Nutrition Edit

The differences between each spot and the science behind it

Ever wondered why your spots look so different? That’s because there are a number of different types, which look and feel different on the skin. Ranging from the common white head to the under the skin cyst. Our skin researchers are here to drill down on six types of spots, explaining the differences and educating you on the anatomy behind each blemish.

1. Whiteheads/Closed Comedones

These are little bumps on the skins surface. They are not red or inflamed, and occur when dead skin cells, bacteria and oil become trapped in the hair follicle. The plug fills the follicle, causing it to swell and creating the little bumps you see on the skin. You may be tempted to pick or squeeze these types of spots, but this should be avoided, as the bacteria can spread across your face and lead to redness and scarring.

2. Blackheads

Black heads are easily recognisable by colour. Similar to white heads, this is also a clogged follicle but instead of closed it is open, allowing the sebum and melanin to be oxidized which turns the pore dark [2]. This type of mild acne is often found on your back, shoulders, face and can be highly concentrated on the nose area. They are slightly raised but are not painful because they are not inflamed like other spots. Here are some factors that can increase your chance of developing blackheads:

  • Your body producing too much oil
  • Hormonal changes
  • Irritation of the hair follicles
  • Heavy sweating
  • Over production of skin cells

3. Cysts

A cyst contains fluid or air, appears as a bump, and grows deep underneath your skin. They can vary by size and location. Cystic acne is one of the most severe types of acne and can be because of hormonal changes or trapped oil and bacteria. They can appear on the face, chest, back, neck and arms. Again, you should avoid squeezing or popping a cyst, this can lead to infection which can result in scarring. Folliculitis can look like cystic acne, but this is an ingrown hair that becomes infected. Commonly formed when people use hair removal methods such as waxing or shaving. 

4. Papules

A papule is a small red bump and usually less than 5 millimetres and coned shape. They don’t have yellow or white pus. Over time, it becomes a pustule – this can take a few days for the pus to appear. Similar to many other spots, it develops from excess oil and skin cells clogging a pore[4].Typically, they are quite painful.

5. Pustules

Pustules are bumps on the skin that contain fluid or pus – they most often start out as papules. They appear as white bumps and the skin can become quite red. They can develop on any part of the body, but they are most common on the face, back and chest. In addition, they may also be found in clusters on the same area of the body and are often found in mild to moderate acne. One of the most common causes are hormonal imbalances, particularly among teenagers and young adults.

6. Nodules

Hard knots under the skin filled with protein keratin.. Some of the areas when nodules can form are the armpits, groin, head, and neck. It feels like a hard lump on the skin and can be visible. If you think you may have a nodule, you should seek medical advice from your doctor. 

It’s important to be aware of the type of acne or spots you may have, which can help educate you on some of the reasons why you may be getting problem skin. Making sure you don’t squeeze or pick the spots too is key to prevent the bacteria spreading. Discover six steps to help manage problem skin and incorporate into your routines. 

SHOP Problem Skin


  1. A closer look at blackheads vs white heads. Healthline. March 2022.
  2. Blackheads. Healthline. March 2019.
  3. What’s causing this cyst? Healthline. April 2021. 
  4. What causes acne papules? Healthline. May 2019. 
  5. What to know about nodules? Healthline. September 2019.
  6. What causes pustules? Healthline. July 2019.