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  5. What Are The Different Types of Acne and How To Treat Them

We get you. It can be frustrating when that puss-filled bump shows up on your face before an important event. More so, if you have had a couple bothering you for a while.

So what exactly are those things? Well, acne or acne vulgaris is a skin condition that occurs when a pore gets clogged with dead skin cells, oils and a type of bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). [1]

While most people experience acne between the ages of 12 and 24, it can occur at a later stage of life as well. However, there is no need to be depressed or lose your hair over it. Instead, understand the root cause and work towards treating it the right way.

What Causes Acne?

Acne is triggered by the following different factors. [2]

  • Hormones 
  • Stress 
  • Certain medications 
  • Poor hygiene 
  • Wrong skin care products 
  • Sun 
  • Unhealthy Diet

Types Of Acne

Non-inflammatory acne [3] Inflammatory acne 

A. Blackheads

B. Whiteheads

A. Papules

B. Pustules

C. Nodules

D. Cysts

1. Non-Inflammatory Acne

Non-inflammatory acne does not cause swelling. They are distinguished by open and closed comedones (clogged pores).[4]

A. Blackheads


Blackheads [5] are the result of clogged pores, caused by sebum (oil produced by the skin's sebaceous glands) and dead skin cells. The outer layer of the pore is open, while the rest remains clogged. This results in the black dots that are seen on your skin’s surface.

They are also called open comedones.

Blackheads can appear on

  • Face
  • Back
  • Chest
  • Neck
  • Arms
  • Shoulders

Severity: Blackheads are mild form of acne.

How long does it take to cure blackheads?

6-8 weeks

B. Whiteheads


Whiteheads [6] are also formed due to clogged pores left by sebum and dead skin cells. But unlike blackheads, the outer layer of the pore is closed in them. It appears as a small bump sticking out from your skin.

Whiteheads are called closed comedones.
Whiteheads can appear on

  • Face
  • Back
  • Chest
  • Sometimes The Neck And Shoulders

Severity:Whiteheads are mild form of acne.

How long does it take to cure whiteheads?

6-8 weeks

2. Inflammatory Acne

Inflammatory acne causes swelling and inflammation. Apart from sebum and dead skin cells, bacteria is another major player when it comes to clogged pores, which results in inflammatory acne.

A. Acne Papules (Pimples)

Acne Papules

Acne Papules [7] are inflamed blemishes that look like red bumps on your skin. These can appear anywhere on the body including the neck, chest, shoulders, back, and buttocks.


Papules develop when a hair follicle’s wall is ruptured. This makes it easy for bacteria and cellular debris to enter the dermis (deepest layer of the skin). The rupture causes inflammation and the red bump (pimple).


Pimples are moderate forms of acne. Acne papules or pimples appear on the face majorly.

B. Acne Pustules 

Acne Pustules

Acne pustules [8] are typical pimples with a white-colored head that contain pus, dead skin cells, and excess oils. They can develop on the face, back, or shoulders.


When there is a rupture in the pore, the body signals to defend against bacteria. It sends white blood cells as a defense mechanism, and this creates pus.

Pustules commonly appear on the face, chest and back.

Severity: Pustules are moderate forms of acne.

C. Acne Nodules

Acne Nodules

Acne nodules [9] are large, inflamed lesions that feel hard and painful. While pustules and papules are formed on the skin’s surface, nodules are more buried in the skin.


When a hair follicle’s wall is ruptured deep down the dermis, polluted debris enters into the dermis and contaminates neighboring follicles. The damage leads to swelling in this part of the skin, which are called nodules.

They contain pus and can be painful. Since they are formed so profoundly inside the skin, a white head will not appear.

Acne nodules appear on the face, chest and back.

Severity: Nodules are severe forms of acne.

D. Acne Cysts

Acne Cysts

Acne cysts [10] are the most severe and painful forms of acne. They are soft, large, and fluid-filled bumps beneath your skin's surface.


Acne cysts are formed in the same way as acne nodules, but a more severe form. Acne cysts are filled with pus and blood. They often lead to scarring.

Acne cysts appear on the face, chest, neck, back, and arms.

Severity: Cysts are severe forms of acne.

Why Popping a Pimple is a Bad Idea?

When you squeeze a pimple, you may accidentally push the contents deeper into the pore, making the blemish much worse. [11]

What Are The Wonder Ingredients For Treating Various Types Of Acne?

It is best to identify your acne and consult a dermatologist in case of severe acne. There are a wide range of prescription oral and topical treatments. [12]

1. Aesthetic In-Office Treatments 

  • Chemical peels
  • Facials
  • Laser treatment
  • Dermal filler treatments

2. Prescription & Over-The-Counter Treatments 

A. Non-inflammatory Acne

Salicylic Acid

It is a natural exfoliator and is also lipophilic (has an affinity towards oil). [13]

How Salicylic Acid Treats Acne?

It exfoliates dead skin cells from the skin’s surface while dissolving debris and excess oil within the pore. A beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), it is derived from sweet birch, willow tree bark or wintergreen oil and hence, is exceptionally safe.

Benzoyl Peroxide

It is an antibacterial ingredient that kills the acne-causing bacteria, which lives deep in the pores. The bacteria survives on oil, cell debris, and skin tissue. So benzoyl peroxide seeps into the skin and treats acne from the source while reducing redness and inflammation.

How Benzoyl Peroxide Treats Acne?

  • Fast-acting
  • Easily accessible
  • Acts as the first line of defence

It absorbs excess oil (sebum) that may contribute to acne breakouts. It also dries out dead skin cells to help unclog your pores.

How Sulfur Treats Acne?

  • It is gentle on skin
  • Antimicrobial in nature
  • Abundantly available

B. Inflammatory Acne


It reduces breakouts, cools down inflammation and prevents transepidermal water loss. The excess oil production is controlled and moisture content of the skin is balanced with its usage. [14]

How Niacinamide Treats Acne?
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Hydrating and soothing effect on skin
Tetracycline and Erythromycin

These are oral antibiotics that act against P. acnes in people with moderate to severe inflammatory acne.

How These Antibiotics Treat Acne?

  • No side effects
  • Anti-inflammatory properties

It is a prescription medication you need to take orally. It may help control severe acne, which is characterized by many large cysts on the face, neck, and shoulders.

Pregnant women or women looking to conceive can't use this medication, as it is linked to birth defects. Isotretinoin can cause dehydrated skin, eye dryness, and irritation.

It can also be costly. So its use is mainly restricted to the most severe cases for which other treatments haven't worked.

Oral Contraceptives

Birth control pills [15] contain estrogen and progesterone that decrease the skin’s sebum levels and acne. Those that have been U.S. FDA approved for treating acne are Estrostep, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, and Yaz.

3. Treatment Options For Severe Acne

  • Antibiotics, Such As Tetracycline, Doxycycline, And Amoxicillin
  • Topical Corticosteroids
  • Oral Contraceptives For Hormonal-related Acne
  • Systemic Retinoids, Such As Isotretinoin
  • Steroid Injections
  • Chemical Peels That Are Available In Pharmacies Or Online
  • Photodynamic Therapy To Combat Bacteria
  • Drainage And Extraction To Remove Large Cysts

Understanding the kind of acne can help in treating it effectively. Begin by knowing your skin and acne type.

You can treat mild to moderate acne with customized skincare. Customization solves your skincare struggles because the products in your regimen are made only for you. A good skincare regimen goes a long way in getting and maintaining healthy skin.

SkinKraft customizes skin care products for you based on a unique SkinID™ questionnaire. SkinKraft products are dermatologically driven, research-based and contain safe ingredients.

SkinKraft customized skincare regimen recommends the following three products in your regimen:

  • Your customized cleanser
  • Your customized moisturizer
  • Your customized active to treat acne

Begin by knowing your skin

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