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The Causes and Cures of Different Types of Acne


You wake up one morning to an angry red bump on your face. Just when you thought the pressures of your teenage years are over, the huge acne on your forehead reminds you that bad skin can happen no matter what your age. 😕

While some people course through adulthood without so much of a trace of blemish on their skin, some people have to deal with skin imperfections on a daily basis. Sadly, acne is not reserved for teenagers only. Even if you are well over your twenties and beyond, you can still have the occasional (if not regular) breakouts.

Understanding Acne: The Causes

If you hate waking up to a large zit on your cheek, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Believe it or not, acne is a common skin condition.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne affects up to 50 million Americans annually. That’s a surprisingly huge number considering that it’s in the United States alone.

Acne is a disease that affects the oil glands of the skin. They show up as different types of bumps, which may be inflamed or painful.

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The pores or follicles in our skin contain oil or sebaceous glands, which produce sebum. Most of the time, the oil glands produce just the right amount of sebum (the oily or waxy substance that lubricates the skin). 

But as hormonal changes begin (particularly during teenage years), the oil glands produce more sebum that blocks the pores. Aside from the over-accumulation of sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) get trapped inside the follicles. Together, these substances create unsightly bumps on the face and body.

Other factors that may cause acne include:

Hormonal changes

Hormonal fluctuations during the teenage years, pregnancy, and before a woman’s monthly period usually trigger the overproduction of sebum. As the pores become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, acne vulgaris occurs. 


If both or one of your parents has acne-prone skin, you have a higher chance of having acne as well. Having ‘acne genes’ determines how your skin would react to hormones and bacteria. Even if your skin has a stronger response (easily aggravated), there are ways that can help you mitigate the damage. 


While stress does not directly cause acne breakouts, it can flare-ups worse. As your body releases stress hormones (cortisol), your sebaceous glands produce more oil, which triggers the onslaught of acne. 


Some medications may cause or aggravate acne. If you’re taking hormonal medications (birth control pills, oral corticosteroids, anabolic steroids, etc.), you are likely to experience breakouts more frequently. Other drugs like halogens, antidepressants, and antiepileptic medications can also make acne worse. 


Cosmetic-induced acne appears as small, white bumps on the cheeks and the chin or as red, inflamed pimples. This acne is the result of skin irritation due to the use of makeup with strong ingredients. Although it may seem as though they come out of thin air, cosmetic-induced acne is, in fact, a result of months and years and wearing the wrong or too much makeup. Go bare-faced as much as you can or look for non-comedogenic makeup as much as possible.

What type of acne do I have?

Acne is a common skin condition, but many still struggling to find the right treatment. This is partly due to the lack of correct information, which is why the treatments that people give themselves are often a hit and miss. 

Before you can get the proper treatment, you need to know first the different types of acne that you may have to deal with. (Take note that it’s best to seek a dermatologist’s advice before trying on acne medications.)

Acne Vulgaris

The name sounds scandalous—and fitting—considering that you are likely to be shocked once you see a huge zit on your forehead. 

But Acne Vulgaris is, in fact, a common type of acne that people like to broadly classify as pimples. Think of it as an umbrella term for all the nasty spots that pop up on your face when you’re stressed. 

Acne vulgaris sometimes appear red, dark, or yellowish. To help you distinguish what kind of acne you have, here are the acne lesions (along with some types of acne pictures) that fall under this category:


Comedones are widened pores that appear as small bumps on the skin and are more commonly known as blackheads and whiteheads. They appear when the pores are blocked due to excess sebum.

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Blackheads (also known as closed comedones) are normally found on the nose and cheeks, but may also appear on other body parts. Contrary to popular belief, a blackhead is not caused by dirt or pollution. When your skin produces too much sebum, some of the oil remains in the pores along with the dead skin cells. These turn black when exposed to air.

Whiteheads, on the other hand, are also known as closed comedones. These are closed white bumps usually found on the cheeks and the forehead. Unlike blackheads, closed comedones do not eventually turn dark because the buildup of oil and dead skin cells inside it are not exposed to air.


Papules are inflamed comedones or acne lesions. They appear as small red bumps that can measure anywhere between 0.5 and 1.5 centimeters in diameter. Like blackheads and whiteheads, papules are caused by overproduction of sebum and accumulation of dead skin cells in the pores. However, papules can be sensitive to touch as they are inflamed. They may appear anywhere in the body (back, chest, or arms), but are most commonly found in the face.

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When we think about pimples, the first thing that comes to mind is the hideous small and round lesions that dot the face. These inflamed red bumps are also known as pustules. They are normally pus-filled, which is why they appear with yellow or white centers. It’s often tempting to pop pustules, but doing so can lead to unsightly scars.


Unlike other types of acne, nodules do not appear on the skin surface. Nodules are lodged deep under the skin and are usually hard to the touch. Larger than papules and pustules, nodules normally persist for several weeks to months. When left untreated, nodules can eventually turn into cysts.


Cysts are inflamed comedones that appear as swollen and pus-filled acne. Also called nodulocystic acne, cysts are painful because they’re burrowed deep within the skin like nodules. The only difference between the two is that cysts are soft because of the pus inside them. As cysts can make the surrounding skin feel sore, removing them requires a doctor’s treatment to avoid scarring.

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Rare Types of Acne

Not all acne has the same characteristics. Some are harder to treat than others and are usually accompanied by other symptoms. Topical treatments and other over-the-counter medicines may not work for these uncommon types of acne. You need to consult a dermatologist for proper care and treatment.

Acne Conglobata

Acne Conglobata is a severe form of acne that starts as inflamed comedones. It affects mostly men, between the ages of 18 and 30, who have high levels of testosterone. This type of acne begins as a cluster of blackheads surrounded by pimples. The pus-filled pimples eventually rupture and become larger, forming into nodules and cysts.

Acne Conglobata
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Acne Conglobata

Although Acne Conglobata eventually heals in a matter of weeks, the “spillage” of comedones may lead to the formation of scabs. The best treatment for this type of acne is with the use of isotretinoin and oral steroids like prednisone. 

Acne Fulminans

Like Acne Conglobata, Acne Fulminans (AF) is a kind of nodulocystic acne that affects mostly men with increased amounts of male hormones and sensitivity to the Cutibacteria acne bacteria. Acne Fulminans begins rapidly as a result of unsuccessful treatment of the Acne Conglobata.

 Acne Fulminans
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Acne Fulminans 

The symptoms for this type of acne include sudden pain and inflammation of joints, swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, loss of appetite and muscle atrophy. Effective treatment of Acne Fulminans include the use of steroids (prednisone), but this may further aggravate common acne.

Acne Mechanica

Acne Mechanica is caused by excessive heat and friction on the skin. When you wear tight-fitting clothes and headgear, your skin cannot breathe properly and that leads to breakouts. Athletes, soldiers, and anyone who spends a lot of time in the heat are most likely to develop Acne Mechanica.

Acne Mechanica
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Acne Mechanica

The good news is Acne Mechanica is easy to treat. Topical treatments that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid work best in treating this type of acne. To keep Acne Mechanica at bay, make sure to shower immediately after exercising or spending time in the heat. Choose loose clothing made of cotton to help absorb sweat and minimize friction on the skin.

How to Manage Acne

Having acne may seem like an aesthetic issue, but its emotional effects are lasting. Just think of the time when you were back in middle school and your acne made you want to hide your face from everyone.

The good news is acne can be managed with the proper treatment. Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments that contain active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and resorcinol can help reduce flare-ups. However, these medications should be used sparingly. Start with the lowest strength as some topical treatments may have high doses of ingredients that can further irritate your skin.

For moderate and severe acne, it’s best to consult a dermatologist for the proper treatment. You may be given a prescription for oral antibiotics or corticosteroid injection, depending on what your current condition requires.

It’s also a good idea to watch your diet if you are suffering from different types of acne. Although foods do not directly cause breakouts, the nutrients we get from them may influence the body’s ability to protect itself from bacterial infections and other inflammatory conditions.

So yes, even though acne may have caused some unsightly scars and affected your self-esteem, there are ways on how to prevent them from popping up and taking over your life.

What methods do you follow in managing your acne? Leave your comment below.

So this was all about acne. Hope you have found this post helpful. 😇 

Have a Good Day! 😇


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3 thoughts on “The Causes and Cures of Different Types of Acne

  1. I apply dermalmd blemish serum every night after I shower. The only thing that worked for me. Ive dealt with adult acne for years. Takes about a couple of weeks to start working when you first give it a try. One bottle lasts me about 4 months

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