WTF is on my face? 5 types of face bumps and what you need to know about them

Your pimples decoded – it’s a pleasure.

acne, face bumps, pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, beauty, skin, skincare

Whatever you do, do not Google image search ‘different types of acne’, it’s not pleasant. And to spare you from having to go through that, we have broken down five major and common types of pimples and face bumps ‘n lumps so you can just read it here and not have to look at it. You’re welcome!

1. Blackheads

Ahhh, those little chestnuts. Essentially, they are little plugs of sebum, skin cells and bacteria that clog your pores (fun). These ‘plugs’ turn black at the top because they are open and oil that is exposed will oxidize (aka turn a darker colour).

What to do…

If left untreated they become bigger, lead to enlarged pores and can eventually become infected that leave a scar. Regular chemical exfoliation and cleansing with salicylic acid should help lift and keep them in check.

2. Whiteheads

They just love to just pop up (especially before a big night out). These little white bumps are due to buildup (sebum and dead skin cells) that sits on top of your skin. The fancy medical name for them is a ‘closed comedo’, and all pimples start out as one.

What to do…

They are more prevalent in people with oilier skin types and are effectively treated with a thorough cleansing and chemical exfoliation that will lift and move dead skin cells to prevent pores from becoming blocked.

3. Pustules

These face bumps are a bit more hardcore and what you would describe as a full-on zit – i.e. a pimple that has come to a head, forming a white pus-filled spot right on top (nice). It’s not uncommon to confuse whiteheads and pustules, but a whitehead is really just a blocked hair follicle, while a pustule is an inflamed pore and the white stuff is pus (TMI – sorry!).

What to do…

Pop it (yip, with this guy it is advised), but make sure your hands and skin are clean first and use a tissue to do the deed. Then, if you can, cover it with a pimple patch to help it heal.

4. Cysts

If you’ve had one of these bad boys, you know how painful they can be. They occur deep within the skin and are due to a blocked pore that becomes infected. This is also why they can be super sore and take ages to heal.

What to do…

An ice pack can help reduce inflammation and swelling, plus applying a good solution that’s designed to treat face bumps twice a day can help it to heal faster. These can reoccur in exactly the same spot, so chat with a dermatologist about cortisone injections to help sort it out. Whatever you do, just don’t pick at it, it will only spread the infection and make it worse. You’ve been warned!

5. Nodules

When we talk about acne, this is where it starts getting serious. Nodular pimples are one of the most severe forms of acne. Unlike cysts, they are not filled with pus (sorry again) but are found deep within the skin, forming a hard bump that is painful to the touch. They often don’t appear to be red but will take weeks before they go away.

What to do…

Call in the professionals. Nodular acne is best treated with specific antibiotics or other oral medications prescribed by a dermatologist.

Our top pimple fighters and fixers:


Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

R475Mario Badescu

This cult product is ideal for surface pimples and drying them up over-night


dr. dermal Clarifying Cleanser


This cleanser contains lactic, glycolic and salicylic acid to help ease congested skin


Obagi CLENZIderm M.D Pore Therapy


This BHA-infused toner aids in unclogging pores and lifting dead skin cells


Optiphi Clarity Serum

R578The Cosmetic and Dental Emporium

This serum is powerful enough to tackle problem skin but gentle enough to keep it soothed and hydrated


Bioderma Sebium Global Intensive Purifying Care

R269.95Le Beauty Club

This moisturiser offers daily care for skin that’s prone to pimples and blackheads


COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch

Pop one of these on your zit before going to bed, and it will literally shrink overnight. Genius!


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