You may have noticed that some people have worse acne than others. In addition, some acne treatments that worked for one person might not work for another person.

The reason is that there are several classifications of acne. Each one calls for a different treatment.

You might be frustrated that the products you are using are not working when in fact, you might be using the wrong treatment for your specific type of acne.

That is why it is recommended to consult a professional to be prescribed the adapted treatment for better results.

This article will highlight the different classifications of acne in detail. Let‘s start by mentioning acne vulgaris, which is the most common type of acne.

It can present itself under six different forms:

  • Papules
  • Whiteheads
  • Blackheads
  • Pustules
  • Cysts
  • Nodules

Aside from acne vulgaris, there are also two other types of acne:

  1. Acne Mechanica. This kind of acne is usually a result of too much friction, heat, or pressure on the skin. It is common among athletic individuals and those who are already acne-prone. They appear in the form of small bumps that can range from blackheads or whiteheads to swollen, painful lesions.
  2. Acne Fulminans. This kind of acne is intense and develops suddenly in young male adults. It is depicted by severe nodular acne on the back and chest. It leaves deep scars and can also lead to joint pains and other health problems.

Categories of acne vulgaris

Acne Vulgaris can primarily be categorized into one of these two:

  • Inflammatory Acne
  • Non-inflammatory Acne


Inflammatory acne

This type of acne usually results from the pores getting infected by the P. Acnes bacteria. Inflammatory acne lesions are harder to treat than non-inflammatory ones.

These are four types of inflammatory acne lesions, and these are the following:

  • Pustules
  • Papules
  • Cysts
  • Nodules


They are swollen lesions that are usually yellowish or white in color because they are filled with white blood cells, or simply, “pus.”

When bacteria invade any part of your body, your immune system would send white blood cells as a response to fight the bacteria.

This accumulation of white blood cells in the affected follicles result in the production of pus. The skin surrounding pustules are usually swollen and tender.

Pustules are what you usually refer to more commonly as “zits” or “pimples.” If you pop a pustule, it would most likely leave a scar.


Papules like pustules are swollen lesions. However, they are usually reddish or pinkish in color and can be painful and sensitive.

They are not filled with pus. They are often the first kind of inflammatory acne lesion to affect the face.

Like pustules, the skin surrounding papules are usually swollen and tender. In addition, they do not display any visible pores.


Cysts are a severe type of acne lesions that are pus-filled and are swollen. Unlike papules and pustules, cysts develop deep below the skin’s tissues.

Usually, they are painful and can cause you extreme discomfort.

They do not necessarily look like normal zits. There are cases when they just seem like huge, inflamed, reddish bumps on your skin.

You may develop individual cyst or clusters of cysts.

Cystic acne is a lot more difficult to treat than the other types.

As a matter of fact, it usually calls for professional medical intervention together with preventive and self-care instructions to prevent it from recurring.

However, it is not as common as the other types of inflammatory acne. It only affects roughly 2 out of every 1,000 individuals.


Nodules are also a severe type of acne lesions that develop below the skin’s surface.

They are like huge, hard lumps and are very similar to cysts except that nodules do not contain pus.

They also result from the accumulation of sebum, skin cells, and bacteria in the pores, but the lesions form much deeper below the skin.

It can result in damage to the skin tissues and trigger the immune system of the body to start sending an inflammatory response.

Nodules look much larger papules. In addition, they are also a lot more painful.

They can stay dormant and remain deep below the skin for an extended period of time.

They usually develop during the later phase of a breakout. If your rupture or squeeze a nodule, it can spread over a bigger portion of your skin and result in deep infections.

Furthermore, even if you do not touch them, they can still leave permanent scarring.

Inflammatory acne is more difficult to treat than non-inflammatory acne and can leave permanent scars.


Non-inflammatory acne

Non-inflammatory acne is depicted by the presence of comedones, which can either be closed or open.

There are two types of non-inflammatory acne:

  • Whiteheads
  • Blackheads

Whiteheads are closed pores that are clogged and are covered by a thin layer of skin.

As the name suggests, they look like tiny, white spots or bumps that are hard.

If pores are closed, dead skin cells and sebum pile up inside, which forms a thick buildup that stays stuck inside the pore. This buildup becomes a plug.

Most of the time, these plugs are not infected. However, the skin cells that surround the affected pores may be affected by bacteria.

Whiteheads tend to go away faster than blackheads, usually after seven days.

While the face is the part of the body that is usually the most affected, whiteheads can also develop on other parts of the body.

On the other hand, blackheads, like whiteheads, are pores that are clogged. However, these pores are open and the surface appears black or dark in color due to exposure to air.

Once the sebum gets exposed to air, it will undergo oxidization. The sebum will harden as a result and the surface will form a dark color because the air mixes with melanin.

Blackheads look like tiny, black spots or bumps.

They are most prevalent during puberty, and most commonly affect the face, particularly the nose, forehead, and chin, more commonly called the T zone.

However, they can also affect the arms, back, and chest. Regardless of the type of acne you have, you should remember never to pick your face.

Never try to extract the comedones or pop pimples on your own. Doing so can actually make the infection worse and even result in permanent scars.

If you have thought this article to be useful and want to learn more on how to avoid or clear your acne, read the articles linked below.

How to prevent acne breakouts

Treat acne quickly through therapy and medical care

Get rid of acne naturally by eating a well-balanced diet

Eliminate acne in just 24 hours with these tips


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