When we think about stubborn breakouts, we usually picture the stereotypical picture of what acne looks like: Big, angry red spots, coupled with oily skin—and in our mind’s eye, it’s usually taking up residence on a teenager’s face. While it would be nice if breakouts would magically disappear once you hit 20, the reality is that many types of acne often last far beyond adolescence (especially for women). Thankfully, it’s generally manageable at home, provided you know what type of acne you have and what’s triggering it.
Here, we’ll help you figure all of that out. We’ll go over a few different types of breakouts, like blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples, and explain how they differ. You’ll also learn about what can cause (or contribute to) these various types of blemishes and discover our tips to help keep your skin looking smooth, even, and clear. Settle in and read on for your crash course on different types of acne and how to treat them.
What Are The Main Types of Acne?
There are several different types of acne, but generally speaking, breakouts can be classified as either comedonal or inflammatory blemishes.
Comedonal acne is typically considered the milder form. It includes minor, surface-level blemishes like blackheads and whiteheads and can typically be managed with over-the-counter products. Inflammatory blemishes, like papules and nodules, tend to be deeper and larger than comedonal blemishes. They may occur with redness and irritation and can be harder to treat. These breakouts can also cause acne scars. Dermatologists may also classify acne by how much of it there is. This is pretty self-explanatory: The more breakouts you have, the more severe it’s considered.
While clogged pores and pimples are among the most common types of blemishes, they aren’t the only types. There’s also fungal acne (caused by yeast), cystic acne (often triggered by hormonal imbalances), and a wide range of skin concerns that look like acne, but aren’t. Each type requires different treatment, which is why it’s so important to figure out what type of breakouts you’re dealing with if you want to achieve clearer-looking skin.
What Can Cause Acne Blemishes?
All breakouts start as comedonal lesions or clogged pores. Pimples develop when bacteria enter the pores, causing them to become red, raised, and sometimes painful. As for what causes the comedones in the first place, it’s hard to say—there are so many factors, both internal and external, that can contribute to breakouts.
Generally speaking, clogged pores typically result from excessive oil production. A higher-than-average sebum production can be triggered by external factors like humidity and hot weather (though some people simply have oilier skin than others). Some skincare and makeup products can also cause clogged pores, which is why you should always seek out products labeled “non-comedogenic” if you’re prone to blemishes. Other factors that can trigger or worsen blemishes include dehydration, stress, and hormonal fluctuations. If you’re unsure what’s causing your breakouts, schedule a visit with your dermatologist. They can help you determine why your skin is acting up.
How Should You Treat Acne Blemishes?
Different types of breakouts have different treatments—mild breakouts, for example, can usually be treated with over-the-counter products, but severe acne often requires a trip to the dermatologist. Generally speaking, however, treating acne generally requires addressing the underlying cause and working to keep your pores clear and free of excess oil and other debris. Read on for our top tips on managing blackheads, whiteheads, and other types of acne blemishes.
Cleanse Twice Daily
As mentioned above, breakouts develop when your pores become clogged with debris like excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells. Cleansing your skin twice daily can help remove this debris, making you less likely to develop clogged pores and other breakouts.
If you’re prone to frequent breakouts, we recommend Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment. Made with salicylic acid, this high-foaming face wash helps purify pores to reduce the appearance of different types of acne on the face. It also helps prevent new breakouts from forming to reveal clearer-looking skin with continued use.
Before cleansing, thoroughly wet your skin with lukewarm water. Then, massage the cleanser over your face, focusing on problem areas, and rinse thoroughly. You should aim to wash your face twice daily: Once first thing in the morning and once at night before going to sleep.
Tone After Washing Your Face
After washing your face, we recommend reaching for a toner to help remove any lingering debris. The toner you use should be dictated by your skin type and your primary skin concerns. Look for a non-comedogenic formula that’s suitable for acne-prone skin.
Moisturize (Yes, Really)
People with oily, blemish-prone skin often try to dry out their skin, believing that the drier their skin is, the fewer breakouts they’ll get. While that makes sense in theory, it’s not really that cut and dry. When your skin lacks adequate moisture, your body may produce excess oil to compensate for the sudden lack of hydration. This excess oil production can leave your skin looking oily and may contribute to (or worsen) clogged pores and other blemishes. So as counterintuitive as it may seem, moisturizing is essential if you’re struggling with breakouts.
When dealing with blemishes, we recommend moisturizing with Breakout Control Acne Treatment Facial Lotion. This moisturizer with salicylic acid, niacinamide, and aloe vera is clinically demonstrated to diminish the appearance of acne breakouts while reducing rough texture and dull skin tone.* You can use it daily or as needed; if you choose to do the latter, make sure to supplement with a non-greasy face lotion.
*Tested in a dermatologist-controlled clinical study
Try a Spot Treatment
Whether you’re struggling with minor comedones or more noticeable pimples and cysts, the temptation to try and pop your spots can be overwhelming. But if you want your skin to look its best, you’ll have to resist the urge. Picking at your breakouts is likely to make things worse.
Instead, when you’re breaking out, reach for a spot treatment, like Blue Herbal Spot Treatment, which contains salicylic 1.5% salicylic acid. The fragrance-free formula targets problem areas to help skin appear clearer and feel more comfortable.
Next: Now that you’re caught up on the different types of acne and their causes, check out our article The Best Acne Ingredients For Clearer Skin.