As the weather takes a turn for the worse, it’s totally normal for your skin to be having a bit of a meltdown. Whether your skin is experiencing a bit of a dry spell or producing oil like there’s no tomorrow, if your skin is slightly off kilter, you can pretty much guarantee a breakout. In the run up to winter, tweaking your regime is a necessary evil. Sure, once you’ve nailed it your skin will love you for it, but while you’re making the changes, it will probably start throwing its toys out the pram and present you with the odd unsightly zit.
Sound all too familiar? We feel you. The bad news is that there’s nothing easy about getting rid of a spot. You can try squeezing, scrubbing, zapping and prodding and, more often than not, you’ll be left with a situation worse than you started with.
And our spots affect our lives more than we think. According to a study carried out by Neutrogena, 40% of Brits admit spots and acne prevent them from going about their daily routines. But no, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to book straight in with an expensive dermatologist every time you get a spot. Some spot situations can be dealt with and go away on their own. Others, may need special measures. “There are varying degrees of acne – from whiteheads and blackheads to nodules and cysts,” explains Lesley Reynolds Co-Founder of Harley Street Skin Clinic. So what can really be done to tackle the odd whopper of a zit? Here’s everything you need to know about the six different types of spot…
Open Comedones (Blackheads)
Easily recognised by their black colour, blackheads can be tricky to get rid of. Lesley explains: “Blackheads are caused when a pore is blocked and the sebum at the surface oxidises so that it looks black. They are at the mild end of the scale but they can often take a long time to clear.” The sebum forms a sticky ‘plug’ in the pore which makes them near-on impossible to squeeze successfully. If they’re getting you down, some professionals recommend using AHAs to help loosen and breakdown blackheads
Closed Comedones (Whiteheads)
Unlike blackheads, whiteheads sit on the surface of the skin and are relatively easy to manage. When pores are blocked, the oil produced by the skin is trapped inside along with dead skin cells. As the pore becomes over-filled, you see a small white raised lump on the surface of the skin. Luckily, they are tackled quite easily through gentle cleansing and exfoliation and don’t require too much attention.
Unlike blackheads and whiteheads, papules are inflamed acne lesions that appear red and bump-like with no head. You may experience some pain with papules, but it is likely to be minor. As tempting as it may be, it’s recommended to never squeeze a papule – their stubborn nature can leave you with a nasty scar. Instead, try a topical drying spot treatment.
If you’re a squeezer, pustules are the types of zit you love – they’re a dictionary definition, run of the mill zit. Unlike whiteheads, pustules are usually filled with pus (nice) and appear inflamed. Lesley explains: “Pustules are inflamed red spots with a white or yellow centre. These zits can be popped, but only when they are ready to burst. Pop them with a sterile needle, then wrap a clean tissue around each of your index fingers and squeeze gently. Best to do this after a warm shower as they’ll be softer. If clear liquid or blood starts to appear, it’s time to stop squeezing.”
OK, this is where things get serious. Nodules are hard, painful bumps that sit under the skin. They don’t have a head and don’t always appear red. “You must NEVER squeeze a nodule as this can cause permanent scarring. The best thing to do is have them injected in-clinic with cortisone which works by killing bacteria and reducing inflammation,” says Lesley.
Cysts are similar to nodules, expect they are full of pus. They are still extremely painful and can often leave serious scarring. Usually caused by some sort of blockage and often infection, they should also never be squeezed. Lesley warns: “Squeezing cysts can cause a deep irritation and very painful inflammation which will last much longer than if you had simply left it alone. Again, cortisone injections can help and the cyst usually disappears after 48 hours.”