What type of acne do I have?

To successfully treat acne and see clearer skin, it helps to know the type of acne you're dealing with as each type can require a different treatment.

There are 4 common types of acne and varying degrees of severity. Here's how you can help identify the type of acne you may have and determine the best treatment. 


The Most Common Types of Acne

  • Comedonal - This type of acne consists of very small tiny bumps that tend to concentrate on your forehead, nose or chin (generally known at the t-zone areas). These bumps are commonly referred to as whiteheads and blackheads. The scientific term for these spots are comedones, which are hair follicles that have become clogged with sebum and dead skin cells. A comedo can be open (blackhead) or closed (whitehead). Exfoliation, or turning over the skin more rapidly, helps treat this type of acne.
  • Inflammatory - This type of acne consists of small little red bumps or pus bumps that sometimes hurt. Officially, these are called papules and pustules and are caused by your body’s inflammatory response around the sebaceous gland (oil gland). Acne-causing bacteria on the skin, called Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes), formerly known as Propionibacterium acnes, can contribute to this. Treatments that contain anti-inflammatory or anti-microbial ingredients work best for this type of acne.
  • Nodulocystic acne - This type of acne consists of painful larger bumps, called cysts and nodules, that occasionally don’t even break through the skin. When they heal, they run the risk of leaving behind divets or scarring in the skin. This type of acne can be mild, however it is often quite severe and debilitating. Topical treatments can sometimes be helpful for mild variants of this acne subtype, but frequently oral (systemic) medication is needed to improve the skin and prevent further scarring. If you have this type of acne, it is really best to see a Dermatologist in the office for thorough evaluation.
  • Hormonal - This subtype occurs in females, and it tends to consist of cysts that occur more frequently around the jawline or lower part of the face or neck. These breakouts flare on a monthly basis before or after your menstrual cycles. Similar to above, if you have this type of acne it is best to see a Dermatologist in the office setting since it can be challenging to control this acne with topical treatments alone. Also, please see your OB/GYN if you also have irregular periods.


"Is your acne mild, moderate or severe?"

  • Mild - Acne falls into the "mild" category if you have fewer than 20 whiteheads or blackheads, fewer than 15 inflamed bumps, or fewer than 30 total lesions.
  • Moderate - If you have 20 to 100 whiteheads or blackheads, 15 to 50 inflamed bumps, or 30 to 125 total lesions, your acne is considered moderate.
  • Severe - People with severe nodulocystic acne have multiple inflamed cysts and nodules. The acne may turn deep red or purple. It often leaves scars.


What does this all mean?

In reality, most people have “mixed” acne. This is a combination of comedones, inflammatory papules and occasional cysts, and most acne fits into the mild to moderate category. Mild to moderate acne can respond very well to topical treatment options. We designed our Acne Skincare Kit, a complete 3-step skin regimen, specifically to treat mild to moderate “mixed” acne.

If your acne worsens and becomes severe, then any topical treatment, while helpful, may not be strong enough to give you the improvement in your skin that you desire. We recommend that severe cases should consult an in-person Dermatologist to help determine a proper treatment plan.