There are several types of acne, the most common being acne vulgaris (meaning ‘of the common type’), that show up on the face, back, chest, shoulders, and neck.
There are hundreds of tiny glands in the hair follicles, or pores, of your skin called sebaceous glands (or oil glands). Their function is to lubricate skin and hair by producing and excreting an oily substance called sebum. This natural exfoliation process is designed to keep skin healthy, but factors such as hormones, environment, stress, and improper diet cause an over production of sebum and prevent the skin from exfoliating itself correctly.
As a result, the tiny pathways for the sebum to escape get clogged and bacteria (called Propionibacterium acnes) get trapped inside the pores. This forms little ‘plugs’ that sometimes lead to swelling and redness, and the evidence is revealed to you in one of the following:
Whiteheads: these are simply pores that are clogged beneath the skin’s surface and have closed off before becoming inflamed; they are usually flesh colored and slightly raised, and should not be squeezed by anyone but a licensed aesthetician or dermatologist.
Blackheads: these are very similar to whiteheads in that they are uninflamed, clogged pores, but unlike whiteheads, the pore remains open at the surface, allowing air in to oxidize the clogged sebum, which causes it to turn black.
Pimples: these occur when a whitehead or blackhead gets irritated and becomes inflamed, and as a result the area surrounding the clogged pore swells, turns red, and aches. Sometimes puss fills the pimple as your body’s reaction to the bacterial infection.
Cysts or Nodules: these occur similarly to the way pimples occur, only instead, bacteria is leaked deep within the skin, inflame the pore either, and it either fills up with pus and becomes cyst or develops a fluid-filled sac called a nodule.