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What Are the Different Types of Acne?

How Identifying Your Type of Acne Could Help You Treat It Once and For All


In order to be able to treat your breakouts, there are a few things you need to know, including the different types of spots you can get, and, well, the kind of acne you actually have.

Anyone who has to deal with pimples on the regular tends to think that their skin is worse than it actually is. If I asked you to describe the kind of acne you have, you'd probably tell me that it's quite severe; but in reality, most of us only have cases of mild to moderate acne.

So, to finally identify the severity of your skin breakouts, we turned to Dr. Ross Perry, a top celebrity GP and skin doctor expert who specialises in cysts and acne — and once you put a name on your problem, finding a solution should be easier.

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Mild Acne

According to Dr. Perry, this is generally for "patients with fewer than 20 whiteheads or blackheads, fewer than 15 inflamed bumps, or fewer than 30 total lesions. Whiteheads and/or blackheads occur when the normal follicles become blocked, but not inflamed. Both blackheads and whiteheads occur due to trapped sebum and bacteria, but in the case of a blackhead, the sebum contains melanin which oxidises and turns a brown/black colour. Blackheads can last a long time as it takes a while for the contents to drain to the surface."

To treat mild acne, make sure to have a good skincare routine that allows you to deeply cleanse your skin, and invest in over-the-counter treatments. You could also benefit from professional treatments such as chemical peels.

Moderate Acne

Patients with moderate acne would have "around 20 to 100 whiteheads or blackheads, 15 to 50 inflamed bumps, or 30 to 125 total lesions," says Dr. Perry. "Inflammations of acne occur when the blackheads or whiteheads rupture. This can happen spontaneously or can be triggered by touching/squeezing/picking the spots (which is why this is always discouraged). Papules occur when there is a break in the follicular wall. The pore becomes inflamed when white blood cells rush in, and this looks like a reddening bump beneath the skin. A few days later, when white blood cells make their way to the surface, a pustule occurs with a characteristic yellow head. This is the classic 'zit' or 'pimple' which is very tempting to squeeze, but best left untouched. Severe inflammation can lead to more serious lesions, like cysts or nodules."

To treat moderate acne, start by trying over-the-counter treatments. If you find that nothing is working, book an appointment with your GP, who will be able to help you take the next steps.

Severe Acne

As explained by Dr. Perry, "severe acne involves multiple inflamed cysts and nodules. The inflammation gives the skin an angry red or even purplish tone. If untreated, the outbreaks can leave permanent scarring, which is why it is very important to find effective treatment."

Treating severe acne can be quite difficult. Go to your GP or dermatologist, who might prescribe medication (such as Roaccutane)or injections of corticosteroids.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Emily Faulstitch
Product Credit: Everlane T-Shirt, Levi's Jeans
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