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How to identify and treat different types of spots and acne

We often treat lumps and bumps on our skin in the same panicked way, without taking into consideration what our skin is trying to tell us, or what it needs. Different bumps are formed in different ways and have different symptoms and may need to be treated (you guessed it) differently! So take the time to identify your spot, find out how it was formed, and what you need to do to treat it.


Blackheads are an extremely common form of mild acne which is easily identified by the dark colour of blemishes. Typically persistent and difficult to shift, blackheads are usually found around the nose area, forehead, or chin. Their strange colour is a result of the melanin in sebum oxidising as it is exposed to air and turning black.

The good thing is blackheads are usually symptom-less, so you shouldn’t experience any pain or discomfort from your spots. Unfortunately the colour of these spots often leads to those with blackheads having an adverse psychological reaction to them.

So if you want to get rid of your blackheads fast Salicylic acid is going to be your new best friend. The keratoyltic action of the acid is great for treating blackheads because it exfoliates the skin and unclogs pores. Using treatments which help address the levels of sebum on the skin is also a good idea if you’re looking to prevent future breakouts.


Whiteheads are formed in a similar way to blackheads, excess sebum blocks pores and becomes mixed up with bacteria and dead skin cells. When this process happens underneath the skin, and spots aren’t oxidised, they become whiteheads rather than blackheads. As a result whiteheads are often miniscule, or completely invisible to the naked eye. You’ll usually find these spots lurking around hairlines and on chins, although they can appear anywhere on your body.

Similarly to blackheads, your whiteheads will not be causing you any pain or be detectable in any way other than their physical appearance on your skin.

Whiteheads are also a mild form of acne and benefit from ingredients such as Salicylic acid and Benzoyl peroxide, these will work to reduce oil and unclog pores. For persistent whiteheads a doctor may prescribe topical or oral treatments such as retinol or isotretinoin to aid the process of removing dead skin cells.


When pores become clogged with sebum and dead skin cells, sections of skin are sometimes caused to bulge, resulting in a pustule. Pustules are aptly named for the pus they contain as a result of an infection of a pore. When a pustule is caused by acne it will become hard and painful, when this process occurs a pustule becomes a cyst, and your acne becomes cystic acne. Pustules are usually white lumps encased in red skin, which can grow quite large and appear on any part of the body.

Treating pustules at home will require products that have Salicylic acid in them. For more extreme pustules a medical professional may suggest photodynamic therapy. The therapy uses light, and a light activated solution, to eliminate pustules.


Cysts are considered a more extreme form of acne than blackheads and whiteheads, and there are lots of different types of cysts. All cysts are essentially pockets of tissues that are filled with pus or other materials. They can be found anywhere on the body and can be inflamed, smooth, painless, and also dark in colour.

If your cyst has ruptured or become inflamed it will become painful to touch, this is because they can form near a minor nerve ending. There are however, cysts which are simply painless lumps on the skin.

It is possible for cysts to fade away without any treatment, but many people find themselves wanting to be rid of cysts quicker than this natural process allows. Draining is able to relieve symptoms and get rid of some cysts quicker. A medical professional will pierce the cyst and drain the harmful pus inside. Cysts which are inflamed can be injected, which makes them shrink, otherwise they can be surgically removed.

By identifying your lumps and bumps you are more likely to be able to treat them effectively. Identify your spot, choose an appropriate treatment, and fast track yourself to great skin!

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