There are 6 different types of pimples. Here's how to spot each kind.


Did you know there are six different types of pimples your body can bless you with?

It’s true. Not one or two, but SIX.

Each type of pimple is capable of unleashing its own specific brand of hell on your face and body. Or both.

From red angry cystic pimples and blackheads on your nose that look like specs of dirt, to painful blind pimples hiding under your skin and juicy pustules that look they might pop at any moment, here’s what you need to know about the six types of pimples.

Types of pimples – summary:

  • Whiteheads
  • Blackheads
  • Papules
  • Pustules
  • Cysts
  • Nodules

What are pimples?

Specialist Dermatologist and Fellow of the Australasian College of Dermatologists Dr Deshan Sebaratnam told Mamamia pimples are the result of blockages in your skin’s pores.

“Acne vulgaris is the scientific name for pimples. Almost everyone experiences some form of acne in their life, up to 90 per cent according to some studies. It commences with the hormonal changes of adolescence and can persist into the third decade, or sometimes longer,” he said.

Pimples can also appear almost anywhere on your body – think forehead pimples, nose pimples, pimples on chin, pimples on jawline or around the mouth, as well as pimples on your bum, back, the backs of your thighs and chest.

Different types of pimples

Stay with us on this, but pimples are basically onions. That’s because A) there are many different types of pimples (all equally annoying) and B) at the root, pimples all start the same way.

There are two things to remember about all pimples: They start with a blocked pore (a comedome) and can be either inflammatory (angry and swollen) or noninflammatory.


Dr Sebaratnam broke down the different types of pimples for us, including what they look like and how they feel.


types of pimples whiteheads
How fun are whiteheads? So small and annoying. Image: Mamamia.
  • Medical name: closed comedome (the pimple has a hat on).
  • Whiteheads are little white/yellow-ish spots or bumps - they look like a fairly small bubble of white stuff.
  • Whiteheads are non-inflammatory, so they don't hurt and aren't red or sore.
  • Common for people with oily skin.
  • You can clear whiteheads by using a chemical exfoliation product and keeping consistent with your skincare routine.


types of pimples Blackheads
Ah, blackheads are tricky little buggers, aren't they? Image: Mamamia.
  • Medical name: open comedones (the pimple/pore is open and comes into contact with the outside world).
  • Blackheads are black/dark in colour - they look like little specs of dirt in your pores.
  • Blackheads have a dark colour because they're pimples that have "communicated' with the skin's surface and oxidised after coming into contact with the outside environment."
  • Commonly found around the nose and ears, and more so in people with oily skin.
  • Blackheads are non-inflammatory pimples, they don't feel like anything.
  • You can treat blackheads by washing the affected area with an acne wash which contains salicylic, glycolic acid or benzoyl peroxide, or by using over-the-counter topical treatments containing benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid.
  • Sometimes, your doctor may prescribe acne treatments which contain benzoyl peroxide in combination with retinol, vitamin A or topical antibiotics.
  • Don't squeeze your own blackheads - you can see a skin therapist and have extractions to remove blackheads.

You can read more detailed information about blackheads and how to get rid of blackheads in our full article here.


types of pimples papules
No one likes a papule. Image: Mamamia.
  • Papules are small raised bumps under the skin that haven't formed any top on the skin's surface like whiteheads or blackheads.
  • Papules are inflammatory pimples - they look swollen, red and inflamed.
  • You can get a group of papules in a particular area.
  • Papules can be sore and painful, but not as painful as a blind pimple or nodule (more on that in a bit).
  • Papules can last for five to 10 days, after which they often progress into pustules.
  • You can treat papules by using a benzoyl peroxide product, or waiting to treat the imminent pustule.


types of pimples Pustules
When you've got a nasty white pimple that looks like it's ready ton explode, that's a pustule. Image: Mamamia.
  • Pustules are papules that have risen to the skin's surface and contain a small head of pus. Yum.
  • Pustules look like a typical 'pimple' - they're a bubble of white/yellow-ish gunk that can be surrounded by red, inflamed skin.
  • Pustules are inflammatory pimples, they look swollen and red, and feel tender and painful.
  • Pustules can get infected or leave a scar if they aren't popped properly.
  • You can treat a pustule by waiting until it's ready to pop and gently squeezing from either side with clean hands or a tissue (pustules should be relatively easy to pop, cysts are harder, more on those below).
  • You can also hold a warm towel over the spot to help draw the infection to the surface before popping.
  • Once you've popped the pimple, add a topical product like the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion ($26) or Spot Medic Individual Adhesive Hydrocolloid Masks For Pimples ($9.99) to dry it out and speed up the healing process.


types of pimples Cysts
Cysts are pustules, but angrier. It's not you, it's them. Image: Mamamia.
  • The worst kind of pustule you can get - they're very large, soft, painful lumps with a white head.
  • Cysts are inflammatory collections that have formed in the deeper layers of skin - they look sore and red.
  • Cysts can get infected or leave a scar if they aren't treated properly.
  • Cysts are harder to pop as they are embedded deeper within the skin.
  • Persistent cysts can be difficult to treat and often require professional treatment with the help of a GP/dermatologist/skin specialist.


types of pimples nodules
Reader, meet nodule. You might know this pimple as a blind pimple. Image: Mamamia.
  • Nodules are commonly known as blind pimples because they don't have a head and are under the skin.
  • Nodules are inflammatory collections formed in the deeper layers of skin - they look like red, sore bumps that are hard and painful to touch.
  • You can't pop nodules, and they can get infected or leave a scar if they aren't treated properly.
  • Persistent nodules can be difficult to treat and often require professional treatment with the help of a GP/dermatologist/skin specialist.

As if the above wasn't enough, there are also different types of acne scars.

"Acne can also form significant scarring which becomes a lifelong problem. There are different types of scarring including ice pick scars (small indentations), atrophic scars (scooped out divets) and a range of post-inflammatory colour changes to areas of skin including redness, darkening or lightening of the skin," Dr Sebaratnam added.

How to get rid of pimples

Once you've identified what type (or types) of pimples you have, you can seek out the best treatment for how to get rid of them.

This could include: over the counter topical treatments, acne medication, hormonal medication, extractions and seeing a dermatologist or skin specialist.

You can read more specific information on how to get rid of pimples in our full story here.

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