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Types of Acne and its Treatments

Updated: Mar 11

woman with textured skin and acne scars



There are many various types of acne, and each with different causes. Therefore, it is crucial to understand what type of acne you have, in order to seek the appropriate treatment. This article will talk about these various types of acne, and treatments that cater to the particular type of acne.

What is Acne?

Acne forms when pores on the face or other parts of the body become clogged by excess sebum (natural oils produced by the skin) and other dirt found on the skin. Feeding off the nutrients found in the clogged pores, bacteria responsible for acne then multiply in the pore, causing inflammation and the worsening of acne.

Acne is often seen during adolescence, but in some cases, it continues and even worsens in adulthood (adult acne). In such cases, hormonal imbalance, lack of sleep, ultraviolet rays from the sun, stress, and changes in living environment are all intricately intertwined in causing acne, making adult acne difficult to heal.

Types of Acne and Treatment

illustration of the types of acne pimples

Noninflammatory acne (Mild acne)

Whiteheads (closed pores)

When sebum and keratin accumulate in hair follicles, the surface of the skin becomes slightly inflamed. Such acne is known as whiteheads. Depending on the condition of the pore, it often resolves spontaneously within a few days. However, if the affected area is left unclean, the whitehead might grow and stay on the skin for several months. One of the main reasons for clogged pores is hormonal changes in the body over-producing oil on the skin. Some of the reasons for hormonal variations include puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy.

Blackheads (open pores)

Similar to whiteheads, blackheads are caused by clogged pores. However, when the top of the whitehead remains open, the substances clogging the pore oxidise and turn dark, forming blackheads.

Treatment options for whiteheads and blackheads include:

  • Topical medications

Some topical medications that can be prescribed by doctors for persistent mild acne include Adapalene (Differin), Benzoyl peroxide (Bepio) or Tretinoin.

There are also some skincare products and over the counter medications that can help with mild acne. Such products contain retinoids or salicylic acid. These ingredients help to unclog pores over time and also prevent the further formation of whiteheads and blackheads. However, if mild acne continues to persist even with the use of these over-the-counter medications, it is recommended to see a doctor to address the root cause of the formation of such acne.

  • Chemical peeling

Chemical peeling is one of the most common types of aesthetic treatments to get rid of mild acne quickly. Light chemical peels (such as glycolic acid peels) are the most common chemical peels due to their convenience of having no downtime. However, it only targets the surface of the skin, focusing on unclogging pores and removing wrinkles. While multiple light chemical peels have been proven to reduce acne, it is mostly used as a supplement to an already-existing acne-targeted skincare routine. In addition, light chemical peels are a short-term solution and have to be gotten often for longer-lasting results.

Inflammatory acne

1. Papules

Papules are small inflamed red bumps on the skin formed due to a comedone rupture. As excess oil and skin cells accumulate and plug a skin pore, bacteria living on the skin start to feed off of it, forming a comedone. When this comedone bursts, the bacteria can spread and multiply. To fend off these bacteria, our immune system is activated, resulting in inflammation and formation of a papule.

2. Pustules

Pustules are formed when pus accumulates in papules, causing the appearance of a yellow or white center. This pus is usually produced when the pore cavity is infected. If a pustule progresses, it may become a hard and painful cyst.

Treatment options for Papules and Pustules:

  • Topical and oral medication

Some over-the-counter topical medications that can help to treat papules and pustules include skincare treatments that have ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and retinoid. Benzoyl peroxide, for instance, is able to unclog pores and reduce the formation of such clogged pores over time by decreasing the excess production of sebum in the affected area. If such over-the-counter treatments do not work over time, it is recommended to see a doctor. A doctor would recommend prescription medication based on your condition such as oral antibiotics like doxycycline, tetracycline and erythromycin; topical antibiotics or other prescription drugs.

3. Cystic Acne

Being one of the more severe types of acne, cystic acne is easily identifiable due to the formation of large pus-filled cysts underneath the skin, redness, white bumps and tenderness. Cysts can form deep under the skin’s surface due to bacteria and other substances that get trapped in the pores of the skin. There is a correlation between hormonal imbalances, increased sebum production and development of cystic acne.

Treatment options for Cystic acne:

Prescription treatments for severe acne such as cystic acne and nodules include oral and topical antibacterial drugs, and other prescription drugs such as isotretinoin. Another possible treatment is steroid injections. Injecting cortisone into a nodule or large cyst can rapidly improve the redness, inflammation, and pain. Even though cortisone is highly effective for cystic acne, it is only a short-term solution and new cystic acne may still form.

4. Acne Scars

Inflammatory acne often results in scarring after the acne has subsided. Once scarring occurs, it takes time and substantial effort to restore the affected skin to its original condition. Early treatment is important to avoid this condition. Learn more about the treatment of acne scars, such as chemical peeling, here.

Worsening of Acne

Popping pimples can aggravate the acne as it can damage the inside of the pore and spread the bacteria to the surrounding normal skin. You can consider getting your pimple extracted professionally if it grows too big and tender. Proper tools and techniques are employed to create a small opening on the surface of the pimple and the contents are extracted. This causes less damage to the skin and leaves less scars. Sterile technique is employed to prevent secondary bacterial infections and further aggravation of the skin.

Preventing Acne

a woman washing her face to prevent acne

Although it varies on a case by case basis , the first step is to wash your face regularly to remove excess oil, dirt, and bacteria. Decent sleep, a well-balanced diet and managed stress are all also important to keep acne in check. Topical medications to remove sebum, antibacterial agents to reduce bacteria, and vitamins and herbal remedies that are prescribed should be used as needed to ensure improvement of the condition of the skin. Some examples of such drugs applied directly to the acne include "Differin Gel” (Adapalene) which is effective in unclogging pores, "Bepio Gel” (Benzoyl Peroxide), which kills acne-causing bacteria, "Duac Combination Gel," (Clindamycin Benzoyl Peroxide), which has a strong bactericidal effect, and "Epiduo Gel," (Adapalene and Benzoyl Peroxide) which is used for intractable acne.

In order to achieve long-term freedom from acne and promote healthy skin and face, it is crucial to address the underlying causes of acne. While the exact pathophysiology of acne formation remains not fully understood, a growing body of research and clinical studies suggests that imbalances in the skin and gut microbiomes play a significant role. To maintain a balanced skin and gut microbiome, KINS offers a range of products enriched with probiotics that effectively restore equilibrium. Moreover, incorporating fermented foods like kimchi, miso, kombucha, and soy-based products such as soy milk and soy yogurt into your diet can help promote a more balanced gut microbiome, which is essential for maintaining healthy skin. Other lifestyle modifications, including regular exercise, using gentler cleansers for facial cleansing, and minimizing the use of cosmetics, can also contribute to achieving a harmonious skin microbiome. By following these practices, KINS provides a comprehensive approach to keeping your skin and gut microbiome in optimal condition for the long term.


In a nutshell, it is important to understand the different types of acne in order to know what kind of treatment you should seek. However, if you are suffering from persistent acne, it is recommended that you seek medical attention from a doctor to figure out its actual root cause. Other than seeking treatment, it is important to keep a balanced gut and skin microbiome to ensure your skin is less acne-prone in the long term.


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