We’ve all suffered from pimples at some point in life. You may have experienced a bout of acne in your teens, or perhaps you were acne-free during puberty but are affected by it in adulthood. Acne is a persistent devil of a skin condition. The severity of acne will differ on the basis of your age, skin type, stress levels, hormonal balance, the climate you live in, the foods you eat, etc. You may experience only slight bumps and whiteheads or you may have full-fledged cystic acne, the worst type of acne. But before we get into that, let’s take a very brief look at what acne is.
When Does Acne Occur?
Acne affects over 85% of the population across the world. So remember that you are not alone in your battle against this pervasive skin condition. The milder forms of acne occur when hair follicles get clogged with dead skin cells, bacteria or excessive oil. The more severe types of acne can be a result of infections of the hair follicles. Acne can happen on all areas of the body where hair grows. So the entire surface of your skin is vulnerable to acne, except for your palms and the soles of your feet since there are no hair follicles on these parts of the body. Acne can crop up just on your face, but also on your back, chest, shoulders, and neck.
Although acne is not a fatal or indeed even a dangerous skin condition, it is nevertheless one of the most trying to deal with emotionally. If you suffer from severe acne or if you pick at your pimples, the acne can leave unsightly scars. Acne can seriously hamper your self-esteem. Prolonged or severe acne can make you withdrawn, unsure of yourself, depressed, and frustrated. Many acne sufferers – especially those who are young – have suicidal thoughts and can develop a distorted self-image which stops them from living life normally. This is why it is important that acne be treated as early as possible so as to avoid long-term physical and emotional trauma.
However, not all acne is treated in the same way. Your options for getting rid of your acne will vary depending on the type of acne you are suffering from. So here is an overview of the different types of acne which will help you understand which of the following types of acne you are plagued with. This will give you a better understanding of your skin problem, which will empower you to manage it.
Different Types of Acne
So how are the different types of acne classified? Acne can be classified on the basis of several variables. For the purpose of this article, we will look at the different types of acne based on their severity. From mild to severe to extreme, we’ll take you through all the different types of acne below.
Mild and Moderate Types of Acne
Of the different types of acne, the majority of the population suffers from mild to moderate kinds. We’ll cover blackheads, papules, whiteheads, pustules & papules which fall under different types of acne of the mild variety. Blackheads and whiteheads are known as comedones and are further classified as non-inflammatory types of acne while papules and pustules will be filed under inflammatory types of acne. So let’s take a closer look at these types of acne and see what they are about.
Non-inflammatory Mild/Moderate Types of Acne
When a pore is blocked only partially, it leads to the formation of a blackhead. So some of bacteria or dead skin cells or excess oil that are trapped are able to make it to the surface of the skin thus causing the protuberance of a blackhead.
It is a common misconception that the black part of a blackhead is caused by pollution or dirt. Actually, the black color is simply a reaction of melanin – a skin pigment – when it mixes with air. Blackheads can take a long time to heal and completely go away.
As opposed to blackheads, whiteheads are the result of a pore being completely blocked, thus causing dead skin cells and bacteria and oil to be trapped under the skin. This collection of waste under the skin will lead to a tiny white bump on the site where it is all trapped. A whitehead will disappear quite quickly if left alone.
Inflammatory Mild/Moderate Types of Acne
Better known as the pimple that shows up on the day of the big party, pustules are the normal type of zit that no one can claim not to know the sight of. You can recognize a pustule by its yellow center (called a ‘head’) which is usually surrounded by red, inflamed skin. The yellow part of it is the pus that has collected underneath the skin. If the head of a pustules is visible, you can try popping it in case of an emergency, although ideally you really should not interfere with the pustule at all. But there are ways to pop a zit so as to not leave an unsightly spot or scar. So learn the proper technique before you attempt it. If you can avoid this though, it would be best to simply leave a pustule alone. It will disappear in some days without leaving a trace of its visit. If you want to pop it but are unsure how, you can visit a dermatologist who will have it expressed under medical, hygienic conditions.
While pustules have heads, papules do not because they do not contain any pus. They will just be red, inflamed spots that may be tender to the touch. You should never try popping a papule as it will just lead to scarring since there is nothing to ‘pop’ out. Poking, prodding or squeezing a papule will aggravate the site, damage skin tissue and lead to a permanent scar.
Severe Types of Acne
A small percentage of the population will suffer from severe types of acne. Severe types of acne come in two forms – nodules and cysts. There is another type of acne – acne rosacea – that is classified as severe. Let’s take a brief look at each of these types of acne.
Nodules are raised portions of the skin that are hard to touch. They are not filled with pus, but the bumps can be quite large, and are often painful. A buildup of hair follicle secretions is the primary cause of this type of acne, although the reason for the buildup is not known. Nodules will stay for months at a time. The same nodule will hang around your skin for several weeks without growing larger or smaller. This type of acne normally results in scarring.
What’s really bad about these nodules is that they can sometimes appear to go away but the issue behind their cause is actually unresolved. So just when you think you have bid good bye to a nodule, it will erupt again. And again and again and again. This normally occurs when the nodule has been squeezed, which is what causes it to be severely traumatized, which in turn causes it to hang around for way longer than it would have had you left it alone. This type of acne is normally treated with an injection of cortisone directly into the nodule.
A cyst looks very similar to a nodule, except that it is filled with pus. Like nodules, cysts are also very painful and scarring is very likely to occur. If you squeeze a cyst, it can cause an infection in the deeper layers of the skin and lead to the development of scars that can never be treated because the damage is too deep. It is possible to reduce the size of a cyst with an injection of cortisone just like with nodules.
This type of acne is characterized by a rash-like redness which is accompanied by pimples, bumps, and other skin blemishes on the affected area. Acne rosacea is usually confined to the nose, cheeks, chin and forehead. Because the skin is so tender, you may see blood vessels under the surface of the skin. Usually, there are no blackheads with acne rosacea.
Acne rosacea normally afflicts women over the age of 30. Although acne rosacea affects women more than men, it has been found to be far more aggressive when it does occur in men.
If this type of acne is left untreated, it will lead to excess tissue growth and the nose can swell too. It is best not to self-treat severe types of acne. Always consult a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and timely medical treatment.
Extreme Types of Acne
These are the worst of all the different types of acne. The extreme types of acne are quite rare, and you will be thanking your stars for your solitary pimple after you take a look at these ones. These different types of acne on the extreme end of the scale cause terrible psychological and physical damage.
Of all the different types of acne, acne conglobata is undoubtedly the most extreme. In this type of acne, large lesions appear on the face and body. These lesions are filled with pus, and can sometimes be interconnected so as to form a network of large lesions along a certain area. The lesions are not the only problem though. The skin is affected to such a degree that there are whiteheads and blackheads covering almost every bit of skin.
Acne conglobata affects men more than women, usually between 18 and 30 years of age. The cause of this type of acne is unknown. Unfortunately, this type of acne is non-responsive to medication and other attempts to bring the inflammation under control. This type of acne causes a lot of damage to the skin, resulting in extreme disfiguring scarring that does not respond very well to acne scar treatments.
This type of acne has a similar appearance to acne conglobata, but with more nodule and cyst-like acne than lesions. The cysts often burst and release pus. This type of acne is just like acne conglobata in that it will definitely result in very extreme scarring.
Acne fulminans affects men more than women, and so far there have only been cases of this type of acne in white males. What’s unique about acne fulminans is that it is accompanied by fever and joint pain, rare symptoms of acne. Unresponsive to antibiotics, treatment for acne fulminans will usually involve a hospital stay for over a month.
This type of acne is a bacterial infection. It is characterized by cysts and pustules. It is thought that gram-negative folliculitis affects people who have been on antibiotic treatment for acne vulgaris for a very long time. This extreme type of acne is quite rare. It affects both men and women.
Pyoderma Faciale a.k.a. Rosacea Fulminans
This is one of the most extreme types of acne that occurs only on the face. It is characterized by large, very painful pustules and nodules, both the type which will scar. What’s strange about pyoderma faciale is that it only affects women. And that too just when they are between 20 and 40 years of age. This type of acne can suddenly crop up in women who have never had a pimple in their life. It does not last forever, a year at the most, but during that time it can destroy the complexion to a huge extent and play havoc with patient’s self-esteem.
Different types of acne have plagued mankind for centuries. And unfortunately, so far no solid causes have been identified. However, through tests and research over the decades, some risk factors have indeed been streamlined which can help ascertain whether or not a particular person is more prone to developing acne. But even then, not everyone who has these risk factors will suffer from acne, or people who have no risk factors at all may develop the more extreme types off acne. For now, all you can do to prevent the different types of acne is to take care of your health so that these manifestations of imbalance do not occur in the form of the different types of acne.