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Acne & Its Types

What Causes Acne:

Acne occurs when your hair follicles (pores) become blocked with a combination of dead skin cells and sebum (the natural oil your skin produces). This then causes whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples to form. If your acne is severe, you could also have cystic acne, which means the infection has gone deeper into your skin and the pore has become inflamed causing a bump of pus to form. It’s really important to be able to identify the type of pimple you’re experiencing because different treatment is necessary for each.

Types of Pimples:

Whitehead: This is a hair follicle that’s blocked by dead skin cells piling up once the follicle opening is blocked. This is smaller and less inflamed than a Cyst. You should never pop a white head but instead, apply a topical spot cream. You can also use a retinoid cream as a way of preventing more whiteheads, as they stop dead skin cells from clogging pores and allow the skin to absorb treatments better.

Blackhead: This is essentially a whitehead that becomes exposed to oxygen, which oxidizes the contents making it turn black. Salicylic acid is great for both preventing and treating blackheads, as its oil-soluble and its small molecular structure means it can penetrate deep into the pore, where the acid then breaks down the ‘glue’ that binds the blockage. You can also use nose strips, we’re obsessed with the Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips (which you can bi-weekly), or a blackhead extractor to remove blackheads, but the latter needs to be done very carefully (find out how here).

Pimple: This is an overgrowth of bacteria called p.acnes, which stimulate an immune response that creates redness, swelling, pain and sometimes pus. For a quick and easy DIY, lightly press a hot (not too hot) flannel onto your skin to open your pores, then dab tea tree oil or a piece of fresh ginger onto the blemish, which both have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cyst: Cysts tend to be more painful, larger, redder and more raised than a whitehead. You should never try to pop a cyst, as these can lead to a spread of bacteria and more inflammation, which only means it will take longer to go away. For our full dermatologist’s guide to treating cystic acne, check out our guide here.

Nodule: This is another severe type of acne, similar to a cyst. A nodule, like a cyst, is a solid, large and painful lump below the surface of the skin. Unlike a cyst, it doesn’t have a head and the lump of dead skin and sebum will remain intact and could be there for weeks or even months. Retinoids and salicylic acid can be used to help unclog the trapped debris, but it’s best to have this treated with prescription ointments or antibiotics from your doctor.

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