Rodan + Fields / Blog / Science of Skincare

Types of Acne, Causes and Effects

Are you looking in the mirror right now and wondering why you keep having one pimple after another? Well, you’re not alone. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, about 50 million Americans have acne yearly.  On the global scale, acne affects 9.4% of the population and about 85% of persons between 12 to 24 years old.

Acne can shatter your self-esteem and leave you feeling stressed. To stay ahead of acne and maintain your skin, it’s important to understand what type of acne you’re dealing with. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with all the information about acne types, causes, and solutions.

What Causes Acne?

Acne often develops when your skin pores become clogged with dead skin, oil, bacteria, etc. Factors like fluctuating hormones, ingrown hairs, oily personal care products, greasy/sugary foods, stress, genetics, and specific medications can trigger or aggravate this disorder.

Where Does Acne Most Commonly Occur?

Although acne can appear anywhere on your body, they typically occur in areas with the most sebaceous (oil) glands. We’re talking about your forehead, face, shoulders, chest, and upper back.

Can Acne Cause Scars?

Yes, scarring could be a complication resulting from acne. This is because acne breakouts can go far into your skin to hurt the deeper layers, which puts your body in repair mode, and triggers collagen production to get your skin back to normal. Sadly, your body may get scars when it over/underproduces collagen.

What are the Different Types of Acne and Pimples?

These are the different acne/pimple types:


Blackheads are enlarged skin pores that have darkened or turned black.


Whiteheads (closed comedones) resemble blackheads except that a skin layer closes the pore rather than leaving it open. The bumps are typically flesh or white colored.


Papules are small, tender, and raised red or pink bumps.


These are pus-containing pimples that resemble whiteheads and have red rings surrounding them.

Fungal Acne/ Pityrosporum Folliculitis

Fungal acne happens when your hair follicles contain too much yeast. It typically comes with inflammation and itchiness.


Nodules are large, painful, and solid pimples that go deep into your skin.


These are pimples that are filled with pus and can cause acne scars.

How Severe is Each Type of Acne?

According to dermatologists, acne can be mild, moderate, or severe. We’ve explained the grades of acne below:

Mild (Grade 1) Acne

Whiteheads and blackheads are the typical mild acne types, although mild acne may also include a few pustules and papules. You can clear them up with over-the-counter topical meditations.

Moderate or Pustular (Grade2 ) Acne

Papules and pustules are moderate acne forms and may or may not go away with over-the-counter medicines. Generally, a dermatologist will have to prescribe topical or oral medications to clear up the widespread ones.

Moderately Severe or Nodulocystic (Grade 3 ) Acne

Many pustules and papules with occasional inflammatory nodules characterize moderately severe acne. This grade of acne can affect your back and chest.

Severe Nodulocystic (Grade 4) Acne

Like moderately severe/nodulocystic acne, this acne grade comprises numerous inflamed nodules and pustules. However, they’re also painful and large.

How to Treat Acne Depending on its Type

As we mentioned above, the severity and type of acne you have will determine your treatment plan. Here’s what to expect for different kinds of acne:

Acne-Fighting Ingredients

These ingredients are commonly used for treating whiteheads, blackheads, and papules:

Benzoyl Peroxide

A common OTC medication that you can use to fight acne-causing bacteria. Many times, benzoyl peroxide comes as a wash or leave-on gel.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is one of the common OTP medications for acne. It typically comes in lotion or cleanser and helps to exfoliate your damaged skin’s top layer/dead skin cells to keep your hair follicles from being clogged.

Azelaic Acid

Natural azelaic acid is present in cereal, including rye, barley, and wheat. It lessens edema while also eradicating skin-surface bacteria.

Retinoids/ Vitamin A Derivatives

Common retinoids help eliminate white and blackheads. They also help to avoid clogged pores.

Skincare Treatments

Rodan + Fields has two skincare regimens that address acne, formulated with ingredients that deliver results:

Rodan and Fields’ UNBLEMISH Regimen

Rodan and Fields’ UNBLEMISH regimen fixes adult acne. It targets breakouts and wrinkles by visibly reducing fine lines and the appearance of pores.

Rodan and Fields’ SPOTLESS Regimen

Rodan and FieldsSPOTLESS regimen works perfectly to fight teenage acne. It also leverages the power of BP02 technology to prevent new breakouts.

When should you see a Doctor to treat Acne?

The good news is you don’t always need a prescription to treat acne, especially mild ones. However, it’s time to see your general healthcare provider or board-certified dermatologist when your acne is severe, or OTC treatments are ineffective. You should also see your doctor if your acne is a reaction to a medication or leaves scars.

Don’t Let Acne Stop You!

Dealing with acne can be stressful, but the most important thing is it’s also treatable. With the help of effective acne-fighting skincare, you can manage acne.

Over-the-counter medications will suffice to treat mild cases. For severe ones, be sure to get a prescription from your dermatologist.


Who is most likely to have acne?

Acne can affect anyone. However, it’s usually at its peak during the adolescent years.

What are the stages of acne?

There are four stages of acne — comedones, papules, pustules, and cysts. They’re graded in that order from 1-4.

How do I know my acne type?

The best way to know your type of acne is to get a diagnosis from your dermatologist.

What foods cause acne?

Many foods can trigger your acne. They include sugars and refined grains, fast foods, dairy products, Omega-6  fat-rich foods, chocolates, whey protein powder, etc.

Daily Derm The latest in Science of Skincare