How to Treat Each Type of Breakout

We’ve all been there: you wake up Monday morning after a crazy weekend, stumble into the bathroom, look in the mirror and oh god. Yep, another pimple.

It can be discouraging to do a whole skin care routine when it seems like your skin doesn’t really care. While acne is literally proven to make us feel down sometimes, there’s always hope in finding the perfect way to treat it and make it go away asap. Here’s how to treat each type of breakout, because who knows — maybe you’ve been doing it wrong this whole time!


First of all, it’s important to understand what a blackhead actually is. These are pores that get clogged with oil, dead skin cells and bacteria, oxidizing to give it the dark color, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.The easiest way to treat these are with pore strips or an extractor to clear out the pore. To prevent these, using a chemical exfoliant can help keep your skin fresh and prevent dead skin from building up and clogging pores. Another important note is that these are often confused with sebaceous filaments, which are just your natural pores. You probably see these little dark pores all over your nose, and I hate to break it to you, but these are completely natural and genetic. Unless you want to do a pore strip every single day (please don’t), these pores aren’t really going to change. So no, not all of us are going to have crystal-clear skin, but honestly who really does in real life? An easy way to distinguish between the two if you’re confused is that sebaceous filaments are usually found together, while blackheads are typically alone.


The name says it all — these are those teeny tiny white pimples that pop up due to oil and dead skin. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest types of acne to treat! (yay) These are usually safe to go ahead and pop, but DO NOT force anything. If it doesn’t come easy, don’t try again — there should never be pain! Like blackheads, you can prevent these by using a chemical exfoliant and regularly washing your face.


A papule is a tiny pimple without a white head to it, often red and swollen with inflammation. According to Proactive, these can be found together in groups, forming a rash-like area on your skin that feels rough like sandpaper. These can be painful, so don’t try to pop them — they react best to topical treatments. My favorite treatments are drying lotions like the one by Mario Badescu or a 10% benzoyl peroxide treatment, usually just found at the drugstore.


Ugh. This is your classic, puss-filled pimple — pain and all. There are a couple of different ways to treat these, depending on how early you notice it. If it’s sore and red, but still somewhat flat, try to just keep it covered with a pimple patch. Pimple patches are incredible and if you haven’t tried them, these will soon be your best friend. My favorite patches are these subtle ones by Mighty Patch that blur out the appearance of the breakout, but I also have these cute star ones by Paradox that can be a fun option too. If the pimple is finally at a white head, go ahead and try to pop it, but again, don’t force anything (unless you want to risk scarring). Pray that it pops easily, and cleanse the area and cover it back up with a pimple patch to help ease the redness or swelling that’s left.


These are absolutely horrible. If you’re reading this, I’m sending you good skin vibes. If you’ve had one, you probably know all about these. Cysts are those deep, sore pimples that refuse to go away. It can feel like they take forever to go away, and I’m so sad to say that there’s not too much you can do to help it except apply ice and cry a little. Definitely do NOT attempt to touch, poke, stab or mess with the spot in any way, or you’ll probably just make it worse and risk a nasty scar. If you feel like you need to do something to make it go away, a discreet pimple patch will make you feel a lot better and could help ease the redness.