Once an acne lesion forms on the skin, it appears as a microcomedone. Microcomedones are minuscule lesions that can't be seen by the naked eye, and can only be spotted by using a microscope.
Microcomedones can develop into either inflammatory acne or non-inflammatory acne. Non-inflammatory acne results in what are called comedones, which can be either a whitehead or a blackhead.
Whiteheads are characterized for resulting in an accumulation of sebum that blocks the follicle. The bacterial activity in this case is contained beneath the skin, and appears as a small bump with a firm white tip.
Blackheads, on the other hand, result from retention of sebum within an open follicle. The black color on the end of the blackhead is attributed to melanin (natural skin pigment), which turns black in contact with oxygen .
If the whitehead or blackhead isn't resolved and doesn't heal properly, the follicle may rupture and result in inflammatory acne. Inflammatory acne occurs either as a papule, a pustule, a nodule, or cyst.
The first stage of inflammatory acne is the papule, which results in the breaking of a follicle wall. As the tissue breaks, white blood cells rush into the cavity where bacteria is trapped, causing the follicle to swell up.
Following the papule, a pustule is formed as white cells migrate to the surface of the follicle. The inflammation is more Noticeable and the pimple appears white and stiff.
In many cases when pustules don't heal as they should, the follicle walls break completely, affecting the skin surrounding the lesion. The area becomes swollen and hard and can be painful to touch. This is called a nodule.
The last stage of inflammatory acne is the cyst, in which acne lesions become severely irritated due to an accumulation of pus.
Treating acne when it first begins can save your skin from painful lesions and scars. Now that you know the different types of acne that exist, you can identify the severity of your next breakout and understand its stage of development for better treatment.