Different kinds of pimples

There are different types of pimples. They all start with plugged-up pores.

Blackheads and whiteheads

Oil, dead skin cells and bacteria block pores and cause small bumps called blackheads or whiteheads. If a blocked pore stays open, it can look kind of black and is called a blackhead. If a blocked pore closes up, the top of the bump looks more white. So it's called a whitehead. Blackheads and whiteheads are pretty easy to treat. You probably can use stuff you buy at the store. If these are the only kind of pimples you have, it's not so bad.
Blackhead on the skin
An example of blackheads1.
Whiteheads on a nose
An example of whiteheads
on a person’s face1.

Papules and pustules

Sometimes the pores get so irritated that their walls break. That causes bigger pimples that are called papules and pustules. Papules are hard when you touch them. A bunch of papules that are near each other can make your skin feel like sandpaper. Pustules are like papules except yellowish, liquid pus fills them sort of like a blister.

Pustules on a face
An example of pustules on the face2.
 Pimples on a forehead and nose
Papules on a person's forehead and nose1.
Acne nodules on the back of the head
Papules and pustules on the back of the neck1.

Papules and pustules are a little tougher to treat. Medicine you buy at the store might work. You might want to visit a skin doctor (dermatologist), who can give you other treatments.

Nodules and cysts

When blocked pores get more irritated, they get even bigger. They go deeper into your skin, too. They can really hurt. Nodules are hard. Cysts have pus and are softer. If you have these, you might be embarrassed to see people. If you have nodules or cysts, you should see a skin doctor. The skin doctor can use many treatments so you aren't stuck with these pimples.

 Acne cyst on the bridge of a nose
A cyst on the nose1.
Acne nodules on the back of the head
Nodules on the back of someone's head1.

Large nodule above the eyebrow
A nodule on an eyebrow3.

After pimples go away, they might leave red or dark marks on your skin. These marks fade, but it might take few days, weeks, or months. Sometimes you get permanent scars from pimples. The scars can be bumps or dents in your skin. A skin doctor can help make some of those scars fade.

Next: Treating pimples

Photo references
1Photos used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

2Photo used with permission of Elsevier. Dermatology DDxDeck, Vol 1, Pg 31. Habif T, Campbell J, Chapman M et al. “Pustular acne.” Copyright Elsevier (2006).

Photo used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, J. Am Acad Dermatolog 2007 August: 57(6):1072-83.