Sometimes, you feel one coming on. Other times, a pimple just appears. Sometimes, they extract so easily we could swear we are professionals; other times, we pick and make the situation way, way worse. It’s not just your skin playing a cruel game. There are many different types of acne, and it can be hard to know how to identify them and thus, how to proceed with treatment. Annie Tevelin, founder of SkinOwl, is a seasoned professional when it comes to these details.
“A comedone is most usually a hair follicle that has become congested due to an oil or dirt buildup in the pore, alongside dead skin cells. Normally, these are found as a result of comedogenic makeup, i.e. makeup that cannot penetrate a pore. These comedones often lead to blackheads over time. I recommend switching over to breathable, non-comedogenic makeup, and to include facial steaming in your weekly skin regimen to open and clear out the pore line, ridding the skin of excess sebum and product buildup.”
“Think of a blackhead as the top of a comedone, open at the surface of the skin. You can’t help but squeeze them, wherein a string of oil and dirt comes squiggling out. Blackheads are best treated with proper extraction at an aesthetician office. There are two sides to every pimple: the side you see at the surface of your skin and the ‘other side of the tube’ that lives underneath the skin. When you want to squeeze and pinch, this is usually a red flag to see a ‘pore-fessional’ aesthetician who is used to treating acne and inflammation. Incorporating a serum or toner with glycolic or salicylic acid will help you decongest as well. Just stick to two to three times a week so as not to strip or overdry the skin, which can result in more inflammation and yep, acne!”
“Cystic acne is usually of the hormonal acne family. While nodules can pop up from time to time, cystic acne is more chronic, leaving the skin inflamed, irritated, red, and painful to the touch. A dermatologist or aesthetician who specializes in acne would be preferred for this type, as well as a non-comedogenic skincare line that has certain words in their marketing, such as balancing, healing, nurturing, and anti-inflammatory. A blood test to show your hormone panel might be of help as well, to see any underlying imbalances. Make sure to take this test once a week for four weeks (I know, a lot, but worth it!) to see the full hormone cascade at work. One blood test only shows one moment in time, which is devoid of comparisons.”
“You will recognize nodules and keloidal acne from their round appearance under the surface of the skin. They live deep within the pore and are often painful, with or without touch. It is important to never, ever squeeze nodules or keloids as they can burst on the interior of the pore, leaving behind an infection. Breakouts of this nature can best be treated with prescriptions and anti-inflammatory skincare that is non-comedogenic and balancing. Make sure not to over-strip the skin and dry these out as, again, these live below the skin’s surface.”
“Acne mechanica is simply ‘sweat acne.’ This acne usually pops up after a workout, a hot yoga class, or on teens who don’t cleanse their skin often. Treat this acne in the same way you would bacterial acne (nose, lip, chin, forehead), with healing, pure plant oils and balancing toners, and steer clear of manual exfoliators, with brown sugar or any type of granule.”
“Bacterial acne can most often be found in the T-zone, meaning the forehead, chin, nose, and upper lip. This is usually brought on by sweat, dirt, and an overproduction of oil and sebum. This type of acne is best treated with healing, pure plant oils, such as argan or tamanu oils, along with hot washcloths every night prior to cleansing and non-drying cleansers. Drying out the skin and the overuse of acids and alcohols can lead to more bacterial acne.”
“Hormonal acne can most often be found on the U-zone of the face, meaning the cheeks, chin, and jawline. This is triggered by hormonal imbalances, menstrual cycles, stress, or overconsumption of sugar, dairy, or caffeine. This type of acne is best treated with balancing and nurturing pure plant oils, such as argan oil or tamanu oil, as well as splashing the face with water in the morning only, and leaving cleansing to nighttime, for fear of over-stripping the skin. Glycolic acid or AHA should be limited to two to three times a week, and lessened if drying or increased breakouts occur.”