What Are the Different Acne Types and What Causes Them?

Acne is one of the most prevalent skin conditions in the world, and affects almost 90% of individuals at some point in their life, often starting at the age of puberty. Acne left untreated can damage the skin, and it can impact self-confidence. Did you know there is more than one form of acne?

Keep reading to learn about different acne types, as well as their causes and what to do for treatment.

Different Acne Types: Whiteheads

There are six primary acne types, and one of the most common is whiteheads. Whiteheads are also referred to as comedos. These closed pores that become clogged with oil, dirt, or dead skin cells.

Whiteheads appear on the skin as white bumps.

There are plenty of causes of whiteheads, one being hormonal changes, such as puberty, that lead to an increase in sebum production. Other causes include stress, genetics, and diet.


Blackheads are another form of acne that occurs when a hair follicle clogs. Unlike the pore of a whitehead, blackhead pores remain open. They make the surface of the skin appear dark or black.


Papules are a form of acne that occurs when the skin cells become clogged with excess oil or excess skin cells. This clogging results in a raised red bump on the skin. These bumps can be hard and sensitive to touch.


Pustules are likely what people think of when they think of a zit or popping a pimple.

This acne type forms when pores trap bacteria, under the skin. This leads to the formation of a raised red bump on the skin that has a white head. This white head is filled with dead skin cells and pus.

Nodules and Cystic Acne

The last two forms of acne are nodules and cystic acne, which are the most severe acne types. An easy way to think about them is a larger, more irritated form of papules or pustules.

Nodules form deep within the skin and appear as wide red bumps. The bumps can harden and may be painful to touch. Cysts also form deep within the skin, but these are pus-filled and are thus much softer than a nodule.

The surrounding skin of a cyst is red and inflamed.

Nodules and cysts can be mistaken for ingrown hair, but ingrown hair occurs most frequently in areas that you shave.

Underlying Causes and Treatment for Different Acne Types

Most types of acne result from an excess of oil and clogging of the pores, which can lead to infections.

Mild forms of acne can be treated over-the-counter. OTC treatment will contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinol. These ingredients work to remove excess oil and skin cells, and fight inflammation.

Antibiotics that kill bacteria and other oral medications can treat acne but will need to be prescribed by a dermatologist.

Procedures for acne treatment include light therapy and chemical peels. Light therapy kills bacteria on the skin and reduces swelling. Chemical peels remove the outermost layer of the skin, often ridding the face of whiteheads and blackheads.

For deeper acne, like nodules and cysts, that is especially painful, a doctor may perform drainage or extraction.

Skincare and Hygiene

Experiencing different acne types is almost inevitable, but the amount of acne can be reduced. It is important to practice healthy skin care habits, like regular washing and moisturizing, as well as protection through the use of sunscreen. Try and avoid popping pimples or messing with acne.

This can further irritate the skin, lead to infection, and cause scarring.

If you found this article helpful, check out the rest of our site for more skin and beauty tips!

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