Types of Acne

What are the different types of acne?

In the medicine world, the term "breakout" is frequently used to describe all kinds of acne. However, this isn't always a proper description because not all forms of acne spread across the skin. In fact, congested pores cause acne as well which may arise due to bacteria, dead skin cells, hormones, excess production of oil or sebum, and ingrown hairs.

Many times, acne has a tendency of attacking children in their teenage years because of the hormonal fluctuations they're going through. But some adults experience the same problem too. About 17 million Americans suffer from acne, which makes it among the most common skin conditions both adults and children struggle fighting every day.

Below is a comprehensive list of the types of acne and treatment for each:

Acne Vulgaris

Acne vulgaris is another medical term for common acne - the emergence of whiteheads, blackheads, and other types of pimples on the skin. The most common areas where these spots usually spread are the chest, face, back, and shoulders. Although mild acne may improve with over-the-counter drugs, more severe types should be treated by a doctor.


A comedo is a hair follicle that's blocked with sebum and dead skin cells. Comedones can grow into bumps known as blackheads and whiteheads. Active skincare formulas sure to tackle comedones are referred to as "comedogenic". Also, makeup products labeled "noncomedogenic" are less likely to clog pores and result in acne.


Blackheads are comedones found open on the skin's surface. They're filled with excess oil and dead skin cells. Many times, the black spots arise from the irregular reflection of light coming from the congested hair follicles. All the same, most blackheads can easily be treated with over-the-counter drugs.


Papules is a group of comedones that become inflamed, which end up forming small pink or red bumps on the skin. This kind of pimple may be tender to the touch, and frequent squeezing can make the area worse and even cause scarring. A large number of papules fall between mild to severe acne.


Comedones that are conspicuous at the skin's surface are known as whiteheads. This occurs when oil and skin cells block a congested hair follicle from opening. A handful of over-the-counter prescriptions should clear this acne, including traces of blackheads if present.


Pustules are another type of inflamed pimple. They mimic the characteristics of a whitehead with a red ring around the bump. Pustules are typically filled with yellow and white pus. Patients should avoid squeezing and picking, as these can cause ugly marks to develop on the skin.


Nodules usually occur when congested, swollen pores experience severe irritation and hence grow larger. Unlike papules and pustules, nodules develop deep beneath the skin and are very painful. Because of their severeness, nodules should be treated by a skin specialist. Over-the-counter drugs may not be effective enough to eliminate them all, but prescription drugs should do the trick.


Cysts develop when the skin pores are clogged by a mix of sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells. The clogged pores occur deep underneath the skin - in fact, they develop further below the skin's surface than nodules. These large white or red bumps are usually painful and tender to the touch. They appear much similar to boils with large, pus-filled lesions. Cysts essentially are the largest kind of acne, and their emergence many times arise from a severe infection. A dermatologist should treat this sort of acne at all times because such patients are feared to suffer from a fatal form of acne.

Patients should confirm whether the bumps or swelling they're experiencing is as a result of acne. Some skin conditions share similar symptoms with acne, though they're very different in nature. Seeing a skin specialist is the best a way a person can get a full and accurate diagnosis of what's affecting their skin. And if the dermatologist confirms that it's acne, he or she may recommend an effective prescription sure to address the underlying acne marks on the skin.

Last Reviewed:
June 14, 2017
Last Updated:
April 26, 2018
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