Most people start dealing with pimples by Googling “how to get rid of pimples” or “skincare routine for pimples” and there’s nothing wrong with that. It can be helpful, sometimes. Because if pimples keep coming back no matter how many products have been used, then it is much better to know what causes it, the root of the problem. And it should start with knowing the different types of pimples so you will know how to properly treat it.
They are exactly what they sound like. They are a pack of tiny white bumps which are buildup that sits on top of your skin. It is a combination of sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells in one tiny, white package. Medically speaking, a whitehead can be called a closed comedo. (All types of pimples start as comedones.) And yes, whiteheads count as pimples as well, and they frequently show up on oilier skin types. They can pretty easily be combated with chemical exfoliation and thorough cleansing of the skin.
Blackheads are also composed of sebum, skin cell buildup, and bacteria. Kind of like whiteheads. Only, in the case of a blackhead, the comedo is open and the oil has oxidized, making it a darker color. You can treat these similarly to whiteheads, by regular, thorough cleansing and chemical exfoliation.
Other products like clay masks can help, and if you’re extra prone to blackheads, try making sure all the products you use are non-comedogenic. Pore strips are one of the most popular products to get rid of blackheads, but also controversial because of the adhesive used in it can damage the skin. But facialists say they can really help if you use them in moderation.
A pustule is what you’re most likely to think of when you picture a pimple. It’s a zit that has come to a head, forming a white, pus-filled bubble on top. While this might sound like it would fit the description of “whitehead,” a pustule is different: A whitehead is simply a plugged hair follicle, while a pustule is inflamed and full of pus. A full-on zit. These are the kinds of pimples even your facialist will say you can pop. They should come easily, meaning popping them is unlikely to leave you with a scar.
To safely get rid of it, wet a clean washcloth with hot water and hold it to the spot. It helps draw the infection to the surface. Once you’ve popped it or allowed the pustule to pop on its own, try to keep it covered pimple patch until it has healed over.
A papule is technically any small, raised bump on the skin. It’s often part of a grouping of other papules that form a rash (i.e. dermatitis, allergic reactions, eczema). In terms of acne, it’s a bump that’s red in color and swollen with inflammation. And I honestly didn’t know it was called that until I was researching for this post.
Papules are more painful than whiteheads or blackheads, but not as bad as nodules or cysts. You can treat them with drying lotions or spot treatments; they respond pretty well to ingredients like Benzoyl Peroxide.
This is probably the most common type you hear from beauty forums. That’s because they are painful and slow to heal. They lie deep within the skin, are often caused by hormones, and occur when the pores become blocked and lead to infection.
Keeping the area clean and using chemical exfoliator can help, but know the cause of the infection is much helpful. Like seeing a dermatologist for a consultation and cortisone injection. Ice packing the cysts helps too because the cold will restrict the blood vessels and reduce inflammation as a result.
If you get regularly occurring cystic acne, Retin-A (just make sure you’re not pregnant or planning) and other more serious treatments can help. And don’t believe those on the internet that says cystic pimples are caused by masturbation OR chocolate. They’re not!
This one is where you really need a dermatologist. Like cysts, nodular pimples are one of the most severe forms of acne. They’re slightly different in that they are not filled with pus-like cystic pimples are. Instead, they form a hard bump deep within the skin and feel painful at the surface. Nodules don’t always become red—they can match your skin tone—but can take weeks to go away. Nodular acne usually needs pretty intensive treatments like antibiotics and other oral medications, so visiting the dermatologist is probably your best bet to finding a solution. (NOTE: Don’t Google the antibiotics on the internet. They need a prescription.)
If you’ve already tried all the skincare products and treatments you can try, yet nothing is improving. You might need to consult an OB-GYN instead. You might need to check for Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age.
Pimples like cystic acne and nodules are sometimes one of the symptoms of PCOS. Together with infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels.
Now that you know the six different types of pimples, I hope this will help you treat them properly.