Different Types of Acne: What Type of Acne Do I Have?
Having acne prone skin is something we completely understand here at Sönd. We have skin that likes to break out in spots, blemishes and bumps on a whim. We know that it's annoying, upsetting and distressing, and can severely impact your quality and enjoyment of life.
If you struggle with any type of acne, we get it. We believe that everyone deserves the right skincare for their skin type and acne prone skin needs skincare that not only simply cleanses and moisturises, but fully supports and hydrates it too. That's why we developed the Sönd skin care range, because the world of skin care was severely lacking in effective treatment options.
But more on that later. We know that many people need help to identify the type of acne they have, as there are many acne types. So in this article, we're going to help you work out the type of acne you're experiencing, why it might be happening and the products and lifestyle changes used to treat it.
Acne isn’t just confined to teenage skin - adult acne and pregnancy acne can affect our skin in later life too, and acne doesn’t just always affect the skin on the face. It can affect the skin of the back, neck and chest, and even the vagina.
So here’s a look at some of the different types of acne and what can cause this often upsetting condition. But first, let's look at what acne is.
Whiteheads and Blackheads, Papules, Pustules, Comedones, Nodules and Cysts: Different Types of Acne Spots
Essentially, acne is a skin condition that causes spots and breakouts. Mild acne can be manageable, but if you have a severe form of acne, such as cystic acne, it can be difficult to treat. There are different types of acne spots, and each type of acne can cause you to develop any of these acne lesions.
- Whiteheads - small, hard spots that have no head or a white head, that produce nothing when squeezed.
- Blackheads - similar to whiteheads, but with a visible dark head that can be squeezed. The colour is caused by the inside contents of the pore becoming darker when the contents are exposed to oxygen (contrary to popular belief, this isn't dirt).
- Comedones - another word to describe blackheads and whiteheads. An open comedone is a blackhead and a closed comedone is a whitehead.
- Papules - red bumps, larger than whiteheads and blackheads that are red, and may be tender to the touch and feel hot. They cannot and should not be squeezed as they don't have a head.
- Pustules - similar to papules, but filled with pus that can appear white or yellow, and can be emptied when squeezed (although avoid the temptation to squeeze!).
- Nodules - hard lumps under the surface of the skin that can become quite large and painful to touch.
- Cysts - similar to pustules but much larger, and can be accompanied by red, angry, inflamed skin, and filled with a lot of pus. Cystic spots are most likely to cause acne scarring. Mild to moderate acne might not result in nodules and cysts, and might stop at comedones, papules and pustules. Severe acne tends to result in severe cystic breakouts, inflammation and scarring.
What Causes Acne?
Acne blemishes have many causes, from genetics and hormones to stress and potentially our diet. Our article on the different causes of acne goes into each cause in detail.
Most cases of acne however, are exacerbated by oil and dead skin cells, dirt, bacteria, sweat, stale makeup and environmental pollutants causing clogged pores, with excess skin oil trapping all of this debris in the pores, leading to acne breakouts.
Bacterial Acne: Propionibacterium Acne Vulgaris
Propionibacterium acnes is a common bacterium that lives on human skin. It’s present on the skin of many of us and is often harmless and doesn’t always lead to acne.
But in those who’s skin produces excessive amounts of sebum (a waxy, oily substance naturally produced by the skin), P. acnes can take hold and ‘colonise’ the skin, leading to infected hair follicles and pores within the skin.
Comedones (blackheads which are open and on the surface of the skin, and whiteheads which are closed and often rupture below the skin) and pus-filled spots called pustules then begin to form. This is known as acne vulgaris and is one of the most common acne types.
P. acnes can be treated with long-term antibiotics, but antibiotic resistant strains have developed, meaning that antibiotic use can be fruitless. The best course of action is often literally skin deep - appropriate skincare that gets rid of the bacteria and therefore the spots.
Cystic acne is a type of inflammatory acne that may begin as nodular acne, before each of the large red bumps on the skin become pus filled.
In terms of severity, cystic acne is considered the most severe kind of acne. It starts deep within the skin and this type of inflamed acne is usually the most difficult to treat and often requires acne medications. Like most acne types, it can develop on the skin of different areas of the body.
Cystic acne can also lead to a rare type of nodulocystic acne called acne conglobata. This results in deeply burrowed cystic acne spots that join together into extremely distressing and uncomfortable abscesses.
Teenage Forms of Acne
Teenagers are the age group most commonly associated with acne vulgaris. But that doesn’t make it any easier if you or your teenager are suffering. At a time in life when hormonal fluctuations mean developments and changes so rapid that your body, let along your emotions, just don’t feel like they belong to you, teenage acne is a cruel twist of fate.
Teenage acne is caused by these fluctuating hormones, specifically androgen hormones, which are present in both teenage boys and girls. Androgens increase during puberty, and flood the blood leading to all the changes puberty brings.
But they also make the oil glands in the skin increase in size, and therefore produce more oil, or sebum. Oily skin is more prone to acne, and blackheads, whiteheads and hard, pus-filled pimples, spots and cysts develop.
Most young people grow out of their teenage hormonal acne as they reach their 20s but during these tender years, the right skincare routine can help to tackle the cause of acne, and not just the symptoms and types of pimples.
Adult Acne Types
Adult acne can be triggered by stress, taking the contraceptive pill, periods, pregnancy and the menopause. Some medications such as steroids and drugs that control epileptic seizures can also lead to the development of acne.
If you have adult acne, we completely understand how you feel. Our co-founder Eileen suffered with acne for over 15 years and lost all hope in ever having acne-free skin. Which is why she was so excited to help develop Sönd Skincare, a regime that takes a different approach to all the other skincare promising to give freedom from and prevent acne.
Inflammatory acne is another term used to describe acne that results in papules, pustules, nodules and cysts. In other words, it's more severe than non-inflammatory acne that results in open or closed comedones.
Rosacea is a condition that causes facial flushing and redness and the development of thin but visible blood vessels on the face. It can also cause spots called papules and pus-filled cysts called pustules on the face, in a condition called rosacea acne.
Antibiotic creams are often used to help treat rosacea acne, but they need to be used long-term. These creams can cause stinging, burning, itching and dryness.
This means that some people prefer a more holistic approach to treatment. This includes avoiding any flare up triggers such as sun or wind burn, stress, spicy foods, hot drinks and alcohol and sticking to a gentle, more natural skincare regime that hydrates and balances the skin.
You may not think it, but the skin around the vagina is very sensitive, yet it’s often exposed to many different everyday things that can irritate it. Highly scented soaps, wipes, bubble baths, washing powders and fabric softeners can all lead to vaginal acne.
Sanitary towels and tampons can also irritate this delicate area too. These products are not naturally white and are often bleached to make them more ‘appealing’. These bleaches are very harsh on such sensitive skin.
Vaginal acne can be caused by regular shaving and using lubricants, spermicides and condoms too. Plus wearing underwear made from man-made fibres (rather than natural cotton) causing you to sweat more can lead to vaginal acne. As can urine leakage, vaginal discharge and semen if not washed away.
Much in the same way as teenage acne develops as a result of constant variations in hormone levels, pregnancy acne can develop because of the hormone fluctuations experienced when expecting a baby. Pregnancy acne is most common in the first and second trimesters.
Hormones called androgens, mainly associated with male characteristics but also present in females, increase during pregnancy. It’s these hormones that are responsible for an increase in sebum production within the pores. Sebum is oily in nature, and excessive amounts can block these pores, allowing acne-causing bacteria to build up and lead to acne.
Some women also experience acne outbreaks during their period, again due to hormone levels rising and falling during the menstruation cycle. If this is you, you’re frustratingly also more likely to develop pregnancy acne. But the good news is, if you're affected by acne during pregnancy, it should disappear once you’ve given birth and your hormones have settled back down to normal levels.
Acne mechanica is a form of acne caused by mechanical action against the skin. This can be caused by wearing a heavy backpack, starched shirt collars or a tight fitting bra. If you get acne breakouts on your back or jawline, it could be being caused by what you're wearing, so give this some consideration.
Know Your Skin Condition: How Do I Know What Acne I Have?
As is clear from this article, there is no one type of acne or even one type of acne spot. There are many different types and the severity of your acne may be being determined by it's cause or type.
Acne usually responds to one or more different treatments, but with a huge number of acne creams, tablets and washes on the market, it can be a long and frustrating case of trial and error. If you're confused about what type of acne you have, try one of the numerous online acne quizzes.
Acne Treatments and Dermatologist Appointments
Acne can impact your self-confidence and your enjoyment of life. If you're struggling, make an appointment with a dermatologist or speak to your GP. They can help you and talk through your options to treat your acne. You may be surprised to learn that you may be able to control it with some simple lifestyle adaptations and better skincare.
Whatever type of acne you have, we can help. Sönd Skincare is a range of alkalising products that help to balance the skin, meaning that the skin is less stressed and more able to naturally defend and hydrate itself.
Alkalising skincare products are the antithesis to regular skincare that are acidic and by their very nature can irritate sensitive or acne-prone skin. Read our article on alkalising skincare to find out more, and discover how it could be the answer to your skincare needs!
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.