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If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that spots are bad. Not only can they look unsightly, but they can be super painful and erode away at your self-confidence. And everyone gets them! One reason you may be struggling to clear up your skin is that you aren’t treating the type of acne you have. Our guide to different types of spots can help you figure out exactly what’s going on on your face – plus make it easier for you to solve the problem.

Blackheads

Blackheads are essentially tubes of sebum which have oxidised where they face the world, which is what gives them their darker appearance. They tend to be totally flat to the skin, and can be tricky to get rid of. You can extract a blackhead, but make sure you do it right – steam the face, then use a gentle tool rather than dirty hands. Preventing blackheads is done by keeping pores as clean as possible. Clay masks and salicylic acid treatments can both do wonders.

Sebaceous Filaments

Many people who think they have blackheads are actually dealing with these. They tend to be lighter in colour (a tan-ish shade, if you will) and feel more bumpy. The bad news is there’s not much which can be done about them, as even if you squeeze ‘em out, they very quickly fill back up with sebum. In a pinch, a clay mask will tighten the appearance of pores, which makes them less noticeable.

Congestion

This term refers to blocked pores which aren’t inflamed. If you’re dealing with uneven texture and small bumps, this is likely your problem. Exfoliating is absolutely key for keeping congestion to a minimum. I’d recommend incorporating a gentle acid toner, plus doing a peeling mask around once a week. Scrubs can be helpful, but can also be overly abrasive, so choose carefully. Also, make sure you’re properly removing your makeup. Double cleansing can be amazing for this.

Whiteheads

A whitehead is probably what you initially imagine when you think of a pimple. A small, raised, red bump, with a white dot in the centre. Usually they’re a little painful, but nothing to write home about. Benzoyl peroxide is my weapon of choice here, as it thoroughly disinfects the area and helps speed up the healing process. However, go slow if you aren’t used to the ingredient, as it can be super drying and irritating at first.

Cystic

Cystic acne is the type that’s both incredibly painful and almost impossible to make disappear. Once a cyst arrives, they’re nigh-on impossible to extract, and the process is brutal. We recommend leaving well alone. It’s easier to prevent cystic acne than to treat it. When I start to feel something painful brewing, it’s sulfur I reach for to minimise pain and speed up the spot’s life cycle. Another good option to reduce swelling is ice – I like to keep a jade roller in the freezer for such occasions. The cold constricts blood vessels, which can reduce swelling. If you’re consistently dealing with painful cystic acne, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor for a more long term solution.

Hormonal

You’ll notice hormonal acne because it aligns perfectly with your cycle. If you always break out at the same time every month, there’s not a whole lot that can be done to treat it topically. Having calming and soothing treatments, such as the CosRX Centella Blemish Cream, can make spots appear smaller and disappear faster, but if it’s prevention you need, you’ll need to consult a doctor. There are acne treatments that can be taken orally, and spironolactone is an androgen blocker which many report highly effective on hormonal breakouts.

Fungal

Did you guys know fungal acne was a thing? If you’re suffering from persistent acne which is more itchy than painful, and tends to occur in clusters rather than solo pimple, this may be an area you want to research – particularly if conventional acne medication seems to have no effect on you. Weirdly enough, one of the most effective fungal acne treatments is dandruff shampoo. The active anti-fungal ingredient ketoconazole helps immediately treat and prevent fungal acne flare ups.

Shop our editor’s must-haves to clear your skin for every type of acne

Featured images via Anthropologie / Sunday Riley

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