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How to Handle the Different Types of Blemishes for a Clearer Complexion

Acne, dark spots and blackheads, oh my!

August 30, 2023

Skin covers the entire outer layer of the body from head to toe, making it susceptible to different forms of blemishes. If you’ve ever spent any time looking at yourself in the mirror or at a picture of yourself you can see the different marks and blemishes that make your skin uniquely yours. While there’s nothing wrong with having the occasional blemish, it’s understandable if your goal is clearer, glass-like skin. Just keep in mind there’s no such thing as perfect skin. 

The most popular and well-known type of blemish is acne, but it can be a lot more than that. To clear up any confusion (no pun intended) this guide lays out all the details and intricacies to help you figure out what those marks on your face are. Here, learn what blemishes are, what can cause a blemish in the first place and everything else you’ve been wondering about those pesky spots on your face.

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What Are Blemishes?

Blemishes are considered any type of mark or “flaw” that may otherwise disturb an aesthetically “perfect” surface. when it comes to skin care, the term blemish is typically used interchangeably to describe acne. As mentioned previously, there isn’t anything wrong with blemishes on the skin, however, they can be painful to some (both emotionally and physically) which makes removal necessary. 

According to NYU Langone Health, acne refers to the appearance of blemishes or small, inflamed bumps on the surface of the skin. The best way to think of a blemish is as a visible acne bump, mark or spot on the skin. Per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), there are several types of acne blemishes. Below, is a breakdown of five common types of blemishes.
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5 Types of Blemishes

Whip out a handheld mirror or go gaze at your beautiful face in your bathroom mirror and examine what you see. You may notice one or more of the following normal skin blemishes. This list gives the proper name of the skin marks you’ve probably wondered about but never knew exactly what they’re called.

Blackheads and Whiteheads

Black and white dots on your face appear when your pores become clogged with excess oil, bacteria and dead skin cells. If the pore closes up, a bump that’s flesh-colored or white will develop, which is a whitehead. Whiteheads are popularly known as surface pimples since all the gunk within your skin comes to the top layer. Keep in mind that acne causes pimples so most blemishes are pimples. On the other hand, if the pore fills with debris and stays open, a blackhead will form.
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Papules are a form of pimple that appears as round, raised red (or the color of your skin) bumps on the face and are solid to the touch — per the Cleveland Clinic. They occur when excess oil, bacteria and dead skin cells move deeper into the skin. In turn, this causes inflammation. These bumps differ from other pimples since there is no pus or fluid inside the spot. 


Simply, pustules are pus-filled bumps similar to papules. The big difference between pustules and papules is that the former is filled with a yellowish fluid, the Cleveland Clinic confirms. Often, they show up with a white or yellow-colored center. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), pustules are signs of acne and can also occur if you’re dealing with inflamed skin concerns like psoriasis and rosacea. 

Acne Nodules and Cysts

These blemishes are bigger than your typical pimple. Known for penetrating deeper into the skin than the blemishes mentioned above, these bumps may leave your skin with an acne scar once healed.

Dark Spots, Sun Spots, Post-Acne Marks

On the subject of acne scarring, dark spots (aka dark marks) are a well-known blemish that sometimes gets confused for freckles. The biggest difference between dark spots and freckles is that it’s not hard to get rid of freckles as they tend to fade on their own. Meanwhile, dark spots cannot fade without skincare or professional dermatological assistance. Dark marks like sun spots can occur from too much sun exposure while post-acne marks happen from picking at pimples or healed acne nodules and cysts. 

What Causes Blemishes

To understand why blemished skin occurs, you need to understand what causes acne. The Cleveland Clinic shares that sensitivity to hormones and the combination of surface skin bacteria and lipids (fatty acids) within sebaceous (oil) glands leads to acne. Acne often starts as a clogged pore and progresses to papules and pustules (small bumps) once bacteria spreads. Blemishes can also be caused by the development of fungal acne

What Makes Blemishes Go Away?

Time, patience and the right skin care regimen can help reduce blemishes on your face. Clear skin doesn’t happen overnight — but makeup can always be used for the illusion of flawless skin. If your goal is blemish-free skin, focus on skin care for acne-prone skin and spot treatments to target specific skin concerns. 

You may still have a few blemishes appear every now and then, but again that’s to be expected with skin that changes with the season and lifestyle habits. There are still things you can do to make blemishes go away. Check out the skin care tips and products below, that you should consider when targeting blemishes. 

How to Manage Blemished Skin

Use Products With Blemish Fighting Ingredients

According to the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, skin care products formulated with salicylic acid, niacinamide and vitamin C help treat acne blemishes when used topically. Niacinamide in a skin care routine can help tackle blemishes by soothing skin and tackling painful inflammations, per the Cleveland Clinic. When dealing with blemishes in the form of dark spots, use the L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal 12% [Niacinamide + Amino Sulfonic + Ferulic Acid] Dark Spot Serum which fades the appearance of dark marks, sun spots and post-acne blemishes. Skin is refined for a more even texture, promoting clear skin. 

Salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory ingredient that reduces acne and limits clogged pores. Add the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 12% Pure Vitamin C + E + Salicylic Acid Serum to your routine for more radiant skin. This serum reduces the appearance of fine lines and enlarged pores which may lead to acne.
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Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate

No matter what type of blemish you’re dealing with, a key step to restoring your skin is to use a product that can get rid of dirt, oil and debris that may be swirling in your skin. Your regular daily face wash should already be doing this, but if your skin is looking extra dull, swap out your cleanser for the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Scrub Cleanser

Resurface skin’s complexion with this daily cleanser that contains gentle micro-pearls and glycolic acid (an exfoliating ingredient known to combat acne) to rid skin of impurities like sweat and dirt, while scrubbing dullness away. You should be using sunscreen every day already, but be intentional in your application (and reapplication) when using exfoliants that can make your skin sensitive to the sun.

Don’t Pick at Your Pimples

Take your hands off your face! One of the worst things you can do when dealing with a blemish is to touch your skin too much. This can cause bacteria to spread, which can lead to even more blemishes and keep your current ones from going away. Additionally, when you pick at pimples you risk post-acne marks, and acne scarring from where pimples once were. If you can’t help but pick when you see a pimple use a hydrocolloid patch (aka a pimple patch) to target the blemish. 

Give Your Skin Regimen Time

Skin care takes time to work and while there are acne blemish treatments that can work overnight on pimples (looking at you spot treatments), it’ll take weeks to see an overall change. The AAD shares that you should give your acne treatments at least four to six weeks to work.

Speak With a Professional

You can never go wrong with visiting a board-certified dermatologist. Your derm will be able to explore the cause of your blemishes and give you advice on products and treatments that may be able to help clear your skin. Sometimes skin care isn’t the only answer to tackling blemishes. There are laser treatments, forms of plastic surgery and skin extractions that can reduce blemishes and offer clearer skin. However, these must be done in-office by a certified professional. 

Information is important when treating your skin blemishes, so hopefully this guide gives you the details you need to determine the best way to handle them. 

Next: The Benefits of Vitamin C Serum for Your Skin


Photo Credit: Courtesy of L'Oréal Paris, Design: Sarah Duvivier

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