How Severe Is Your Acne?
That one pimple or patch of blemishes may be the first thing you see when you look in the mirror, but did you know that all acne is not created equal? Sure, we may be more prone to pimples during times of stress or hormonal fluctuations, but an occasional breakout is different than ongoing pimples and severe acne that affect larger areas of the face. The good news is, identifying the severity of your acne can help steer you toward the most effective solution , whether that’s an acne spot treatment for flare-ups or a daily morning and evening regimen that works to minimize acne while providing your skin with the extra care that helps soothe and promote healing. Here, the main types of acne —and the ideal solutions that can help get your skin back on track.
A blackhead is also known as an open comedone, which is a pore that has become clogged with oil, dead skin cells and bacteria and remains open on the skin’s surface. Blackheads are most common on and around the nose, the cheeks and chin. (FYI, the color of blackheads isn’t due to dirt—it is actually caused when oil and debris in the pore darken as they react with oxygen in the air.) Salicylic acid products help exfoliate dead skin cells to prevent and get rid of blackheads, while skin-caring ingredients such as charcoal help draw impurities out of the pores, which can help minimize blackheads as well. It’s best to use these products over the entire face (rather than spot treating) to promote clear skin—and a scrub is a great way to get rid of blackheads fast.
Whiteheads are also called closed comedones, and they occur when oil, dead skin cells and bacteria prevent the pore from opening. Common on the face, neck, shoulders, chest and back, the ideal way to prevent and treat whiteheads is to use salicylic acid to minimize the buildup of dead skin cells than can cause clogged pores.
When comedones (blackheads or whiteheads) become red and inflamed, they are called papules. They usually feel firm and can feel sore or tender to the touch as well. Papules form when irritation causes the walls of the pores to break, which leads to inflammation surrounding the pore. Salicylic acid is an effective ingredient for preventing the clogged pores that lead to papules, but this type of acne may also need benzoyl peroxide or a sulfur acne treatment . A benzoyl peroxide spot treatment can help clear occasional papules, but an acne kit that includes a cleanser, toner and acne lotion is often the best approach.
The acne you would usually call a “pimple” is technically called a pustule, which is a papule that becomes filled with pus made of dead white blood cells that the body sends to fight infection. Pustules may look like whiteheads, but they are usually surrounded by redness and accompanied by soreness. To get rid of acne pustules, it’s important to use potent acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and sulfur consistently—along with skin-soothing ingredients like aloe vera and witch hazel to reduce irritation.
Nodules are a form of severe acne, and these are large, hard, inflamed bumps that form deep within the skin. Some nodules may have red bumps on the skin’s surface while others remain the same color as the surrounding skin. Nodules are similar to papules but the infection spreads deeper into the skin, and this type of acne can occur on the back and shoulders as well. Nodules are more likely to leave scars after they are healed, and they require maximum strength acne treatment, ideally in the form of a full skincare regimen designed specifically for severe acne.
Cysts are another type of severe acne. These are deep, painful bumps like nodules except they are filled with pus. Ranging from the size of a pencil eraser to much larger, cysts are prone to scarring, especially if they are picked or squeezed. A regimen that includes maximum strength benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur can help control cysts, but if they continue to be a problem it’s best to make an appointment with a dermatologist.
We’ve created an easy-to-take quiz that can help you determine the type of acne you have—and steer you toward the ideal AcneFree product solutions. Click here to take the quiz, and then you’re one step closer to clear, healthy skin!