Whether you’re dealing with stubborn blackheads or a cystic breakout, understanding the different types of acne can help you determine what you can do to get rid of it.
“While most acne-prone people will benefit from over-the-counter (OTC) treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid cleansers and retinoids, the type and severity of your acne may influence the amount of acne. ‘inclusion of other treatment options in your regimen, “Marisa Garshick, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell-New York Presbyterian Medical Center, told SELF.
You might call any bump a pimple, but acne vulgaris,1 or common acne, goes beyond the breakouts that plagued your teenage years. “It’s the medical term used to describe types of acne like blackheads, whiteheads and other skin blemishes,” says Dr. Garshick. “Your face, chest, shoulders and back are the most common areas where acne vulgaris appears. “
Studying the different bumps that can take root in your skin helps you decide which acne fighters to use (or may prompt you to finally make an appointment with a certified dermatologist). Before, SELF asked skin experts to explain what acne is all about.
What are the different types of acne?
“Dermatologists often classify rashes as non-inflammatory acne and inflammatory acne,” says Dr. Garshick. Imperfections are categorized by severity to determine the best course of action.
Mild acne, explains Dr. Garshick, is considered to consist mainly of whiteheads and blackheads, with a few papules and pustules; moderate acne refers to multiple papules and pustules covering less than half of your face; moderately severe acne means you have many papules and pustules with sometimes inflamed nodules on more than half of your face; and severe acne means you have many large, painful and inflamed pustules, nodules, or cysts, usually affecting most of your face.
Here’s how to know what type of acne you’re dealing with and how severe it can be, so you can identify the best treatment options for your skin.
Whiteheads and blackheads
What causes them: Welcome to the world of comedones, which is the fancy term for a pore or hair follicle clogged with oil, bacteria, or dead skin cells, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Blackheads and whiteheads can appear anywhere on your body, but blackheads are especially common in areas with more sebaceous glands (your oil producers!), Like your nose and chin.
What they look and feel: Whiteheads are usually small, flesh-colored bumps, says Dr. Garshick. They are known as closed comedones because there is a thin layer of skin cells that covers all the gunk inside the pore (hence the whitish, fleshy color). Blackheads, on the other hand, are open comedones. The trapped content is exposed to air, causing it to oxidize and appear black, adds Dr. Garshick. Regardless of your skin tone, there isn’t too much inflammation involved with either type of rash and they usually don’t hurt. Both can make the skin a little textured or slightly bumpy, but blackheads tend to be flatter than whiteheads.