrown hairs

Acne is usually associated with hormonal fluctuations experienced during your teenage years, but adults can experience acne, too. About 17 million Americans have acne, making it one of the most common skin conditions among both children and adults.

Identifying which type of acne you’re experiencing is key to successful treatment. Acne may be noninflammatory or inflammatory. Subtypes of acne within these two categories include:

  • blackheads
  • whiteheads
  • papules
  • pustules
  • nodules
  • cysts

It’s possible to have multiple types of acne at once — some cases may even be severe enough to warrant a visit to the dermatologist. If you’re concerned about your acne and don’t already have a dermatologist, you can view doctors in your area through the ishonest FindCare tool.

Read on to learn more about the subtypes of acne and how you can treat them.

Inflammatory acne

Papules

Papules occur when the walls surrounding your pores break down from severe inflammation. This results in hard, clogged pores that are tender to the touch. The skin around these pores is usually pink.

Pustules

Pustules can also form when the walls around your pores break down. Unlike papules, pustules are filled with pus. These bumps come out from the skin and are usually red in color. They often have yellow or white heads on top.

Nodules

Nodules occur when clogged, swollen pores endure further irritation and grow larger. Unlike pustules and papules, nodules are deeper underneath the skin.

Because nodules are so deep within the skin, you can’t typically treat them at home. Prescription medication is necessary to help clear these up.

Your doctor or dermatologist will likely prescribe the oral medication isotretinoin (Sotret). This is made from a form of vitamin A and is taken daily for four to six months. It can treat and prevent nodules by decreasing oil gland size within the pores.

What you can do now

It’s important to be patient with your acne treatment. While some treatments may work immediately, you may not see widespread improvement for several months You should also use caution in using too many acne products at once — this can cause dry skin. In response, your pores can create more sebum, then leading to more acne issues.

You should also confirm whether any bumps or swelling are actually the result of acne. There are several skin conditions that cause symptoms similar to those with acne, though they are something entirely different.

Read more on: acne, scars, blackheads, exfoliate, pores, prevent acne, redness

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