Behind the Breakouts: Most Common Acne Types


Not all acne is created equally. Sure, they might look the same or feel the same, but the real diagnosis is a little more complicated than that. With various factors like hormones, lifestyle, and diet coming into play, it makes for different kinds of pimples that require their own plans of attack. Don’t just douse your face in tea tree oil or slap every spot with a pimple patch. Because in the skin care game, knowledge is power and the first step to treating your acne is knowing what exactly you’re dealing with first.

Types of acne

  • Whiteheads (aka closed comedones) : Small clogged pores caused by trapped oil and dead skin cells. You’ll know it by the white bump sitting on top of your skin, which is literally what gives it its name.

  • Blackheads (aka open comedones): Small clogged pores that open to the surface. Since the comedo is open, air enters and causes the contents to oxidize and turn black.

  • Papules: Typically less than 5mm in size, papules are bumps characterized by inflammation-induced redness and swelling. A good way to tell is if it’s tender to the touch, then it’s a papule.

  • Pustules: Similar to your papules but have a central core of yellowish pus. These look  “ripe” for popping (but doesn’t mean that you should!)

  • Nodules: Bigger and more serious than your typical pimple, nodules go deeper than papules and are also more painful. They’re firm to the touch and can also appear on the face, back, and the body.

  • Cysts: Softer than nodules but just as deep and as painful. Because they’re under the skin, cysts are one of the toughest to get rid of and tend to stay longer on the skin.

Stages of acne

Like we said, not all acne is equal. They have varying levels of severity, and it’s a common misconception that acne only needs to be treated if it’s that bad. Treating it in the early stages is important so acne doesn’t progress into a more extreme stage that will be harder to cure.

  • Mild acne: You’re probably seeing a few pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads here and there. Never more severe than an occasional pustule, your blemishes should be relatively easy to treat at this point. Over-the-counter meds might still do the trick.

  • Moderate acne: Now, you’re probably wondering why you’re getting more acne than usual. Suddenly, breakouts are more noticeable, and inflamed papules and pustules have become common. At this stage, over-the-counter products most likely don’t cut it anymore. That’s when you know it’s time to bring out the big guns.

  • Severe acne: The biggest difference between moderate and severe acne is the degree and level inflammation. Severe acne is characterized by many pimples, nodules and cysts all coming together. This isn’t something not easily solved by a new skin care routine or an online article, so see a dermatologist to get it under control.

Now what?

Knowing what type of acne you have is the first step to getting treated. So, congratulations — you’re already on your way to better skin. Your next move should be to get treatment that is especially tailored to your needs. For mild to moderate acne, topical treatments are the standard of care. But for moderate to severe acne, oral medications may be added to the topical regimen for the best response. Consult with us now and we’ll figure out a customized treatment plan together. Remember, there’s always a solution to your acne problems, no matter how severe.