Types of Acne: The Plain Facts
Talking to your dermatologist about your acne-skin problems can be both embarrassing and very confusing. So let’s lay out the facts – plain and simple.
Let’s have a nerdy talk! I know its no fun to read medical information. But remember, every skin case is different, and boring medical facts are very important to understand what is going on with our skin, and what kinds of skin-care products best suit our skin concerns.
What do we know about different types of acne? Not so much? Are you wondering why some pimples are deep and painful while others stay small? Are you wondering if that pimple on your nose is an only child, or maybe a trouble maker with a large extended family? Read on!
First of all, let’s divide acne into two main categories: inflammatory acne and non-inflammatory acne. (You will see this will make total sense in the end!)
1. Bumpy Clogged Pores – Blackheads & Whiteheads
Blackheads and whiteheads are non-inflammatory acne, and if treated right they should not usually leave any scars. If you need a nerdy fancy word to impress your friends, repeat it loud ‘comedo’. A comedo is a clogged hair follicle (pore) in your skin. Non-comedogenic products and ingredients make total sense now, huh?
A comedo can be open or closed. If you see blackheads on your nose, these are open comedos. I always thought they were black because of dirt and grime, but they are actually black because they are “open” to surface pigment.
I usually get closed comedos on my chin. They are called whiteheads. Closed comedos are really tricky, to be treated the gently! We don’t want any scars.
2. The Really Nasty Pimples and Acne-Scars
Now the stuff is getting really serious, because inflammatory acne is a very serious skin concern. It is painful, it is hard to treat, and it can leave scars on your face forever!
You are probably wondering why some pimples are just pimples and some become very painful? This happens when comedones become infected.
Pustules, papules, nodules and cysts are all types of inflammatory acne.
How do they get infected? Well, there’s a type of bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes. This bacteria is normally on our skin, but clogged pores create the perfect condition for this bacteria to go nuts. Your skin feels that something is wrong and starts the defense mechanism. Now we have a real drama.
Papules are the mildest type of inflammatory acne. They appear pink or light red, are usually painless, and easy to cover. Papules occur when the P. acnes bacteria lead to irritation of the hair follicles.
Pustules are a more extreme form of inflammatory acne. Imagine a white volcano surrounded by a red base. Pustules occur when the P. acnes bacteria lead to inflammation of the hair follicles.
Nodules and cysts are severe types of acne. Cysts occur when the inflammation gets so bad the hair follicle ruptures! Squishing, squeezing, rubbing and scrubbing can also rupture the follicle. The rupture triggers wider inflammation and deeper, painful cysts. Nodules are smaller than cysts, harder to the touch, and come before cysts in terms of severity of inflammatory acne. Both types are incredibly painful.
My advice to you: Don’t touch and don’t try to squeeze them. You will worsen the situation! Please listen. I’ve been there.
Remember our mantra Exfoliate-Treat-Moisturize! Makes sense?
P.s. Thank you University of Illinois-Chicago, School of Medicine!