The common form of acne, the one that most of us have had to deal with at some point in our lives is called acne vulgaris. It usually manifests itself in the form of blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. Whether it's the occasional pimple or the seemingly ever-visible outbreak, acne tends to appear as one of these forms. There are other ways in which acne can appear and sometimes it can have severe or devastating effects on its sufferers.
Here are some types of acne blemishes and lesions.
Comedones: are sebaceous glands that are blocked with dead cells, hairs and oil (sebum). A blackhead is an open comedo and a whitehead is a closed one.
Blackheads: are called blackheads because of the color of the lesion. It's commonly thought that the color is caused by dirt, but it's the skin's pigment's reaction to the air. Excess dirt (and sometimes makeup) are usually the reason blackheads form. Aside from excess oil, dead cells, and makeup, blackheads can be caused by too much scrubbing and not cleaning the skin properly. A blackhead should never be picked or squeezed because infection can result.
Whiteheads: are formed by sebaceous glands that are completely blocked. Because they are, there's no opportunity for skin's pigment (melanin) to react with the air. There's typically a whitish or yellowish appearance on the raised bump of a whitehead. Whiteheads usually come and go more quickly than blackheads.
Papules: are small, solid, red and often inflated bumps. Unlike pustules, they contain no pus. Groups of small papules may barely be visible, but will feel like sandpaper if rubbed.
Pustules: are somewhat like a combination of whiteheads and papules. They're inflamed and red, but also have heads with pus in them. The pustule is what is commonly known as a zit. Popping or picking zits can lead to scarring.
Nodules: are usually an indication of severe forms of acne. These are inflamed, frequently painful, often larger, and extend deeper into the skin, less less severe forms of acne lesions. They can result in tissue damage and extensive scarring if not properly handled and treated. For this form of acne, a dermatologist should be consulted.
Cysts: are very large, pus-filled lesions that extend into the deeper skin levels. They are also often very painful and can lead to scarring. These types of lesions should never be squeezed because of the possibility of infection and scarring. Like Nodules, they may not respond to many of the available treatments. A dermatologist should be consulted for the best chance of successfully treating these forms of acne.
Most everyone between the ages of 12 and 20 has experienced some form of acne at some time or another. The vast majority is able to treat their outbreaks (if they need treatment at all) with medicines available at the local pharmacy. But for those with chronic acne or those who have some of the more severe forms, a qualified doctor is the only solution.
It's important to not give into the temptation to break or pick acne lesions. This can lead to anything from an infection to future (sometimes extensible) scarring. With good hygiene and a little patience, most acne problems can be solved. There are plenty of available medications that can handle the majority of acne outbreaks.