Although acne is most common during teenager years it can occur at any time in life, from childhood through to adulthood. Acne can feel like a stressful skin concern to have. To add to that stress did you know there are at least 6 different types of acne, ranging from pesky whiteheads to painful cysts? So, unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all method to treating acne.
Being able to identify which acne you are suffering from will help you navigate how to best help your skin.
In general, acne stems from some level of inflammation. Acne forms based off how your skins pores clog and how your body reacts. These blemishes will either be inflammatory, like nodules or pustules which are typically more tender, uncomfortable, and painful. Or non-inflammatory like whiteheads or blackheads and subclinical breakouts. These bumps tend to be more flesh toned.
*NOTE: Non-inflammatory acne can lead to being inflamed later if there is an overgrowth of bacteria that develops on your skin.
So, let’s outline the 6 main acne types below for you to differentiate between them.
6 Main Types of Acne
Comedonal Acne - (Whiteheads/Blackheads/Milia)
Comedonal acne is the most common type of acne. This type of acne can happen anywhere on the face or body, and it can range from very mild to quite severe.
The small white bumps associated with whitehead pimples occur when skin cells and oil clog your pores. Blackheads occur when your pores are also clogged by sebum (your skins natural oil) and other types of debris, but the pore stays open. This is what gives your pimple it’s central black dot.
It may be hard to resist, but we urge you to never pop, squeeze or scratch your whiteheads/blackhead pimples. This can cause bigger problems like bacteria spreading and making the area worse. Instead, opt for switching your skincare to non-comedogenic products that don’t clog your pores (ahem, like the AMPERNA® range) and practice good skin hygiene like always thoroughly removing makeup, gently cleansing your skin, exfoliating a few times a week to slough away dead skin cells, and be patient. This will work towards a longer-term result.
A papule blemish looks like a small red raised bump with no centre. It may feel inflamed and come in clusters together. Papules are full of bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells, but do not contain any pus.
Pustules are what sometimes develop from papules, but not always. These are also small bumps surrounded by irritated, red, and swollen skin. Pustules are often caused by a bacteria infection in your pore and have a distinctive white or yellowish ‘head’ to the blemish.
Again, it’s best to avoid popping or squeezing these types of pimples as the pus will spread around the face causing more papules and pustules to develop. Speak with your doctor, dermatologist or book an online skin coaching session with Kiri, AMPERNA® founder and owner who has suffered from acne herself. She will be able to help guide you on the best skincare and lifestyle treatment plan for your acne.
Acne rosacea is one of four types of rosacea, which is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that typically develops during adulthood. It's more common in women, but men tend to get more severe forms. Symptoms concentrate around the cheeks and nose which appear flushed and consist of persistent sensitivity, redness, irritation, and breakouts like acne.
Although considered a chronic condition, symptoms come and go, with periodic outbreaks brought on by specific triggers. Stress, sun exposure, eating spicy foods, or drinking hot liquids can make your symptoms worse.
Those with mild rosacea may not even know that have it. But it can progress to more severe forms, causing an inflamed, bulbous nose, and even eye problems, so it's best to be checked out by a dermatologist.
Nodular acne is a more severe type of acne vulgaris. They appear as large, red, deep lesions over 5mm in diameter which are painful to touch. 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 is generally not filled with pus and instead are a more solid fibrous mass.
Talk to your healthcare provider about what treatment options you have. Aside from recommending retinoids (Vitamin A) they may prescribe you a prescription-strength salicylic acid to help dry out dead skin and excess oil trapped in the nodule. Or you may need a round of antibiotics to help kill the bacteria trapped in your pores.
This is the most severe and painful type of acne and unfortunately the most difficult to treat. Cystic acne is a combination of all previous acne symptoms mentioned above but the lesions are embedded much deeper in the skin. They are incredibly inflamed and painful to touch. These blemishes can occur anywhere on the body, and usually contain blood and a higher risk of busting and scarring. Cystic acne can take weeks, months, sometimes years to heal as they can cause the skin a lot of damage.
There are three main types of acne scars that nodules or cysts can leave behind.
- Indented (most common): Indented scars, called atrophic scars, appear as indents in the skin with smooth or sharp edges. They are the most common type of scars.
- Raised: Raised scars, called hypertrophic scars, appear as elevations above the skin. When they first form, they are the same size as the original cyst or nodule, but over time these elevated scars may decrease in size.
- Raised (Keloid): Keloid scars are a specific kind of hypertrophic scar that are bigger than the original cyst or nodule, and do not decrease with time.
Because cystic acne scars often are large, they can cause significant emotional distress. The longer cystic acne goes untreated, the worse the scarring can be. Therefore, it is important that patients suffering from cystic acne seek out treatment immediately to prevent severe scarring.
Doctors and dermatologists generally recommend oral antibiotics in your treatment plan, however, may only provide temporary relief of your condition.
For people suffering from severe cystic acne your doctor or dermatologist may recommend isotretinoin (Accutane) an oral medication.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Use caution though, isotretinoin causes severe and sometimes lifelong side effects, as well as birth defects, so its use should be carefully considered alongside a trusted physician, and never as a first-line treatment.
Unlike other acne types, fungal acne isn’t caused primarily by oil and bacteria in your pores. Instead, the small pimple-like bumps are caused by an overgrowth of yeast (a type of fungus). 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. They usually cause you itching.
Causes of Fungal acne include:
- Trapped moisture – wearing tight and/ sweaty exercise clothes for prolonged periods of time.
- Medication – antibiotics can reduce the bacteria on your skin which can allow an overgrowth of fungus to take place.
- Suppressed immune system – if you have a compromised immune system you may be susceptible to develop fungal acne.
- Diet – yeast feeds off carbohydrates, so be mindful of what you’re eating as it may be contributing to a fungal growth.
- Clothing material – non-breathable materials can produce extra sweat and moisture. This is the perfect environment for yeast growth.
You might be dealing with fungal acne if you’ve tried multiple acne treatments with no results.
Acne is a complex skin condition; you may even suffer from multiple types of acne lesions on your face at the one time. That’s why identifying what type of acne you are dealing with is crucial to take a targeted approach to helping the health of your skin.
These are the 6 main different types of acne, however there are still other types including pregnancy acne, menopausal acne, conglobata acne and hormonal acne just to name a few.
Be patient with your acne treatment. While some treatments may work immediately, you may not see widespread improvement for several months.
If however, you are not happy with the advice from your doctor or dermatologist, or not seeing any improvements to your skin condition seek a second opinion or reach out to Kiri via online skin coaching. Kiri designed the entire AMPERNA® skincare range to treat her own acne.