Understanding The Different Types Of Acne

Whether you have “not so fond” memories of acne breakouts as a teen, you continue to have blemish problems even as an adult, or you have a teen suffering with it now, acne is embarrassing and can be painful. Understanding the different types of acne will help you know how to treat it as an adult or with your own teen, and when to see a dermatologist.

Inflammatory vs Noninflammatory Acneperson with acne

We can divide all kinds of acne into 2 main types: inflammatory and noninflammatory.

Blackheads and whiteheads are both noninflammatory kinds of acne and neither become swollen.

Blackheads appear when a pore gets clogged with sebum (oil from the sebaceous glands) and dead skin cells. The top of the pore remains open and we can see black on the surface.

Whiteheads form the same way with oil and dead skin cells, but the top remains closed leaving a tiny white bump on the skin.

Treatment For Noninflammatory Acne

Both blackheads and whiteheads can be treated with OTC products with salicylic acid. Look for toners, cleansers, and moisturizers containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Wash your face with a mild soap and warm water.

Inflammatory Acne

Any type of blemish that becomes red, swollen, and painful is considered inflammatory acne.

In addition to dead skin cells and sebum, bacteria also plays a role with inflammatory acne causing infections below the skin.


Papules are hard clogged pores which turn pink, painful, and inflamed, and they sometimes form in clusters. Soothe the area with a mild OTC acne wash twice a day.


Pustules are similar to papules but the inflamed area is filled with pus. They look red with white or yellow heads. Try OTC meds, but if it doesn’t improve, see a dermatologist at Goodless Dermatology.


Nodules are clogged, swollen pores, but are even more severely inflamed.  They occur deep within the skin and must be treated with prescription medication including antibiotics. It may take 4 – 6 months to clear, and they can easily scar if you try to burst them.


Cysts form even deeper in the skin than nodules. They are painful large red or white bumps which usually occur due to a severe infection. Your dermatologist can prescribe medication or may need to surgically remove the cyst.


Acne rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder causing small acne like pimples on the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead. It is more common in women over the age of 35. The skin looks flushed with dilated blood vessels. It is believed certain foods, stress, weather, and hormones can trigger rosacea. Your physician can prescribe an oral antibiotic as treatment.


The newest form of acne seems to be related to wearing masks during the COVID pandemic and may be associated with stress. It appears like whiteheads and blackheads. Avoid wearing makeup and wash your mask frequently to prevent its occurrence.

Contact Goodless Dermatology if you or your children are suffering with inflammatory acne and over the counter medications have not helped. Our highly trained dermatologists have extensive experience diagnosing and treating all forms of acne. Call our office in Orlando, FL at (407) 566-1616 today!