Do You Have Whiteheads, Blackheads, Pustules, Milia Or Cysts?


Updated: 9/6/14. Skin Fact: All blemishes are not equal. Learn the differences and treat them accordingly.

Whiteheads/Closed Comedones Little clogged bumps under the skin that aren’t red or sore, just little white-ish, clear or flesh colored bumps under the skin also known as “clogged pores.” Most people get them on the chin, sides of the mouth or hairline, but they certainly can be found elsewhere such as the cheeks. They are also very common in darker skin tones such as in African-American skin.

What you can do: Since these have no infection (meaning, they are not generally sore), using harsh acne products will only make them worse by causing dry skin cell build up trapping the oil in the skin longer. Exfoliate! By keeping off surface dead skin cell buildup, this will help them to purge naturally, however a good deep pore cleansing facial is also very beneficial for removing the impurities within the pores. Once you get the pores cleaned out, exfoliating products work deep within the skin to keep them clean.

Read: How To Manually Extract Clogged Pores And Blackheads From Your Skin

They can be caused by heavy pore-clogging oils like Mineral Oil and Petrolatum so be sure to avoid these ingredients. Also, limit the use of facial oils. While cleansing oils and skin oils used in place of moisturizer are popular to use, this will only add to trapped pores making them worse. A great cleanser to use is AHA/BHA Cleansing Gel which destroys the oil and bacteria deep within the pores. Exfoliate with gentle products like BHA Clarifying Serum, Mint Buffing Beads and Triple Berry Smoothing Peel.

Blackheads Large pores that contain oil that has oxidized with air causing it to turn black…

What you can do: Although there is no way to permanently get rid of blackheads, my best advice is to get regular monthly deep pore cleansing facials followed by home use of a well-formulated salicylic acid product like BHA Clarifying Serum to keep the pores clean long after the facial. Long term use of Retin-A can help but it has to be used regularly and for years before you can really see a difference.  Avoid the ingredients Isopropyl Myristate and Isopropyl Palmitate in your skin care products as these can contribute to the formation of blackheads and clogged pores.

Read: My 3-Step Plan For Reducing Blackheads

Pustules Red, inflamed blemishes that contain pus and known as your traditional “zits” that are most likely to cause post-breakout red or dark scars IF you don’t properly know how to care for them.

What you can do: You MUST NOT touch these until you can see a whitehead. Then you can carefully extract the infected pus and immediately spot treat with our Night Time Spot Lotion. Our Daytime Blemish Gel works very well, too.

Read: How To Get Rid Of A Blemish Fast

Papules A red, painful blemish that has not quite reached the surface. It’s the stage past a closed comedone (whitehead) where bacteria has caused inflammation resulting in an infected blemish. A papule will then usually turn into a pustule.

What you can do: The main symptom of a papule is inflammation and irritation so the goal is not to dry it out with acne products but rather to calm down the inflammation by using topical cortisone cream (found at the drug store), ice compresses followed by Anti-Cyst Treatment. These will all reduce the inflammation until the whitehead reaches the surface and it can be gently extracted.

Milia Hard, white, raised bumps that feel like a little ball under the skin; most commonly found around the eyes and the apples of the cheeks, but can appear elsewhere.

What you can do: All the acne spot treatments in the world will never get rid of these. They may be caused by heavy pore-clogging oils like Mineral Oil and Petrolatum, but for many people, they are genetic or caused by smoking. The only way to remove these is to get them manually extracted by an esthetician or dermatologist. If you try to do it yourself, you’ll probably end up scarring yourself so it’s best to put your skin in the hands of a trusted professional. Once you get them removed, regular exfoliation is really essential to keep them from coming back—or at least as quickly. AHA Smoothing Serum 17% works extremely well to keep the skin exfoliated so milia doesn’t form underneath dry skin cells. It’s also important to use gentle, low-foaming cleansing gels to deep clean without drying out the skin. See my recommendations for non-drying, sulfate-free cleansers.

Cysts Hard, painful bumps that develop deep within the skin and can linger for weeks.

What you can do: Do not pick! Despite being sore, you’ll never get that infection out and if you attempt to, you’ll most certainly have a scar that will linger for months. The rule is: If a whitehead does not forms (which they never do if it’s a true cyst) then hands off! You have only two options. Use Anti-Cyst Treatment (a true miracle of a product) or schedule an appointment to get a cortisone injection by a dermatologist.

Acne Scars Most blemishes will leave a purple or red mark once the blemish is healed. Post-Breakout Fading Gel works well to get the blemish scar to go away quickly.

Read: Get Control Of Cystic Acne—Before It Scars Your Skin!

Read: 11 Causes for Acne And Blemishes

Read: How To Break Your Skin Picking Habit

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or Face Time.

For more expert advice check out the blog. Also, sign up for our skin tip e-newsletter, follow Renée Rouleau on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on our Facebook page. You’ll be your own skin care expert in no time. Get the #ReneeRouleauGlow!

Get Blog Posts In Your Email

Content Copyright © 2017, Renée Rouleau, Inc

Content found on Blog.ReneeRouleau.com, including: text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.