How to Target Every Single Type of Acne
When it comes to acne, you’re likely to have found that what works for your friend may not work for you. The products that help their blemishes may be less than helpful for you—and vice versa. You may be able to chalk this inconsistency up to the fact that everyone’s skin is different but that isn’t the only reason. One of the most important lessons you can learn—in relation to acne—is that there are different types of acne. And as such, each type needs to be addressed differently. If your breakouts seem awfully persistent, the issue could be that you’re targeting pimples as if they’re blackheads. In that case, you’ll need to start by identifying the type(s) of acne you have. To learn about every single type of acne, and how to address each, click through!
What Is a Blackhead?
As far as identifying types of acne goes, blackheads should be one of the easier to identify. That’s because blackheads look just as the name suggests—like tiny black dots. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), these small spots occur when pores become clogged with excess oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells. When that debris-filled pore stays open and oxidizes when exposed to air, it forms a dark-hued clog (aka a blackhead). Blackheads also typically have slightly raised borders, differentiating them from sebaceous filaments—which aren’t a type of acne. It may come as a surprise that the name is a slight misnomer; in reality, the oil that clogs your pores turns brown, not black, when exposed to the air. Thanks to Mayo Clinic for clearing that up for us!
How to Address Blackheads
Although your immediate response may be to attempt to scrub it off, this isn’t the right way to manage blackheads. Since they aren’t dirt, scrubbing won’t help wash them away. In fact, it’s likely that scrubbing may aggravate and worsen the appearance of acne. To help unclog pores and remove excess P.acnes bacteria, the AAD recommends using a retinoid in combination with a benzoyl peroxide face wash. Try pairing an over-the-counter retinoid with the AcneFree Oil-Free Acne Cleanser, which is formulated with benzoyl peroxide and glycolic acid. If you don’t see improvements with topical treatments your dermatologist could prescribe a prescription-strength acne treatment, or use special tools to extract the blackheads from your skin—something you shouldn’t attempt at home, no matter how tempting it may be.
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What Is a Whitehead?
As you may have guessed, whiteheads are similar to blackheads. They both are a form of clogged pore; however, a clogged pore only becomes a whitehead when it closes up. That’s when you’ll notice a tiny white or flesh colored bump.
How to Address Whiteheads
Due to their similarities, whiteheads and blackheads can be addressed in exactly the same way. That means if your skin suffers from both, you won’t need separate products or routines to manage each type of breakout. A small silver lining! (When it comes to acne, we’ll take them where we can get them.) The AAD once again suggests using a retinoid and a benzoyl peroxide face wash. If, after 6 to 8 weeks, you still see whiteheads (or blackheads for that matter), the AAD shares that a dermatologist may suggest extraction or prescribe a stronger acne treatment.
What Is a Papule?
Papules, also known as early pimples, refer to small, hard, red bumps. The AAD advises that these pimples form when excess oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells push deeper into the skin and cause inflammation, resulting in the redness and swelling that you see.
How to Address Papules
Addressing papules isn’t so different from how you’d take care of a perfectly clear complexion. You’ll want to continue washing your face twice daily, but instead of using whatever old cleanser you have next to the sink, switch to a face wash formulated with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which are two ingredients that help manage breakouts. If you prefer the latter, try the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Cleanser, which is formulated with salicylic acid and LHA. For more extreme cases, it’s always a good idea to set up an appointment with your dermatologist.
What Is a Pustule?
If your pimples are pus-filled, what you have are pustules. According to the AAD, these blemishes are comparable to papules, except they contain a yellowish flush. Oftentimes, this makes pustules easy to identify because there will be a visible yellow or white center to the blemish.
How to Address Pustules
Pustules may be tempting to pop, but you’ll want to resist. Pimple popping can actually worsen acne. You probably, err definitely, want to limit the likelihood of scarring, so skip popping. Instead, be consistent with washing your face with a cleanser formulated with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid for at least 6-8 weeks. If you aren’t seeing improvements past that time frame, it’s a good sign that you should head to your dermatologist’s office.
What Is a Nodule?
Sometimes blocked pores get worse, becoming more irritated and even going deeper into your skin. And that’s when nodules can form. Mayo Clinic refers to this type of blemish as large, solid, painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin.
How to Address Nodules
More severe types of acne, like nodules, require a trip to a dermatologist. According to the AAD, nodules can cause scarring, and the sooner you and your dermatologist address them, the fewer permanent scars you’ll likely have.
What Is a Cyst?
Much like whiteheads and blackheads or pastules and pustules, cysts are similar to nodules. The main point of difference being that cystic lesions are softer and filled with pus.
How to Address Cysts
Cysts should be treated in a similar fashion to nodules, with a trip to the dermatologist, as they’re just as likely to lead to permanent scars. There, the AAD reveals that a dermatologist will often recommend taking an antibiotic and using a topical prescription treatment.
And that’s it—the six types of acne! Now, you’re in the know.
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