How to determine what type of acne you have to treat it better

Portrait of a Latin girl with acne posing in front of a yellow background

Navigate the world of acne is no small feat – there are hundreds of products on the market treatment oriented and endless contradictory advice on what if you have it. But before even getting into the nuances treatment options, you must first be able to identify the type of acne.

Not all acne is the same and in the same person, several different types of pimples can appear. They each fall into one of two categories: non-inflammatory and inflammatory. Non-inflammatory pimples include whiteheads and blackheads, while inflammatory pimples consist of papules, pustules, cysts and nodules.

To help you distinguish between the different types of acne and better understand your skin, we hired a dermatologist to analyze the details of each type of rash, ahead of time.

What are white dots?

Whiteheads, also known as closed comedones, are one of the most well-known types of acne and occur when oil and dead skin cells clog a pore. “They are covered with a thin layer of skin”, David Lortscher, MD, certified dermatologist and CEO and founder of Curology, told POPSUGAR. “For this reason, the contents of the white dots are not exposed to air, so they appear white or yellowish.” Whiteheads are considered non-inflammatory acne.

Because they are close to the surface, whiteheads generally respond well to topicals, such as over-the-counter treatments. Use a benzoyl peroxide cleaner, such as CeraVe Foaming Acne Cleanser ($ 12), often improves the problem. The American Academy of Dermatology Association also recommends try a retinoid, like Differin Gel Acne Treatment ($ 15), which can be purchased without a prescription. Extractions are also an option, but they should only be performed by a professional such as a dermatologist or esthetician.

Importantly, “There is no single treatment for acne,” said Dr. Lortscher. “What works for one person may not work for someone else.”

What are blackheads?

Blackheads, or closed comedones, are another non-inflammatory form of acne. They occur the same way whiteheads do – by dead skin cells and oil trapped under the skin – except they don’t show up as a raised bump and instead show up as dark spots in the skin. skin. “The oxidation of the trapped substances turns the pimple black,” said Dr Lortscher.

Treatment for blackheads is the same as whiteheads – try a benzoyl peroxide cleanser and look for other products that will gently exfoliate dead skin cells to keep them from getting stuck in your pores, like Tula deep exfoliating blackhead scrub ($ 32).

What are papules?

When it comes to the inflammatory category of acne, pimples become a little harder to tell apart at home. “Papules are tender bumps with redness and swelling caused by inflammation,” Dr. Lortscher said. “They are generally less than 5mm.” These tiny bumps can feel hard to the touch and can be grouped into large groups.

One of the best ways to treat papules is to use a benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid cleanser, such as Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic Acne Anti-Acne Face Wash ($ 7), but if the problem persists you should see a dermatologist.

What are pustules?

Then you have pustules, another form of inflammatory acne. These are “inflamed lesions with a visible central nucleus of pus and are usually raised about 1 to 5 mm”. They can be mistaken for white dots because of their white core, but they are larger.

It can be tempting to try to pop a pustule to get rid of it faster, given that it is filled with white or yellow fluid and near the surface of the skin, but it can potentially cause scarring. It’s best to incorporate a benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid cleanser into your twice daily skin care routine.

“Hydrocolloid bandages, such as Curology Emergency Patches ($ 2 as an add-on subscription), are useful for covering lesions overnight or up to 24 hours, and help extract lesion contents and speed healing, ”said Dr. Lortscher. Acne patches are also great if you’re used to picking your pimples.

What are cysts?

Cysts, or cystic acne, have a reputation for being particularly stubborn and difficult to treat, not to say painful. This is because Dr Lortscher said they are “very inflamed” and deep under the skin. Cystic pimples also tend to leave scars.

Because cysts are deep under the skin, they usually don’t respond well to over-the-counter topical treatments. “You’d better see a dermatologist in person or online via telemedicine,” Dr. Lortscher said. “For acne that does not respond to usual treatment, oral antibiotics Common oral acne medications include spironolactone and isotretinoin (formerly known as Accutane). If a cystic pimple appears just before an important event, cortisone injections administered by a doctor can also help clear the rash quickly.

What are Nodules?

The last pimple in the inflammatory category are the nodules. “[They’re] large, firm, reddish bumps that extend deeper than a papule and are often painful, ”said Dr. Lortscher. These are the types of pimples that are impossible to break through.

Similar to cysts, nodules generally don’t respond well to topical treatments, so seeing a dermatologist is the best way to go.


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