Have you been diagnosed with acne? If so, you don’t have to suffer from the negative impacts that it can inflict — there are treatment options out there that can help. Acne comes in a range of types and levels of severity, and it affects people in completely different ways. To successfully treat your acne, it’s essential first to determine the type(s) you have. Here we’ll outline how acne develops, the different types that can develop, and how to combat them for clearer looking skin.

What Causes Acne

Many people believe that poor hygiene and health cause acne, but in fact, it’s generally caused by genetics and hormones. As hormone levels rise, the skin glands begin producing larger amounts of sebum which causes oily skin that lead directly to acne breakouts. Acne is also a result of genetics and how your immune system works — if one or both of your parents had acne, you will be more prone to acne breakouts. Another critical factor is your stress level. Stress can release cortisol and androgens, which can cause your skin to secrete more oil.

How Does Acne Develop

The most common form of acne (Acne Vulgaris) forms when hair follicles become clogged with excess sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells. This happens as the skin cells regenerate and dead cells aren’t appropriately flushed from the pores. They instead combine with excessive skin oils and attach to the dead skin cells or bacteria to clog the pores. Sebum then builds up, resulting in a pimple. The result is an infected and inflamed sebaceous gland in the skin.

Types of Acne

Acne can appear in many different forms. The two main types are non-inflammatory and inflammatory. Inflammatory acne takes longer to heal and can have permanent effects on the skin, so it’s important to figure out which type you have to find the best treatment possible. Here are the most common types:


Small black dots that appear as tiny bumps on the surface of the skin are known as blackheads. These are clogged follicles that stay open on the surface of the skin. The sebum inside the pore oxidizes when it meets the air which causes the sebum to harden and form a dark colour. They are often found on the face, chest, back and arms and are most common during hormonal changes.


These are clogged follicles where the sebum and dead skin cells accumulate to create a plug that gets stuck under the skin. Although they are not infected, surrounding bacteria can impact the skin cells.


Papules are small, red, sensitive pimples that are often inflamed. They don’t contain pus or show a visible pore, but they are tender to touch and often look swollen.


These are inflamed lesions that are filled with pus. The pus forms when your immune system attempts to fight off the bacteria that has made its way into the follicle. White blood cells start to form to fight off the infection which results in the pus production. They often appear as white or yellow and can lead to scaring if aggravated.


Nodules appear during the latter stages of breakout and are seen in more severe cases of acne. They are large bumps that tend to develop under the skin and are hard to the touch. Like papules, they form from a buildup of bacteria, but are in fact deeper in the skin. This can cause tissue damage and cause the immune system to begin an inflammatory response.


Cystic acne is deep forming and does not form a head, which means there’s no presence of pus. Instead, they appear as large, swollen, red lumps on the skin. They can appear as a large swollen lump on the skin or in a series of clumps in groups. They are often painful and require medical treatment as they are the hardest types of acne to treat.  

How They are Diagnosed

A skin specialist will inspect your skin to determine the type of acne you have and the severity to select a treatment option best suited for your condition.  The most severe acne is where there are cysts, nodules, pustules and papules spread across the face and throughout the body. At this phase, there can be serious scarring if left untreated, so it’s essential to begin treatment as soon as possible.

Treatment Options

At The Ottawa Skin Clinic, we recommend using HydraFacial MD® treatments, advanced medical-grade facials, chemical peels, and Advanced Fluorescence Technology (AFT) to dramatically reduce the appearance of acne scarring and to destroy acne-causing bacteria.

AFT can clear inflammatory acne lesions without the need for drugs. It is a scientifically proven pulsed light-based technology that uses UV light to rejuvenate the skin. AFT can also be used to rapidly destroy acne-causing bacteria without harming the surrounding skin tissue. To learn more about all our acne treatments, contact us today!