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The Different Types of Acne Explained

20% of Canadians suffer from acne. Pimples can strike

anyone, and those who have had acne know exactly what it feels like when a breakout is coming.

Your skin might be tender at first, but then it gets redder and more inflamed. Before you know it, you have a large, painful pimple that just won’t go away. We’ve all been there.

Although most people think of blemishes as one type of skin disorder, there are different types of acne. You might have thought that you had pustules when you were dealing with whiteheads.

If you’re looking for a way to get rid of acne, you first need to understand what kind of acne you have. Below we’ll go over each type, so that next time your skin goes rogue, you’ll know what’s happening and how to treat it. Keep reading to learn what type of acne you have.

Different Types of Acne

There are several types of acne, which can be broken down into two categories: inflammatory and non-inflammatory. Non-inflammatory acne is whiteheads and blackheads. Inflammatory acne includes things like cysts and nodules.

Here’s a breakdown of what each type of acne looks like.

Papular Acne

Acne papules are inflamed bumps caused by exce

ss oil in the skin, bacteria, and hormones. When you have papular acne you might see clusters of tender, raised bumps on your skin. The bumps are smaller than other forms of acne and have no pus-filled tip.

Pustular Acne

In pustular face acne, white or red bumps form on the skin. They are full of pus, and their presence is especially obvious on medium to dark skin tones. A doctor usually treats this type of acne with antibiotics or by draining the pus from individual lesions.

Nodular Acne

Nodular acne is a severe form of acne that can occur

when you irritate clogged, swollen pores. This condition starts with minor bumps that grow larger and larger. Nodules are usually painless, but may sometimes be tender to touch.

They also have no visible head like comedones do. Instead, they appear as red bumps on the surface of your skin.

The severity of nodular acne can vary, but it’s hard to tell how bad the acne is from a glance. The nodule may last for several months until it’s eventually shed by your body through a natural exfoliation process.

Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is a severe case of large, painful, pus-filled lumps. It happens when you have an infection and lots of bacteria in your pores.

The most common place to get cystic acne is your fa

ce, which has a lot of oil glands. However, you can also get it on other parts of your body, such as the back or chest.

Cysts often take longer than other types of blemishes to heal because they’re deeper. You’ll also need to treat any acne scars that remain because cystic acne causes hyperpigmentation.


When a combination of sebum and dead skin cells block a pore, a blackhead will form.

Although the rest of the pore is blocked, a space is left at its peak. This means that your body can’t shed its dead skin cells as easily as us

ual, so

these old cells have to pile up in this space. These piled-up skin cells mix with bacteria and produce a visible black spot.

While there are many ways to treat blackheads (exfoliating regularly, using astringent toners), sometimes all you need is a simple pinhead-sized amount of topical retinoids on those little blemishes every night before bedtime.


Whiteheads are small, closed pores that get clogged with oil and dead skin cells. This acne can be difficult to treat because the bacteria are stuck inside. You’ll see whiteheads most in areas with a lot of oil production, like your forehead and jawline.

Whiteheads generally look like little bumps on the skin that appear to be filled with pus from underneath. If you squeeze them, you’ll see that the pus doesn’t come out easily. If you continue to pick at it, you’ll do more harm

than good because this can cause further damage to the skin.

The best way to treat whiteheads? Treatments for blackheads usually work well for whiteheads too. This means washing your face every day (with gentle cleansers) and exfoliating once or twice a week.

How to Get Rid of Acne

If you have acne, the first thing to do is keep your skin clean. This helps prevent new breakouts and can help reduce existing ones.

Wash twice a day—morning and night—and pat dry with a soft napkin after each wash. Don’t scrub your face while washing it because this could irritate existing blemishes or spread bacteria into unaffected areas of the skin (which could lead to more pimples).

You should also use an acne treatment product. Talk to your doctor about what type of product is best for you and how often you need to apply it.

When choosing an acne treatment, be sure to look at the active ingredients on the label. Acne treatments with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid work well for blackheads, whiteheads, and pi


Clear Your Acne

Acne is a skin condition that affects most people at some point during their lives. There are different types of acne, but they all have one thing in common: they can harm your confidence. If it’s making you feel uncomfortable, get rid of it.

Our experienced acne treatment specialists would be happy to talk with you about your skin. Contact us today to learn more about how we can get you on the path to a clear face. We believe everyone in Canada deserves beautiful skin and we work hard to achieve this goal.

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