Types of Acne: Yes, There Are Differences!


Acne, wherever it appears, is more than just one simple condition. In reality, there are many types that may require different types of treatment to clear up. From the smallest blackheads to the most severe nodules, here’s how each type differs and which treatments are most effective for them.

Non-Inflammatory Acne

First, acne can be divided into two general categories: inflammatory and non-inflammatory. Non-inflammatory acne is less severe and more easily treated than inflammatory, although the inflammatory types are what most people think of when they hear the term “acne.”



The mildest form of acne is called a blackhead. It is caused by the oil naturally produced by your skin becoming clumped up with debris and dead skin cells deep in your pores (hair follicles). The pore remains open, which makes treatment simple. Blackheads are commonly treated with commercially available cleansers with active ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.



Although also caused by the buildup of dead skin cells and debris in pores, whiteheads differ from blackheads in that the pores have closed over the oil and debris. Whiteheads are a mild form of acne treated in a similar way to blackheads.


Inflammatory Acne

More severe cases of acne are characterized by bacteria feeding on the oils and debris trapped in skin pores, which triggers the body’s immune response. Depending on the severity of the infection and immune response, inflammatory acne may need medical-strength treatment as prescribed by a qualified dermatologist like the ones at Trillium Creek.


Acne Papules

Perhaps the most well-known type of acne are acne papules, commonly called pimples. They occur when the wall of a clogged hair follicle ruptures, allowing the bacteria to enter the deepest layer of skin, called the dermis. The corresponding immune response makes the area around the follicle appear red and puffy.

As a moderate form of acne, papules can be treated with commercial cleansers and face masks, but if they persist or become more severe, a dermatologist can recommend a treatment plan including prescription products, antibiotics, and/or hormone therapy.


Acne Pustules

Similar to papules, acne pustules are inflamed areas of skin around a clogged pore that has ruptured. In pustules, the tip of the bump will be white and filled with pus, as the body has sent white blood cells to the site to fight the bacterial infection. Pustules, along with other more severe forms of acne, should not be “popped,” as this could send bacteria, debris, and pus deeper into the skin or into surrounding pores.

Treatment for pustules is similar to treatment for papules—if you become concerned with the persistence or spread of acne, consult a dermatologist who can prescribe a personalized treatment plan for your specific condition.


Acne Nodules

Among the most severe forms of acne, nodules are large, red areas of inflamed, often bumpy skin that are hard and painful. They occur when bacteria infect surrounding dermal tissue as well as additional hair follicles, creating wide-spread inflammation.

Moderate to severe forms of acne may require prescription treatment products, such as retinoid cream, sulfacetamide, or erythromycin. And when topical treatments and cleanses alone don’t provide a satisfactory result, the dermatologists at Trillium Creek can also prescribe oral medication or laser resurfacing treatments to help you achieve smooth, clear skin.


Acne Cysts

Cysts are the most severe form of acne. Formed in the same way as acne nodules, they are large, soft regions of skin infected with bacteria and filled with pus and blood. Acne cysts often lead to long-term scarring, which can only be treated with cosmetic procedures like medical-grade chemical peels or face needling.

Contact the skincare experts at Trillium Creek today if you’re concerned about your moderate to severe acne symptoms.

Expert Acne Treatment at Trillium Creek

Get the care you need with dermatologists you can trust at Trillium Creek Dermatology. With locations throughout northeastern Ohio, your customized acne treatment plan isn’t far away. Call us at (330) 725-0569 or contact us online today to learn how we can help you get the healthy, clear skin you’ve always wanted.

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Set up an appointment with our skilled and experienced staff. Book your appointment online or give us a call at 330.725.0569 and start your journey to quick recovery!