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The Acne Guide

You. Yes, you. Stop picking, popping, or poking, and read our guide on real treatments for acne.

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Causes of Acne

Acne is 100% normal. But the type of acne is usually related to one (or a few) of these factors:

Genetics
Hormones
Stress
Dirty sheets,
pillowcases
and makeup brushes

Acne type #1

Comedonal Acne

Happens when excess sebum, dirt, and other impurities (like makeup) get trapped under hair follicles, deep within the pores. These are usually small bumps under the skin and can take two forms:

TREAT IT

Treat it

Try salicylic acid, a BHA that works to deeply unclog pores, and benzoyl peroxide, which kills acne-causing bacteria. For more severe cases, retinoids can help. But always ask your dermatologist before starting one, as they are serious topicals that come in a range of strengths, and you’ll want to find the right one for you (to avoid any potential for irritation).

Whiteheads
Pimples that are closed, AKA they don’t open up at the skin’s surface. These often look like small to medium sized white or skin-colored bumps.
TREAT IT

Treat it

Try salicylic acid, a BHA that works to deeply unclog pores, and benzoyl peroxide, which kills acne-causing bacteria. For more severe cases, retinoids can help. But always ask your dermatologist before starting one, as they are serious topicals that come in a range of strengths, and you’ll want to find the right one for you (to avoid any potential for irritation).

Blackheads
Pimples that remain open, which exposes the gunk inside to outside air — and also turns it darker in color (thanks to a process called oxidation).
TREAT IT

Treat it

Topical retinoids can help clear up milia by speeding up skin cell turnover. Otherwise, small patches of milia often tend to clear up on their own, while more serious cases can be addressed (and removed) by a dermatologist.

Milia
Milia (sometimes called milia seeds), aren’t *technically* acne, but they look like it so it can be confusing. These tiny, skin-colored bumps form when too much keratin (a protein) builds up underneath the skin. They often cluster around the nose, cheeks, forehead and eye area.

Acne type #2

Inflammatory Acne

Happens when pores become infected (again with things like bacteria, dead cells and excess sebum) and fill up with pus, leaving skin red, irritated and tender. This type of acne can take multiple forms:

TREAT IT

Treat it

Use spot treatments with benzoyl peroxide (to kill bacteria) and salicylic acid (to deep clean inside the pores). Severe case? Go to the professionals for oral antibiotics or retinoids.

Papules
Excess oil and dead skin cells form a comedone (pimple) that becomes inflamed. These usually look like small, raised red bumps on the skin.
TREAT IT

Treat it

Don’t touch it! Use spot treatments with benzoyl peroxide (to kill bacteria) and salicylic acid (to clean out dirt deep inside the pores). Severe case? Go to the professionals for oral antibiotics or retinoids.

Pustules
If a papule becomes infected, it can turn into a pustule over the course of a few days. These are most commonly found on the face, chest, and back and often appear as white bumps full of pus that you want to pop.
TREAT IT

Treat it

Visit your dermatologist, because nodular acne forms deep within the skin and will require more than just OTC treatments. Also, don’t try to pop it! You could cause inflammation and scarring.

Nodules
These are like papules, but they form deeper within the skin. Nodules can feel hard to the touch and often appear as large, painful bumps underneath the skin that never come to a head.
TREAT IT

Treat it

Cystic acne requires a trip to the dermatologist — trust us! Trying to pop them will only increase the likelihood of scarring, and picking can spread and worsen the situation.

Cysts
Cystic acne is considered severe, and it forms deep within the skin and is often painful. These inflamed and enlarged bumps under the skin can be hard to the touch and filled with pus, and if not treated, can cause long-term damage to the skin.