Common Types Of Acne
There are two main types of acne: noninflammatory and inflammatory acne. These two types of acne can further be divided into subcategories to help determine the exact treatment that patients need. While the most common types of acne include blackheads and whiteheads, it is possible to be affected by more than one type of acne. Contact us to schedule an appointment and, one of our dermatologists can determine your type of acne and proper treatment methods.
Luckily for patients, noninflammatory acne typically responds well to over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatments, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Noninflammatory acne includes whiteheads and blackheads, two of the most common types of acne we see in our clinic. Preventative measures include over-the-counter or prescription treatments for reducing the content of oil on the skin’s outer layer as well as the removal of dead skin cells. Types of noninflammatory acne include:
- Microcomedone. Many patients with acne have microcomedones. A microcomedone is the initial stage of acne, which occurs when the sebaceous duct and the pore become clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells. Every pimple begins as a microcomedone.
- Whiteheads. Whiteheads appear on the skin’s surface as round and white bumps. This mild form of acne occurs as a result of a pore becoming clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and environmental debris. They occur on the face, shoulders, neck, chest, and back.
- Blackheads. A blackhead is an accumulation of dead skin cells oil within the hair follicle of the skin. Also called open comedones, blackheads develop when sebum and dead skin cells clog a pore and the pore remains open, which exposes the clogged pore to air. The dark appearance of a blackhead occurs due to oxidation.
- Milia. Milia, or hard closed comedones, appear on the skin’s surface as round bumps with apparent whiteheads and are common around the eyes. The development of milia is similar to whiteheads, but the milia are hard.
Unlike noninflammatory acne, inflammatory acne appears as red, irritated bumps on the skin. Inflammatory acne may occur anywhere on the body, but it’s most common on the face, back, chest, and shoulders. Over time, the pore enlarges and allows for the development of bacteria. Treatment for inflammatory acne generally requires a combination of medication and products. Dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria all combine to cause the following types of 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 are what many patients associate with zits. Unlike papules, pustules are filled with pus. These bumps come out from the skin and are usually red in color, and they often have yellow or white heads on top.
- Nodular acne. Nodules occur when clogged, swollen pores grow larger. Unlike pustules and papules, nodules are deeper underneath the skin. Therefore, home treatment often doesn’t work. Prescription medication from a dermatologist is best to help clear these up.
- Cystic acne. Cysts develop deep under the skin and are painful to the touch. Cysts are the largest form of acne, and their formation usually results from a severe infection. This type of acne is also the most likely to scar.
What Causes Acne?
Acne has many causes but tends to form due to clogged pores from dead skin cells, excess sebum, and bacteria. Additionally, certain triggers can make a patient’s acne worse, including hormonal changes, medications, diet, and stress.
How Is Acne Treated?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no overnight remedy for acne. Acne treatment can be a relatively slow process, and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for patients. To determine the best skin care treatment for you, contact our skin specialists to schedule an appointment. Common treatments that we recommend for patients with acne include the following:
- Benzoyl Peroxide: Effective for mild acne, it reduces hair follicle blockages.
- Oral & Topical Antibiotics: Treat any infection in the pores.
- Hormonal Treatments: Used for adult women with hormonally induced acne.
- Tretinoin: A derivative of Vitamin A and mainstay in acne treatment, tretinoin helps unplug the blocked material in comedones.
- Extraction: A small metal instrument is centered on a comedone then pushed down to extrude a blocked pore.
How Can I Prevent Acne?
There are many things patients can do to prevent acne or keep it from worsening or scarring. Avoid skincare and makeup products that can clog your pores and instead, pick products labeled as “non-comedogenic” or “oil-free.” Keep your exposure to the sun limited to ensure your acne doesn't leave scars or dark spots on your skin and always wear sunscreen and follow proper sun care routines. For patients with acne-prone skin, avoiding dairy, food with lots of sugar, and overly oily foods, such as chips, may help reduce inflammation. Regular exercise can also help acne through endorphins, which can reduce stress — a frequent acne trigger. Just be sure to wear sunscreen and properly bathe after!