Types of Acne
Acne is a general term used to describe the result of plugged pores on the face, back, or chest. Generally characterized by red bumps and whiteheads, acne also includes blackheads and lumps that form beneath the skin.
The following conditions are generally referred to as acne, but each condition has particular traits.
Comedo - The condition when a sebaceous follicle becomes clogged with a combination of sebum (released from the sebaceous gland under the skin), dead skin cells, tiny hairs, dirt, oil, and bacteria. When the comedo is open and exposed to oxygen from the air, it becomes dark in appearance, forming what is commonly known as a blackhead. A closed comedo forms a small bump beneath the skin, and takes on a skin tone or slightly white appearance, commonly known as a whitehead.
Papule - A small, solid bump that elevates slightly above the skin surface. Typically the coloring of a papule matches that of the skin. Several papules grouped together are rough to the tough, having an almost sandpaper type feel to them.
Pustule - A small, fluid filled bump that elevates above the skin surface and is topped by puss. This bump is filled with a mixture of white blood cells, bacteria, sebum, and dead skin cells.
Nodule - Similar to a papule, nodules are solid bumps that elevate slightly above the skin. The main difference is that a nodule also develops deep into skin layers and is one of the leading causes of scaring from acne. This type of acne can be very painful and is more difficult to treat than other forms.
Cyst - Similar to a pustule, a cyst is a fluid filled bump that elevates above the skin and is topped by puss. A cyst is also filled with a mixture of white blood cells, bacteria, sebum, and dead skin cells and becomes severely inflamed. A cyst will form deeper into the skin layers and can be quite painful and is the other leading cause of scaring from acne. Like nodule acne, a cyst can be difficult to treat.
Macule - The red or pinkish spot left after an acne lesion has healed. Depending on the severity of the initial lesion, the discoloration may last for a few days to a few weeks before subsiding.
The problem is, most people lump all these various types of acne into one group, and just call it acne. This wouldn't be an issue, except that they each react differently to various forms of treatment, and what works for one will not necessarily work for all.
This is further complicated because some people experience more than one form of acne at a time. It is very common to have both a pustule outbreak, and a cystic outbreak simultainously.
Because of these facts about acne, treatment is not always simple and straightforward. Benzoyl peroxide, or tea tree oil are usually a safe bet when first trying to treat acne. Some people will never need anything more than this. However, for those of you who have tried 1, several, or many treatments without success, it may be helpful to determine the types of acne you suffer from, and treat each type as suggested by a dermatologist.
Again, there is no 100% acne fix. However, knowing the type of acne you suffer from can help you find a treatment that will work best for you.