Types of Acne: The Visual Guide To Pimples and Treatments

Did you know 17 million Americans suffer from acne? It’s the most common skin condition that can affect anyone – so common the disorder affects 80% of those between the ages of 11 and 30. And it doesn’t discriminate based on skin type, either.

Since nearly everyone will deal with it at some point in their lives, knowing how to take care it  – without the use of products harmful to the skin – is important. We’re making it easier for you by curating and organizing the resources for you.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the different types of pimples, acne severity, and treatment options.

Table Of Contents

  1. Pimple Types
  2. Face Acne
  3. Body Acne
  4. Moderate Acne
  5. Nodular Acne
  6. Hormonal Acne
  7. Cystic Acne
  8. Acne Scars

Pimple Types: Not All Acne is Created Equal

With acne vulgaris (the most common type of acne) you’ll find several types of pimples: blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. The first two are non-inflammatory acne, or comedonal acne, while the others are considered inflammatory acne. Inflammatory acne is the result of an inflammation response in the body, triggered by the immune system sensing a threat. In the case of acne breakouts, the threat is usually bacteria. The inflammation causes the skin temperature in that area to rise, in addition to redness and swelling.


Non-Inflammatory Acne

Blackheads, also known as open comedones, happen when a pore gets clogged with sebum – definition – and skin cells. The top of the pore stays open even though the rest of it is clogged, so that’s why it’s black on the surface.


Whiteheads, also known as closed comedones, are pimples that stay under the skin’s surface. They too, are a result of a clogged pore full of sebum and dead skin cells, but the top of the pore closes.

Inflammatory Acne

Inflammatory acne results in pimples that are red and swollen. These can be a result of sebum and dead skin cells, but bacteria generally plays a role here, too. That bacteria can cause infections deep below the surface of your skin, resulting in painful acne that’s difficult to treat and may require antibiotics – either topical, applied directly to the skin, or pills taken by mouth.

Nodules are a form of severe acne. It presents as a small bump under the skin. Though it’s possible for it to be skin tone, it’s also possible for it to turn red as it becomes more inflamed. It’s painful to the touch and doesn’t have a head like a “regular” pimple might. It’s caused by clogged pores and bacteria that cause infection beneath the surface of the skin.

Nodular Acne

Cysts are also the result of bacteria that gets trapped inside the pore and causes an infection that goes deep into the skin. It creates a red bump that’s full of pus. It’s usually tender, but not always painful. It may also be itchy. The cysts typically aren’t as severe as nodules.

Cystic Acne

Pustules occur when the pores become so irritated that their walls break. This results in bigger pimples. They are hard to the touch, and filled with yellowish liquid pus. Pimples that are heart to the touch, but not full of pus are known as papules.


Knowing the acne type you have can help you choose the best and most effective acne treatment. It’s possible to have multiple kinds of acne at once, which affects the acne products you should use for treatment. Severe acne may require a trip to the dermatologist

Acne products that contain benzoyl peroxide and/or salicylic acid can help reduce swelling and get rid of bacteria. Sounds like a good thing, right? These products dry the skin, which can lead to a number of problems and increase signs of aging. Instead of using a face wash with chemicals, you should cleanse your face and body with a natural soap such as our Pink Grapefruit soap as its antiviral and antimicrobial properties keep acne-causing microbes off of the skin.

Learn More About Different Types of Pimples

Face Acne: Everyone Deals With It At Some Point

Facial Acne

Face acne refers to acne spots present on the forehead, cheeks, nose, chin, and neck. It’s the most common location for acne to show up. Many people who deal with face acne don’t have it on other areas of their body.

Remember, products you use to treat acne on the rest of your body may be too strong for treating face acne. If you use a strong acne treatment, use it a spot treatment, rather than all over your face. Treating your acne breakouts does more than clear your skin. Clear skin helps improve your confidence and self-esteem. Research shows adults with acne face higher rates of unemployment than the general population.

Tips for Reducing Facial Acne Breakouts

Keep your hair out of your face. Oil and dirt from your hair can clog your pores. Cleanse your skin once or twice a day with a lavender soap that won’t dry out your skin. When cleansing your face, avoid scrubbing the skin harshly. Dry your face with a clean towel. Using a towel or washcloth more than once can contribute to the spread of bacteria.

Use a high-quality moisturizer to keep the skin well hydrated. Pay close attention to the products you use on your face. When possible, use natural and organic makeup products that won’t clog the pores and avoid sleeping in your makeup.

Avoid touching your face. this spread bacteria and can irritate already inflamed skin. As tempting as it may be, don’t pick or pop your pimples with your fingers because this can damage skin and lead to infection and scarring.

Learn How to Clear Your Skin

Body Acne: Pimples Everywhere But the Face

Body Acne

Body acne one of the more common acne types. It refers to pimples that appear in areas other than your face. It’s commonly found on the back, chest, and shoulders. Like face acne, it happens when your sebaceous glands secrete sebum and get clogged with dead skin cells. The oil, skin cells, and bacteria can build up and clog the hair follicles on your body, causing pimples to form.

If you have body acne, your acne is more severe than if it’s just on your face. The skin on your chest is extremely thin and can scar easily. It’s possible to scrub so hard you remove the skin completely.

To improve your body acne, shower as soon as possible after workouts because sweat can clog the pores and make your acne worse. You’ll also want to use gentle exfoliating soaps on your body to avoid over-drying the skin. When the skin gets too dry, your oil glands work harder to compensate. The more oil you have in your skin, the more likely you will continue to have breakouts. If you have long hair, wear it up to keep it from touching your back and shoulders as much as possible.

If you try a number of home remedies and natural approaches and still have a severe case of body acne, you can schedule an appointment with the dermatologist. They can prescribe medication to help control and prevent further breakouts.

How to Reduce Your Body Acne

Moderate Acne: How Do You Know Where You Fall?

Moderate Acne

Moderate acne is defined as anywhere from 20 to 100 whiteheads or blackheads, 15 to 50 inflamed bumps, or 30 to 125 total lesions. When you have moderate to severe acne, a dermatologist will usually recommend prescription medication. You may also notice papules – or comedones that have become inflamed and formed small red or pink bumps on the surface skin. It’s also possible to have pustules which are similar to a white head but have a red ring around the bump. These bumps are generally filled with pus. Picking them can cause scars or dark spots to develop on your skin.

Moderate acne happens between mild and severe. Getting it under control while it is moderate can help prevent more severe cases.

Ways to Help Clear Up Your Skin

  • Keep your face clean and moisturized.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals that dry out the skin as this can increased oil production and make your acne worse.
  • Make an appointment with a dermatologist if you notice the acne is not improving.

Learn More About Moderate Acne

Nodular Acne: A Type of Severe, Painful Acne

Nodular Acne

Nodular acne is a severe form of acne characterized by large, inflamed, and painful breakouts. They are larger and more serious than your typical pimple because they affect deeper layers of the skin. Acne nodules can take months to heal and feel like hard knots under the skin. Nodular acne can occur on the face or the body. It is sometimes also called cystic acne, though some dermatologists consider these different types of acne blemishes. In more complex cases, it can be considered acne conglobata, which occurs when acne cysts and nodules begin to grow together deep below the surface of the skin.

This type of acne can cause severe scarring. It should always be treated by a dermatologist. Though it can happen to anyone, it’s more common in men because of their androgen hormones. It has a genetic component – if your parents or siblings have it, there’s a greater chance you’ll have it, too.

If you are experiencing this type of acne, see a dermatologist as soon as possible. While it is important to keep the skin clean, over-the-counter treatments alone will not clear up nodule acne. Avoid popping, picking, or squeezing the blemishes. You’ll cause damage to your skin. It won’t help the nodule heal any faster and will likely cause it to become worse. Apply ice to any particularly painful pimples a few times a day. This reduces pain and swelling.

Getting Nodular Acne Under Control

Hormonal Acne: Thanks, Mother Nature

Hormonal Acne

Hormonal acne is associated with changes in hormones. During puberty, it often appears in the T-zone which includes your forehead, nose, and chin. Adult hormonal acne often occurs on the lower part of the face around the cheeks and the jawline.

For some people, hormonal acne presents in the form of blackheads, whiteheads and small pimples that come to a head. Hormonal acne is generally caused by an influx of hormones as a result of menstruation, menopause, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or increased androgen levels.

Hormone levels fluctuate monthly for both men and women. Distinguishing hormonal acne from other types of acne can guide you to the correct treatment.

To improve hormonal acne breakouts, use mild cleansers to keep the face clean especially during your menstrual cycle. Make dietary changes to avoid dairy and fatty foods, as these may worsen your break out. If you’re still struggling after making these changes to your routine, consider using hormonal birth control pills to help with balance hormones.

Think You Know Everything About Hormonal Acne?

Cystic Acne: Another Type of Severe, Painful Acne

Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is characterized by cysts – or large, pus-filled blemishes that look like boils. They develop under the skin. These can be painful, and like nodular acne should be treated by a dermatologist.

Acne fulminans is a severe form of cystic acne that goes beyond the appearance of pimples and cysts. It causes loss of appetite, painful joints, enlarged liver and spleen, and even a fluctuating fever. It requires urgent medical treatment.

Acne tropica, also known as tropical acne, is a severe type of acne seen in the tropics when the weather is very hot and humid. It’s characterized by large, painful cysts, nodules, and pustules, that lead to abscesses and frequent scarring.

Infection is often an issue because the lesions are deep under the skin.

If you suspect you have cystic acne, work on developing a proper skin care regimen that includes mild natural cleansers and a moisturizer appropriate for your skin type. Seek the help of a dermatologist to be sure you’re doing everything you can do to treat it to keep it from worsening.

Until you can get the advice of a dermatologist, you can use a few drops of tea tree oil on a cotton ball on the affected areas of your face. Leave the treatment on overnight and rinse it off with warm water in the morning. If you have sensitive skin, dilute the tea tree oil with water. Repeat nightly until you begin to see results.

Don’t forget diet can affect your skin. Monitor your food intake compared to your breakouts to see if anything in your diet is triggering a cystic breakout.

Educate Yourself on Cystic Acne

Acne Scars: How to Avoid Them & What to Do About Them

An acne scar is the result of pimples. They are more common in inflammatory types of acne. One of the best ways to ensure you’ll end up with an acne scar is to pick at or try to pop one of your pimples. There are several different types of acne scars. Some may fade over time, while others may require more expensive treatments such as laser treatments.

Acne scars are unsightly and generally become more noticeable with age as our skin begins to lose its natural collagen.

If acne scars are a problem for you, consider adding our cedarwood oatmeal soap to your skincare regimen. It can help heal wounds and lighten your scars. Take time to match the right treatment to the type of acne scar.

Before beginning treatments for your acne scars, it is important to clear the acne. New break out scam lead to new scars and also means that your skin is inflamed. When your skin is inflamed, it reduces treatment effectiveness.

Banishing those Acne Scars

No matter how long you’ve been dealing with acne, and no matter what type or severity it is, using the right soaps and skin care products is the first step in reclaiming your healthy, clear skin.

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