Your Guide to the Different Types of Acne

About 80% of people have acne, so you're not alone. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to treating pimples, but it's important to know what kinda pimples we're treating; so here's a handy guide to the different types of acne. 

types of acne

Acne is broken up into three main groups:

Comedonal Acne
Occurs when excess oil and dead skin cells get trapped in your pores. There are two types of comedonal acne:

  • Closed Comedone (aka whiteheads/clogged pores): Happens when a layer of skin forms over the gunk in your pore to create a flesh-coloured bump.  Yes, whiteheads count as pimples, and they frequently show up on oilier skin types. They can pretty easily be combated with manual exfoliation and thorough cleansing of the skin.
  • Open Comedone (aka blackheads): When the gunk in your pore gets a build up of sebum, skin cells or bacteria.  They're kind of like whiteheads, except the comedone is open and the oil has oxidsed, making it a dark colour. Ohhh Noice! You'll treat these similarly to whiteheads, through—regular, thorough cleansing and exfoliation. Other products like Green Clay & Gingko Detox Face Mask can help, and if you're extra prone to blackheads.

green clay face mask

Inflammatory Acne
Once the gunk in your pore mixes with naturally occurring bacteria, it creates an infection causing visible swelling and inflammation. There are also two types of inflammatory acne:

  • Pustules (aka red bumps with white pus): Surely, the win for grossest name?! A pustule is what you're most likely to think of when you picture a pimple. It's a zit that has come to a head, forming a white, pus-filled bubble on top. Yum. While this might sound like it would fit the description of "whitehead," a pustule is different: A whitehead is simply a plugged hair follicle, while a pustule is inflamed and full of pus. A full-on zit.
  • Papules (aka red bumps): Technically any small, raised bump on the skin.  It's often part of a grouping of other papules that form a rash (i.e. dermatatis, allergic reactions, eczema). In terms of acne, it's a bump that's red in colour and swollen with inflammation. Papules are more painful than whiteheads or blackheads, but not as bad as nodules or cysts. 

Nodulocystic Acne
This is a much more severe infection that occurs deep down in the layers of the epidermis (your skin). It takes on two forms as well:

  • Cysts (aka large painful pimples): They look very similar to pustules but are bigger, more painful, and sometimes itchy. They lie deep within the skin, are often caused by hormones, and occur when the pores become blocked and lead to infection. This is what makes them so painful and slow to heal. Your best bet is to A) keep the area clean, B) choose plant based skin care, and C) investigate internal causes of hormonal imbalance.
  • Nodules (aka under the skin bumps): These never form a head and tend to be more painful.  Like cysts, nodular pimples are one of the most severe forms of acne. They're slightly different in that they are not filled with pus like cystic pimples are. Instead, they form a hard bump deep within the skin and feel painful at the surface. Nodules don't always become red—they can match your skintone—but can take weeks to go away.  Visiting your Health Care Practitioner is probably your best bet to finding a solution to nodular acne.

Having acne is nothing to be ashamed of and not something you should feel pressured to clear up or cover up. It's much more common than you think and if you decide that you want to treat your acne, that's great *(you can get learn more about Nutritional Consults here*), and if you don't, that's really great too. It's your skin and your choice. Whether you get the occasional flareup or have multiple breakouts, it's 100% OK to embrace your face just as it is (which is beautiful, by the way). x 


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