Spotting the different types of acne is the first step to treating it properly and getting closer to clearer, healthier skin. We have the answers you need.

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7 Types Of Acne: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

05/19/20228 min read

Treating acne is stressful enough without trying to determine whether you’re dealing with a blackhead or pustule. But identifying the different types of acne can help you treat your pores for clearer, healthier-looking skin.

In this article, we break down the causes of different types of acne, how to treat this common skin condition, and all the best ways to keep it at bay.

Types Of Acne

When you notice pimples developing, you’re probably not thinking about which kind of acne you have. You’re most likely wondering how to get rid of it quickly and effectively.

Acne is usually the result of a hormone that activates during puberty and continues into young adulthood. These hormones mixed with stress, clogged pores, oily skin, and bacteria result in acne.

But how are there so many different types of acne, and what does this mean for your unique skin treatment?

Different acne forms based on the way your pores clog and how your body reacts. These blemishes will either be inflammatory-like pustules or non-inflammatory-like whiteheads. Spotting the difference is the first step to treating your acne properly.


Two of the most common types of acne are the infamous blackheads and whiteheads. They’re both non-inflammatory pimples, meaning they won’t cause inflammation on your skin.

Whiteheads occur when skin cells and oil cause your pores to clog completely. This is what results in the small white bumps associated with these pimples.

If you’ve ever tried to pop a whitehead, then you might have figured out you don’t get very far in the process. Though they’re often mistaken for pustules, there’s no getting rid of whiteheads completely by squeezing them.


Blackheads on person’s nose

To understand blackheads, let’s talk about sebum. This natural oily substance is produced by your body to moisturize and protect your skin. But it can also be the reason your pores become clogged.

When your pores are filled with sebum or other types of debris and the surface of the pore stays open, a blackhead forms. This combination of a clogged pore and an open surface is what gives your pimple its central black dot.


Blackheads and whiteheads are two types of acne caused by your body’s natural debris (think dead skin cells and sebum). Other types of acne are categorized as inflammatory and are associated with redness and swelling of the skin caused by bacteria.

Pustules are the pimples we’re always so inclined to pop (but shouldn’t). These small bumps are accompanied by irritated surrounding skin and a white dot of pus.

They are often caused by a bacterial infection in your pore, but puberty and stress are common factors as well. Doctors and dermatologists advise against popping these due to the potential spread of bacteria from the pus.


Woman points to types of acne on her chin

Papules are similar to pustules but without the pus. An excess of debris mixed with bacteria is also the cause of these pimples, so the surrounding skin will usually have redness and swelling.


Most types of acne are relatively painless, but this isn’t always the case. Nodular acne typically happens when bacteria cause a painful infection to develop inside the layers of a pore.

If you’re finding it too painful to even touch the infected pimple, there’s a good chance that you’re dealing with a nodule. This type of acne might contain visible pus, but deeper infections might now have a white dot on the surface.


Cysts are the most painful type of acne and are also the most difficult to treat. They combine the symptoms of the previous types of acne but often hurt too much to touch, contain blood, and have a higher risk of bursting and scarring.

If you suspect that you have an acne cyst, the severity of the pain is a telling sign. It may also be larger and softer than a typical pimple on top of being very inflamed.

Fungal Acne

Although it’s not actually acne, fungal acne is important to note since it is often mistaken for it.

Also known as folliculitis or a yeast infection, fungal acne causes hair follicles to get infected and inflamed. This can happen anywhere that you have hair on your body and is commonly caused by exercise, sweating, and tight clothing.

You might be dealing with fungal acne if you’ve tried multiple acne treatments with no results.

Speaking of treatments, let’s discuss the different kinds and find the best source of relief for your acne type.

Treating Different Types Of Acne

Woman applies acne cream to her cheek

Topical Treatments

Whiteheads and blackheads are manageable with topical treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide. This removes facial debris like dead skin cells and works to clean your pores effectively without being too abrasive.

Just be sure to use caution with this product because it can bleach any towels, sheets, or clothing it comes into contact with.

Another great option to help tame whiteheads and blackheads is salicylic acid. When used on your skin, salicylic acid helps shed layers of dead skin while reducing swelling, itching, and pimple growth.

Topical treatments and medications can also be effective against fungal acne. If you think you have folliculitis, talk to your doctor to determine which treatment is right for you.

Oral Medications

For papules and pustules, over-the-counter medications, like topical creams, are sometimes helpful. If this treatment proves to be ineffective, dermatologists might recommend hormone-regulating pills for women (like birth control) or antibiotics.

The purpose of these medications is to fight the inflammation on your skin caused by acne. In almost all cases, antibiotics are recommended to help treat the bacteria-filled pus without needing to pop it.

Other Treatments

Dermatologist treats woman’s types of acne

The more severe your acne is, the less effective over-the-counter topical and oral medications might be. For nodules and cysts, other medications or separate measures may be taken to properly treat your acne.

Nodular acne, for example, might simply need salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or antibiotics of prescription strength. If these treatments still don’t achieve the desired results, then chemical peels, lasers, or drainage of the nodule might be necessary.

Getting rid of cysts may require multiple medications, such as isotretinoin or spironolactone. It’s also not uncommon for doctors to recommend cortisone injections to fight the inflammation.

Once you’ve found the ideal treatment to manage your acne, the next important step is preventing further outbreaks. Continue reading for the best ways to prevent acne from circling back around.

Preventing Different Types Of Acne

Wash Your Face

Man washes his face

Getting into the routine of washing your face is more than just remembering to rinse with soap and water. The water temperature, type of cleanser you use, and how often you wash will determine what provides the best results.

When you’re looking for the right cleanser, choose a gentle product that doesn’t contain alcohol. And it’s best to limit washing your face to twice a day. Apply your cleanser with lukewarm water, and always avoid hot water or scrubbing with a cloth.

Research Cosmetics

The makeup you use can also have a major impact on your acne.

Certain foundations contain an emollient called myristyl myristate, which is known to clog pores. But any heavy ingredients in foundations, powders, and blush can make it difficult for your skin to breathe.

Non-comedogenic makeup is designed without these heavy ingredients so it doesn’t block pores. If you think your makeup is causing your pores to stay clogged, switch to this option and remove your makeup before going to bed.

Consider Your Diet

Fruits and vegetables on a platter

Foods that cause your blood sugar to quickly rise can create an excess of a hormone that tells your body to make more sebum. This can lead to clogged pores and acne. White grains like certain pasta, white rice, and white bread are known to increase sebum as well.

The good news is that there are a lot of foods that can benefit your skin, too. From whole-wheat grains to leafy greens and every antioxidant-rich fruit in-between, look for options that are high in vitamin A, vitamin E, and zinc.

In addition to helping with acne, zinc supports your immune system and naturally assists your body during the healing process.

Foods that are rich in zinc include avocados, pomegranates, raspberries, oysters, and crab. Maintaining a well-balanced diet with a selection of these natural foods will make sure your body gets plenty of zinc.

Choose Bodewell For Clearer-Looking Skin

Whether it’s blackheads, nodules, or anything in-between, acne doesn’t have to take over your life. With the right lifestyle changes and skincare routine, you can manage your skin without compromising its natural beauty.

Want to find out how you can enjoy more good skin days? Visit today!

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