5 Different Types of Acne Breakouts and Causes

What Are Acne Breakouts?

Acne breakouts are a very common skin condition and can affect the majority of us throughout our lifetimes. In fact, the condition affects more than 85% of adolescents globally.¹ Whether you’re developing spots in puberty, or simply struggling with an oily skin type, there are many types of acne that can affect us in different ways.

In simple terms, a breakout occurs when the skin becomes inflamed or irritated. When this happens, blemishes will likely form. Acne breakouts can appear anywhere on the body, but occur mostly around the cheek or chin area. It is important to distinguish between breakouts and purges. Essentially, purging is a more intense and frequent form of acne, which usually disappears quite quickly. Whereas breakouts commonly take around 8-10 days to fade completely.

Furthermore, there is a distinguishable difference between acne vs pimples. To put it simply, acne is a skin condition, whereas pimples are a symptom of the condition.

What Causes Different Types of Acne Breakouts?

Acne occurs when a pore becomes clogged with either dirt, oil or other debris, causing a pimple to rise to the surface of the skin. There is not one direct cause of acne. In fact, a mixture of factors contribute to the occurrence of frequent breakouts.

For example, if you suffer from high levels of stress and anxiety, you may develop acne-prone skin. This is because when we are under emotional pressure, our body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Due to the release of excess cortisol, our glands produce more oil. This means our pores are more likely to become clogged over time.

Furthermore, hormonal changes are a common cause of acne. For example, during puberty our androgen hormones increase. This results in the sebaceous glands enlarging and producing excess sebum. Furthermore, midlife hormonal changes can cause acne too.

Moreover, our diets can affect our skin and can lead to blemishes. A prime example of this is through dairy and sugar consumption. These food types release lots of insulin throughout the body, allowing for more oil to enter the pores. Therefore, if you consume a lot of these types of foods, your pores are more likely to fill with oil.

Finally, acne can be also be linked back to our genes. Although there is not an exact chromosome that is linked to acne itself, we do inherit our skin types. Thus, if your relatives have had oily skin or acne-prone skin, you may be more likely to suffer from it also.

Other triggers include certain medications, comedogenic cosmetic products, and smoking.

5 Different Types of Acne

Firstly, a common type of acne is whiteheads. These are essentially hair follicles that are not fully open, which then allow excess oil and hair to become trapped beneath the skin. Whiteheads are easily identified by their small and white outer layer.

Secondly, blackheads. These are hair follicles that have opened up and expanded, causing oil and other toxins to become clogged within them. Surprisingly, blackheads are not black, they just embody a black hue when light reflects upon the trapped hair.

Thirdly, there is papule acne. This occurs when a pore becomes inflamed and manifests small sensitive red bumps upon the affected surface. It’s worth noting that you should not pick or squeeze these blemishes as this can often lead to acne scars.

Next, cystic acne forms when large pus-filled wounds appear upon the skin. This type of acne can be inflamed and sensitive to touch. Moreover, if you suffer from cystic acne, you should visit a dermatologist. They can treat this condition with medication or other ailments.

Finally, there is pustule acne. This is a type of inflamed spot which can often resemble a whitehead with a bright red ring surrounding it. Pustules often contain fluid or pus, and when burst can often lead to prominent scarring.

While there are different types of acne, it is important to know what type you have, so you can treat it effectively. For example, although whiteheads can be treated with regular cleansing and gentle exfoliation, cystic acne may require medical attention.

How to Get Rid of Papule Acne?

Papule acne is a result of excess oil or hair in a pore, which then bursts through the surface of the skin. In order to prevent papules from occurring frequently, it is important to keep your face clear of any debris that could fall into your pores. Therefore, you should wash your face once in the morning and again in the evening, to help keep your face clear. A great product for papule acne is the Blemish Control Bar from PCA skin. This product is able to penetrate deep within the skin to help clear congestion and eradicate the bacteria that often causes acne.

What Causes Whiteheads?

Whiteheads tend to develop when pores becomes clogged with excess oil or hair and become inflamed. Washing the face regularly, as well as gentle exfoliation, are the most effective ways to remove them. A beneficial cleanser for whitehead removal is the Osmosis Purify Enzynme Cleanser. This cleanser is great for treating whiteheads as it gently removes dirt, cleanses the pores, and lightly exfoliates without irritating the skin.

How Do I Get Rid of Blackheads on My Nose?

Many people often suffer from an excessive number of blackheads around their nose, and make the mistake of using abrasive scrubs and nose strips in attempts to remove them. This will leave your skin feeling irritated and damaged in the long run. Instead, try using lactic acid, as this helps to gently break down and remove blackheads. We recommend incorporating the Facial Wash Oily/Problem from PCA Skin into your skincare routine. This product contains a powerful blend of and lactic acid and gluconolactone. Furthermore, it hydrates the skin and reduces inflammation.

How to Treat Cystic Acne?

Cystic acne can be a serious skin condition and usually requires medical attention to reduce the size of your pores and minimise oil secretion. However, there are a few products that can help shrink enlarged pores which are vulnerable to becoming cysts. For example, the Clarify Blemish Retinal Serum from Osmosis uses a potent form of retinol to neutralise the toxins within the skin and keep large pores clear.

How to Heal Pustule Acne?

Luckily, pustule acne, if not irritated or inflamed, can often heal naturally on its own. However, if you would like to speed up the healing process, try using a skincare product that contains salicylic acid, such as the Duo Anti-Blemish Gel from Biretex. This is a beneficial pustule acne treatment as it helps to stop the formation of breakouts, while clearing out pores effectively, leaving you with blemish-free skin in a matter of weeks.

Unfortunately, anyone can suffer from acne at any age. Even though it can affect your self-esteem and confidence, it shouldn’t make you afraid to show your skin.

Thankfully, with the right treatments and skincare ingredients, you can reduce acne, if not cure it.

If you feel that acne has taken over your life for too long, have a browse through some of our acne treatments and take a stance against troublesome acne breakouts.

Here’s to feeling skin confident!

Authors: Melody Day & Georgie Falcone


  1. Zari, S, Alhramani D. The association between stress and acne among female medical students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. NCBI. [Internet]. Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology. 2017. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5722010/