How to identify the different types of pimples: White and blackheads, acne vulgaris, hormonal cystic acne...

How to identify the different types of pimples: White and blackheads, acne vulgaris, hormonal cystic acne...

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Text: Brandon Alexius Chia

Image: Instagram | @alexaleroy

Remember that one episode of Sex and the City where Carrie Bradshaw had to deal with a pimple from hell? She was so self-conscious about it, she refused to meet her S.O. if it didn't go away. Yeah, that was just over one zit, mind. Imagine the drama that would follow if she had a whole cluster of them. Would it be the overarching storyline for an entire season? Would Mr Big make a snide, vaguely misogynistic comment about it that would remain unaddressed for episodes to come? Probably. And yet, the fact of the matter remains: Carrie's spotty situation remained a plot point; a fictional narrative meant to expose her warped notions of love and romance. For the rest of us, it is simply reality — one that won't be neatly resolved in a mere number of days.

The truth is that this is normal occurrence for a large number of people — yes, even when you're past your teens. It is not a condition or situation to feel ashamed about. Still, there's no avoiding the confusion that follows when you do experience a breakout. Oftentimes, it's hard to pinpoint the trigger or treatment for it, leading to more helplessness and despair. To that, we say: don't stress, because that only makes it worse. And also: we're here to help. Below, a detailed rundown on the various types of zits; how to identify them; and the solutions to try to abate its effects. Let's get to it.

Mild Acne

Whiteheads and blackheads

Yes, these are considered forms of acne even though they aren't painful or blotchy. Whiteheads are known as "closed comedones" and are made out of dead skin cells mixed with sebum. These lie underneath the skin. They appear to be roughly the same colour as your skin tone but the texture it brings definitely will be something you won't be happy about. Think rough, bumpy, and raised. Blackheads, on the other hand, are "open comedones" and they occur when the mixture of skin cells and sebum oxidises with oxygen. This is what gives its dark colour.

Treatment: Start by incorporating chemical exfoliants such as AHAs and BHAs into your skincare regime to melt away the dead skin cells before they have a chance to interact with the sebum. Double cleansing with an oil cleanser followed by another cleanser will also help remove excess sebum. Some of the bigger white and blackheads will need to be extracted — if there are a few plaguing you since the dawn of time, be sure to book an appointment with a facialist. Failing that, do it yourself with a sanitised comedone extractor to minimise scarring. The trick is to invest in actual sanctioned tools rather than resorting to your fingers, thank you very much.


Moderate Acne

Acne Vulgaris

This is the most common type of acne that haunts young adults and those with oily skin. The pimples are either small red bumps that are a tad painful to touch or it has some pus within — of which is recognised by a visible red ring around it. The main cause of this type of acne? High oil production and an accumulation of bad bacteria that leads to infection.

Treatment: The occasional spot can be taken care of by typical skincare products on the market such as salicylic acid or spot treatments. Over-the-counter topical products such as benzoyl peroxide are recommended for clusters. Serious cases that refuse to budge for weeks on end would entail a visit to a dermatologist so they'll be able to dispense their professional advice or perhaps some topical retinoids.

Fungal Acne

Don't be fooled, this may look like normal acne but it won't feel the same — fungal acne will itch while acne vulgaris seldom do. Many people who experience this form of acne are usually in their 20s. Yeast is the culprit, whereupon they are overproduced in humid conditions. Hence, fungal acne usually occurs around the sides of the face or the forehead area, as well as the back and arms, in areas where sweat tends to pool.

Treatment: See a dermatologist for a diagnosis to ensure it isn't an underlying skin disease. The doctor would also prescribe medications that are appropriate for this type of acne. Gym rats and fitness fanatics might want to start wearing looser and more breathable clothes when working out to avoid unnecessary yeast buildup. Don't even think about wearing a headband.

Severe Acne

Cystic acne

Playtime is over with these big guys. Cystic pimples are very painful and usually soft, which might entice you to pop them on your own. However, you should not do it as this type of acne scars the most. Also, cysts have "roots" and if they are not removed entirely and hygienically, they may spread to other areas of the skin and form new cysts and cause infections. Cysts are formed due to a build-up of dead skin cells, sebum, bacteria, and sometimes thanks to hormonal fluctuations. The ones caused by hormones will pop up around the chin and neck area.

Treatment: Seek a dermatologist, who will prescribe antibiotics, birth control medication, or isotretinoin such as Accutane. Note that these medications can have adverse side effects that might hinder your personal life such as mood swings and photosensitive skin. Doctors will also advice you to follow a sepcific diet while on these pills to yield the best results. It should also be noted that if you are thinking of having a baby or currently pregnant, these options are not for you.