Types of Pimples and How to Deal With Them

Medically reviewed by Angeli Eloise E. Torres, MD, DPDS · Dermatology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Oct 24, 2022

    Types of Pimples and How to Deal With Them

    Acne is a common skin problem or condition that occurs when hair follicles under a person’s skin clog up. This causes a person’s sebum (a naturally occurring substance that is produced by the skin), as well as dead skin cells, to accumulate in the pores. When this happens, your pores become a breeding ground for infection-causing bacteria. In this article, we discuss the different types acne and treatment methods. What are some types of acne and treatment?

    Causes of Acne

    Acne can appear anywhere on your skin, though it commonly shows up on the face, chest, shoulders, and back. These areas are where most of our skin’s oil production occurs. Interestingly enough, clogged hair follicles are also a cause of acne as they are connected to our oil glands.

    There are many things that can cause acne breakouts:

    Hormonal changes. The primary hormones responsible for acne are androgens. They cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and produce more sebum. As a result, males and females undergoing severe hormonal changes (especially during their teen years) are prone to acne. Acne also tends to be worse in males because they have higher levels of androgens.

    Medication intake. Acne can be a side effect of drugs such as lithium, testosterone, and corticosteroids.

    Stress. Though not directly responsible for the production of acne, stress can worsen the effects of acne and slow down the healing process.

    Diet or food intake. There are certain types of food that can aggravate the effects of acne. Examples include chips, bread, bagels, and other carb-loaded foods. However, further research is necessary to establish an appropriate diet for acne-prone individuals.

    Types of Acne and Treatment

    Whiteheads and blackheads

    The mildest cases of acne usually involve the appearance of whiteheads or blackheads on your skin. While vastly similar, whiteheads or blackheads differ mostly in color. This is a result of whether or not your skin’s plugged follicles are open (blackhead) or closed (whitehead).

    While these blemishes can go away on their own (popping them out on your own can lead to further infection), retinoid cream can help unclog the pores. Benzoyl peroxide is also helpful in removing excess bacteria, but can dry the skin.


    Pimples or pustules are inflamed, pus-filled bumps. The pus contains the infection-causing bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells surrounding the area beneath the skin. Meanwhile, the redness and swelling are a result of your body’s immune system responding to the infection.

    It is best to avoid popping the pimples, as it leaves the skin open to more germs and bacteria and can lead to scarring. Acne products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can help speed along the healing process.


    Also known as early pimples, papules are tender, pink bumps that are very small in size. They tend to cluster together. While most cases of papules go away on their own, people with papules can use acne products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to treat mild outbreaks. For more severe outbreaks, it’s best to consult a dermatologist.

    Nodules or Nodular Acne

    Usually large in size, nodules are swollen bumps deep within the skin. They are naturally painful to touch and can be red or the same color as your skin. This stems from a bacterial infection, and can affect multiple pores. Nodules, in comparison to other acne blemishes, are capable of doing permanent damage to your skin tissue and can cause noticeable acne scars.

    Cysts or Cystic Acne

    Acne cysts or cystic acne are very large blemishes that usually form when the internal wall of a pore ruptures. This allows oil and bacteria to spread around your skin and cause an infection. As a result, large, pus-filled cysts form underneath the skin. They can be extremely painful and uncomfortable.

    Because nodular and cystic acne are severe or serious types of acne, treatment requires prescription medicine from a dermatologist. It’s important to disclose any and all medicine allergies to the doctor, as this can influence treatment.

    Key Takeaway

    What are the types of acne and treatment? There are different types of acne and ways to treat them. Most cases of acne, such as whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, and papules, can go away on their own or with the help of over-the-counter medication. For more serious cases, like nodular or cystic acne and severe, long-lasting breakouts, consult a dermatologist.

    Learn more about Skin Health here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Angeli Eloise E. Torres, MD, DPDS

    Dermatology · Makati Medical Center

    Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Oct 24, 2022


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