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Your Acne Dictionary: Blackheads, Whiteheads, Papules, Pustules & Cysts - Explained!


Skincare dominated the beauty world this year, with many incorporating new skin products into their daily routine. But for a few, instead of clear skin, they are left with acne and scars all over even after choosing the right skincare product to suit their skin type. If this problem is all too real for you, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. 

Many have to deal with adult acne and now that face masks are compulsory, we also need to worry about maskne. But before you go about taking matters into your hands by trying on different products recommended for acne, you first need to understand what you’re dealing with. There are different types of acne, so even an anti-acne product might make things worse. Keep on reading to update your acne dictionary and get a better understanding of what you’re dealing with and the right course of treatment.


Clogged pores lead to acne. When too much oil, bacteria, or skin cell collects in the pores, it gives rise to these pesky little boils. But when the pores are clogged all the way through with the head of the pore closed, it is known as whiteheads. Whiteheads are also known as closed comedones, and appear as little white bump on top of the skin which cannot be removed by popping or squeezing.

Topical products enriched with ingredients like sulfur, salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide work best on whiteheads.


Blackheads are easy to spot. These appear as black spots on the skin’s surface, especially around the nose area. They are also known as open comedones, because the head of the pore remains open, while the rest of the pore is clogged.

Ingredients that work for whiteheads usually work for blackheads as well. Chemical exfoliants and peels too can give you long term relief from this acne situation. Clay masks too work well. Try avoiding the pore strips that pull out the blackheads. This is just a temporary fix and can even damage the skin further.


Papules are small red boils that show up when excess oil or skin cells block a pore and later mix with the bacteria on your skin. Even though papules do not contain pus, the bacteria can spread to the surrounding tissue as well which later creates an inflamed lesion.

Look for products with antibacterial properties or retinoids. 


These small boils are filled with fluid or pus along with red, inflamed skin surrounding them. They are similar to papules but the only difference is that they have a yellowish or white fluid in the middle. Popping these pimples can cause the bacteria to spread, leading to the growth of more pustules on the surrounding skin. Treating these type of pimples is best done with ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and sulfur.



Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne and can be very painful. This type of acne is large, red, inflamed, painful, and pus-filled. If cystic acne burst, it can spread and infect the surrounding skin as well. For treating cystic acne, your over-the-counter products won’t work. You will need to visit a dermatologist for a proper course of treatment.

So there you have it, every type of acne – simplified!

We hope this handy guide will help you give your skin the right course of treatment.

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Featured Image: Pexels



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