acne seed

Did You Know? There Are 6 Types Of Pimples, And Each One Requires A Different Treatment

So here’s exactly what those pimples on your face mean

More often than not, most pimples are written off as basic ol’ acne

When most people spot a pimple on the face, their first reaction is to panic and wonder how they’ll stop it in its tracks. But the truth is, acne is a lot more complex than that. There are many types of pimples caused by various factors, but more often than not, most of them are written off as basic ol’ acne.

To best understand why you’ve got these pimples, it’s important to know exactly what type they are of, to begin with, and what category they fall into. Depending on that, you can then treat your acne under the guidance of a dermatologist.

1. Blackheads

At some point or another, you’ve definitely found yourself with a blackhead, which is characterised by a black covering on top of the pimple. Blackheads are known as open comedones as, apart from the seed, the pimple is open. They fall under the non-inflammatory type of acne as they usually don’t swell much.

2. Whiteheads

In white heads, the white seed blocks the top of the pimple and hence, they are also known as closed comedones. As they are sealed off from the rest of the skin, whiteheads are tougher to treat than other forms of acne.

3. Papules

You can identify papules as miniscule bumps which appear in patches like a rash. They are caused when the pore walls break down, leaving them tough to touch and generally red and inflamed around the affected area.

4. Nodules

Unlike most acne strains, nodules occur deep below the surface of the skin and appear as large, swollen bumps. Nodules don’t usually contain pus, and feel hard when touched. Being deeply rooted in the skin can make treating nodules tough and may require oral medication prescribed by a dermatologist.

5. Pustules

These are types of acne lesions characterised by a pus-filled centre that’s yellowish to white in colour. Although it can be tempting to pop pustules and get rid of the gunk once and for all, stop yourself — this could lead to bacteria and scarring.

6. Cysts

One of the most severe forms of acne, cysts form deep below the skin and usually appear inflamed and filled with pus. Cysts can be extremely painful as the skin becomes tender when retaining pus. Depending on the depth of the cysts, they are treated by a skin specialist through lancing, medication or pus removal.

So here’s exactly what those pimples on your face mean

How to Deal with Sebum Plugs in the Skin

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Just below the surface of your skin, across most of your body, lie tiny sebaceous glands that produce an oily substance called sebum.

Your face, neck, shoulders, chest, and back tend to contain more sebaceous glands than other parts of the body. The palms of your hands and the soles of your feet contain few, if any, sebaceous glands.

Sebum tends to rise to the surface through pores around your hair follicles. Sebum helps lubricate and protect your skin, essentially waterproofing it.

When your glands are producing just the right amount of sebum, your skin looks healthy, but not shiny. Too little sebum can lead to dry, cracking skin. Too much sebum in a follicle can cause a hardened plug to form, which can then lead to various forms of acne.

A plug can result from too much sebum production, or dead skin cells that block sebum from reaching the surface.

A sebum plug can look like a tiny bump under the surface of the skin or it may stick out through the skin like a grain of sand.

When a sebum plug forms, bacteria that normally lives harmlessly on the surface of your skin can start to grow within the follicle. Inflammation follows, causing a breakout.

Sebum plugs commonly form on the forehead and chin. And because nose pores tend to be large, when they become even partially clogged, plugs can be even more noticeable.

Plugs can also appear on your upper arms, upper back, or just about anywhere you have hair follicles. Sebum plugs tend to be precursors for blackheads and whiteheads.

Here are the most common types of skin plugs:


When a sebum plug only partially blocks a hair follicle, it’s known as a blackhead or a comedo. It appears black because the air changes the color of your sebum. It’s not dirt.


If a sebum plug completely blocks a hair follicle, it’s known as a whitehead. The plug remains under the skin, but produces a white bump.

Keratin plugs

Keratin plugs can look like sebum plugs at first. However, this skin condition develops differently and tends to cause patches of bumpy skin.

Keratin, which lines hair follicles, is a type of protein that helps protect the skin from infection. It’s not clear why it builds up and forms a plug, though there may be a genetic component.

Other types of acne

When a sebum plug becomes inflamed, a papule can form. It’s a small pink bump on the skin that can be tender to the touch.

A papule can turn into a pus-filled lesion called a pustule or pimple. Pimples usually have a red base. A larger painful pustule is called a cyst and requires the care of a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in skin health.

When sebum builds up inside a sebaceous gland, the gland can expand, causing a small, shiny bump to form on the skin. This is called sebaceous hyperplasia, and it occurs most often on the face. Unlike most other types of acne, which primarily affect teens and young adults, sebaceous hyperplasia is more common in adults.

All types of acne start with plugged pores. To help prevent the buildup of oil and dead skin in your pores, wash your face with soap and water every day. Use a mild face cleanser and keep the rest of your body clean, too, especially areas that may be prone to acne.


If you have a sebum plug of some kind, gently exfoliating dead skin cells may help keep the acne from worsening. To do this:

  1. Wet your face with warm water.
  2. Apply exfoliating scrub gently for about a minute.
  3. Rinse with warm water and softly pat your skin to dry.

Use topicals

Daily topical treatments, such as glycolic and salicylic acid ointments, may do the job. Other nonprescription treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide, that kill bacteria may be helpful.

A class of topical medications called retinoids, which are derivatives of vitamin A, might be recommended. Tretinoin may be better for oily skin and skin that can tolerate a strong medication. Retinol is usually recommended for more sensitive skin.

When it comes to any topical treatment, you want to look for products labeled “noncomedogenic” or “nonacnegenic,” because they won’t cause more pore clogging. Severe acne may need a powerful prescription antibiotic, such as tetracycline or erythromycin.

Shop for over-the-counter acne medication and face wash.

Try oral medication

Severe acne that can’t be treated with topical medications may need oral drugs, such as isotretinoin. This reduces the size of the sebaceous glands to cut sebum production, and increases how much skin you shed.

While isotretinoin can be very effective, it’s a powerful medication with some serious potential side effects. Pregnant women shouldn’t take it, as it may lead to birth defects. Another side effect is depression. Anyone taking the drug should be carefully monitored by a doctor.

Sebum plugs form when the sebaceous glands in your skin produces too much sebum and, mixed with dead skin cells, clogs the pores. This can lead to pimples, blackheads, and other acne. Read on to find treatments and tips for good skin care.