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Types of Adult Acne

Types of Adult Acne Types of Adult Acne

Acne is a skin ailment that can affect the skin from the time your body reaches puberty, all the way through old age. Although acne is less common as you age, once hormones become more regulated, many people deal with acne even years after reaching adulthood. There are several types of adult acne that can differ in appearance, depending on factors such as sebum production, inflammation and bacteria colonization.


One of the most mild types of acne in adults is blackheads. A form of comedone, blackheads occur when the skin's natural sebum oil combines with dead skin cells from the body to create a plug (comedone). When these plugs form close to the surface of the follicle, leaving part of the follicle open to the air, the plug becomes oxidized. The oxidation turns the exposed area of the plug a dark brown or black color.


Whiteheads are also a form of comedone that can appear on adult skin. Like blackheads, whiteheads are a mixture of sebum oil and dead skin cells. However, unlike blackheads, whiteheads form deeper inside the follicle. Without any of the plug being exposed to air, the comedone remains a white or flesh color, and appears on the top of the skin like a tiny pearl or are invisible to the naked eye.


Pustules are a type of adult acne that occurs when a comedone becomes infected with acne bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes. As bacteria invade the comedone, the immune system reacts by sending white blood cells to fight off the bacteria. The white cells begin to pile up around the comedone, forming pus, which appears as small dome-shaped lesion.


As acne bacteria build pressure inside an acne lesion, the lesion can progress into another form of acne called a nodule. Nodules occur when bacteria and sebaceous material leak into the surrounding skin, causing inflammation. Nodules can become painful, and according to the American Academy of Dermatology, can reach deep into the tissue layers causing damage. This damage can later lead to acne scarring.


The worst type of adult acne is an acne cyst. As bacteria, sebum and pus build inside the acne lesion, pressure builds, creating a large liquid-containing sack beneath the skin. The cyst can reach deep into the layers of skin tissue, and is typically accompanied by severe inflammation and pain. In some cases, acne nodules and cysts may form together as a type of acne called nodulocystic acne.

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