All About Acne

What is Acne?

When you talk about having acne, you’re probably referring to what dermatologists know as Acne Vulgaris, which is the medical term used to diagnose your breakouts. There are other types of acne, such as Acne Fulminans or Acne Conglobata, but these just aren’t as common, so the “acne” you’re suffering from is probably Acne Vulgaris.

The tiny little openings in your skin are called pores. Most of these pores have a hair, a hair follicle, and a sebaceous gland. This gland is what makes sebum, which is basically a fancy name for your body’s natural oil.

  • Sebum is a mix of wax and oil, and it’s what lubricates our skin and makes us humans “waterproof”. It literally locks moisture into the body and makes sure that too much moisture doesn’t enter our skin, either.
If you have oily skin, don't be upset!

Healthy Hair Follicle

Healthy Hair Follicle

When oil, dirt, and dead skin cells get stuck inside of your pores, it creates what we call a comedo, or comedone. You probably have heard about these types of clogged pores… they’re called blackheads and whiteheads.

Blackheads

are open comedones. The dirt, oil, and bacteria trapped inside has been oxidized, which means it's exposed to the air and then turns black.

Blackheads

Whiteheads

are closed comedones. When dirt, oil, and bacteria get trapped underneath a thin layer of skin, it creates these white-looking bumps.

Whiteheads

So how do these blackheads and whiteheads turn into those red, painful, inflamed pimples?

Pustules

Papules / Pustules

The reason your pimples are red and swollen is because of a bacteria called propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes for short. This bacteria loves clogged pores because eating the dirt and oil inside of them helps it multiply. When your body's white blood cells realize there’s an infection, they rush to kill off the bacteria and this is what causes all that redness and inflammation.

Types of Breakouts

Blackheads

These are open pores filled with dirt, oil and bacteria. They turn black because they’ve oxidized, which means they’ve been exposed to the air. Just like whiteheads, they’re small and not infected, so they aren’t sensitive or sore and the skin around them won’t have any redness or inflammation.

Whiteheads

These small, flesh-colored bumps have a white-ish look. The bump is actually dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria that’s trapped underneath a thin layer of skin. Whiteheads aren’t sensitive or painful and they’re not infected, so they don’t have any pus or redness.

Papules

Papules are small red bumps, and are probably what you think about when you think of acne. They don’t have a white head, and even though the skin around them is red and inflamed, they aren’t necessarily sensitive to the touch.

Pustules

Just like papules, pustules are probably the kind of acne you’re most familiar with. They have a white or yellow head that’s filled with pus, the skin around them is red and irritated, and may be painful. The more inflamed the pustules are, the bigger they’ll be.

Cystic Acne

These are tender, painful bumps that develop deep under the skin. Cystic acne is typically a result of hormones, are full of pus, and can get pretty big. These breakouts can leave you with scars, especially if you pick at them.

Nodule

Nodules are like cystic acne because they’re large and deep in the skin, but nodules are harder when you touch them, and they’re usually bigger and more painful, too. If you have these types of breakouts, it’s time to visit your dermatologist.

Body Acne

Did you know that all of these types of acne can appear on other parts of your body, too?

Blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, and even cystic acne can appear on your back, chest, shoulders, thighs, and buttocks.


Many of the same things that cause facial acne also cause body acne — including bacteria, tight clothing and sports equipment, pore-clogging products, hormones, and genetics. Back and chest acne are treated with the same ingredients, though the skin on our body can typically withstand more aggressive treatments than the face.

Young girl with acne, with red and white spots on the back

What Causes Acne?

Why do we get Acne?

Why do we get Acne?

Genetics

Genetics

Hormones

Hormones

Certain Medication

Certain Medication

Some Cosmetic Products

Some Cosmetic Products

Tight, sweat-soaked clothes and equipment

How to avoid Acne

Follow a strict skin regimen

Follow a strict skin regimen

Avoid over washing and harsh scrubs

Avoid over washing and harsh scrubs

Adopt a hands-off-policy

Adopt a hands-off-policy

Avoid comedogenic products

Avoid comedogenic products

Wash towels and sheets regularly

Wash towels and sheets regularly

Change clothes and shower post-gym

Change clothes and shower post-gym

Mythbusters:

Eating greasy food or drinking soda does not cause breakouts

MYTH: Eating greasy food or drinking soda causes breakouts.

TRUTH: Oily food will cause acne... if you rub it all over your face! Everyone’s body is different, but what you eat generally doesn’t affect your acne. The type of food that may cause acne is dairy, because milk or milk-based products, especially non- organic ones, can have hormones in them.

Popping pimples does not make them go
away faster

MYTH: Popping pimples makes them go away faster.

TRUTH: We get it — it feels great to extract all that gunk and pus, but popping your pimples can make you bleed, cause irritation, and leave scars or dark spots. And if you pop your pimple with dirty hands or tools, you are putting even more bacteria onto your skin, which may just aggravate your acne even more.

The more you wash your skin does not mean you'll have less breakouts

MYTH: The more you wash your face, the less breakouts you’ll have.

TRUTH: If you have acne, you may feel like your skin is “dirty" and be tempted to wash your face all the time or super aggressively. You should be washing your face twice a day with a gentle, acne-specific cleanser, but more than that can actually make your breakouts worse. That’s because extra rubbing and friction can cause redness, rashes, irritation... and even more pimples!

How to Treat Acne

At Home

Doctor's Office

Type of Acne

Over the Counter

Prescription

Procedures / Treatments

Blackheads/Whiteheads

Over the Counter

Prescription

  • Tretinoin
  • Tazarotene

Procedures/Treatments

  • Comedone Extractions
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser treatments
  • Light-based treatments
  • Heat-based treatments

Papules / Pustules

Over the Counter

Prescription

  • Tretinoin
  • Tazarotene
  • Dapsone
  • Topical antimicrobials*
  • Oral antibiotics**
  • Oral contraceptives

Procedures/Treatments

  • Comedone extractions
  • Intralesional injections
  • Laser treatments
  • Light-based treatments
  • Heat-based treatments

Cysts / Nodules

Over the Counter

Prescription

  • Tretinoin
  • Tazarotene
  • Isotretinoin
  • Topical antimicrobials*
  • Oral antibiotics**
  • Oral contraceptives

Procedures/Treatments

  • Comedone extractions
  • Intralesional injections

* Clindamycin, Erythromycin, Sodium Sulfacetamide
** Most commonly include: Tetracycline Class, Penicillin Class, Erythromycin, Trimethroprim-sulfamethoxizole

Shop Products