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What Are The Different Types Of Facial Blemishes? Learn Their Causes, Treatment And Whether They Indicate Skin Cancer

There are quite a few different types of facial blemishes, such as acne, birthmarks, age spots etc. Treatment for these depends on the cause of the facial blemish.

What is a Blemish?

A blemish is a type of mark, discoloration, spot or a flaw seen on the skin. They can look unattractive or unsightly and can affect a person’s conference; however, they are not usually life-threatening. They are mostly benign; however, some blemishes can be a sign of skin cancer. Home remedies and medical treatment helps in reducing the appearance of blemishes.

In this article, we will discuss different types of facial blemishes and their treatment.

What are the Different Types of Facial Blemishes?

Blemish is actually a broad term, which is used to refer to a type of mark on the skin. There are different types of blemishes and consist of:

Acne: This is a common skin condition suffered by many people all over the world.  It can appear as: pimples, whiteheads and blackheads. Acne occurs when the bacteria or dirt along with sebum clog the hair follicles (1). This causes acne and it can leave behind pockmarks, dark spots or scars on the skin. These also come under different types of blemishes. Acne is also thought to occur as a result of hormonal changes. Stress is also a contributing factor for acne as it increases the sebum production.

Nodules: Nodules are nothing, but a collection of tissue and are hard to the touch with their size being more than the papules, around 1 to 2 centimeters in width. Nodules can develop at any layer of the skin and the color can differ from being flesh-toned to red. Some of the examples of nodules are warts and skin tags, which can appear on the face.

Papules: These are small lesions on the skin of around 1 centimeter in width. Their color can vary from pink to brown. Papules can develop in clusters or individually and they can be of any shape.  Some of the examples of papules are: eczema, chickenpox rashes and dermatitis. Shingles and psoriasis can also cause formation of papules.

Liver Spots or Age Spots:  These are dark spots, small in size, developing on any part of the body, including face, which has undergone sun exposure. Age spots can be commonly seen in individuals above the age of 50; however, they can also be seen in younger people. Age spots are a form of hyperpigmentation (14).

Pustules: These are pus or fluid filled bumps. Chickenpox blisters and whiteheads are some types of pustules. Other skin conditions, which can lead to formation of pustules are rosacea and scabies.

Birthmarks: Birthmarks commonly develop or are seen at birth or soon afterwards (2). They can vary in size, color and shape. Port-wine stains and moles are some types of birthmarks which can be seen on the face and body and these often are present for life. Other types of birth marks like salmon patches and hemangiomas can fade with time.

Ingrown Hair: This occurs as a result of different hair removal techniques like waxing, tweezing or shaving (3). Ingrown hairs are the hairs which grow back into the skin and get trapped under the skin resulting in formation of a red bump. Individuals having curly hair are more susceptible to ingrown hairs than those people having straight hair. Ingrown hairs can also become large, ingrown hair cysts filled with fluid. The color of these can be yellow, red or white and they can painful or uncomfortable to the touch.

Melasma: This form of facial blemish commonly develops during pregnancy and looks like brownish patches. Hormonal changes and sun exposure cause it to develop (4).

Skin Cancer: Some of the different types of skin cancers are: squamous cell carcinoma; basal cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma (5). Skin cancers can vary in color and appearance. There are some types of skin cancer, which appear as dark moles with irregular borders; whereas, some look like raised red bumps or yellow scabs. Confirmation of the diagnosis is done by a doctor.

Scars:  Scars develop when there is damage to the dermis layer of the skin (6). The dermis is the deeper skin layer where capillaries, hair follicles, sweat glands and nerve endings are present. Anything which results in gaping of the skin, such as popped pimples or wound can cause formation of scars.

Cysts: Some of the different kinds of cysts are: ganglion cysts, epidermoid cysts and sebaceous cysts. Cysts are benign sacs having some substance in it, such as fluid. Cysts can look like bumps of different sizes seen on the surface of the skin or under the skin and are commonly round in shape.

Cold Sores: The cause of cold sores is herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) (7). Cold sores appear as fluid-filled blisters that form near or on the mouth (7). They can cause a tingling or itching sensation. When the blisters get punctured and drained, there is formation of a yellow or red scab until the time they heal.

Hyperpigmentation:  This type of blemish occurs as a result of overproduction of melanin, which causes the development of dark patches or uneven skin tone. The causes of hyperpigmentation consist of: acne scarring; hormonal changes and sun exposure.

What are the Causes of Facial Blemishes?

Viruses: Viruses like HSV-1 are responsible for some of the facial blemishes, such as cold sores (7). Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (8).

Infections: There are some forms of skin infections, such as fungal acne or folliculitis, which causes blemishes.

Genetics: Genes can play a role in acne. There are some hereditary conditions, which cause the appearance of blemishes and these consist of:

Darier disease: This causes formation of wart like blemishes on the skin (9). It can be hard to the touch, smelly and oily.

Fabry disease is an inherited disorder compromising of gene mutation and it causes development of small clusters of dark, red spots (10).

Adult type 3 GM1 gangliosidosis is a rare, hereditary condition, which causes the formation of benign blemishes on the lower torso (11).

Sun Exposure: Excessive exposure to the harmful ultraviolet (UV) A and B rays of the sun causes hyperpigmentation, skin cancer and other types of skin damage.

Clogged pores result from overproduction of sebum/oil by the sebaceous glands and leads to development of facial blemishes. Hormonal changes are the common cause for this overproduction. When the excess sebum gets mixed with dead skin cells, dirt and bacteria, it leads to formation of pustules, pimples, whiteheads and blackheads. Clogged pores on the face can also develop as a result of skin products, such as sunscreen, makeup or some moisturizers. Always use products that are labeled as non-comedogenic on the face as they are made in a manner to not clog pores. Some hairstyling products can also cause clogging of the pores if they get onto the face.

Environmental toxins like car exhaust, dirt and pollution can be harmful for the skin as they can mix with oil on the skin and block the skin pores and can lead to formation of facial blemishes. Frequently touching the face with hands also causes this problem, as bacteria and dirt gets transferred to the face through the hands.

Diet: The kind of foods one eats also has an impact on the skin. Contact dermatitis and food allergies can cause bumps and skin irritation. Dairy products like milk can also cause acne in some individuals (15). Consuming a diet high in simple carbohydrates and sugar can also cause formation of acne and other blemishes.

Medications:  Facial blemishes can develop as a side effect of some prescription and over-the-counter medications such as: androgenic steroids, corticosteroids, anti-seizure medicines and lithium.

Identifying the Cause of Facial Blemish According To Its Color

Red: There are various facial blemishes, which are red in color and these consist of: pustules, pimples, allergic reactions, ingrown hairs, cold sores and rosacea. Some types of skin cancer also can look red in color.

Black: Malignant melanoma appears as a dark-colored or blackish blemish. Blackheads are black raised dots in appearance or can be surrounded by circle of red.

Brown: Malignant melanoma can appear as black or dark brown in color. There are some birthmarks and hyperpigmentation, which is brown in color. Melasma causes the development of grayish or brown patches on the skin.

White: Some types of fungal infections and whiteheads appear as white blemishes on the face.

How to Treat Facial Blemishes?

The cause of the facial blemish determines how it should be treated. If there is worsening of blemish with the use of any treatment, then stop it and consult your doctor immediately.

Acne Medications for Treating Facial Blemishes: There are many acne medications, prescription and otherwise, for treating and reducing pimples, blackheads and whiteheads. Different acne medications are suitable for different people. Some of these treatments include topical gels, astringents and facial scrubs. If the OTC medications are not helping the acne, then oral antibiotics can be prescribed by the doctor or prescription topical medication.

Salicylic Acid:  Salicylic acid products are a good choice of treatment for acne as it helps in unclogging the pores (12).

Sun Protection Treating and Preventing Facial Blemishes: It is important to use sunscreen along with sun-protective clothing, hats and sunglasses; irrespective of facial blemishes. All these help in preventing and worsening of facial blemishes. 

Dermatologic Procedures for Treating Facial Blemishes

There are many procedures that are beneficial for treating various facial blemishes, such as age spots, melasma or acne marks. These procedures consist of laser therapy; microdermabrasion; cryotherapy and chemical peels. 

Creams for Treating Facial Blemishes

Prescription creams which have hydroquinone in them are beneficial for lightening or fading the acne scarring, age spots and melasma (13). They act by reducing the melanin production.

Follow Healthy Hygiene Habits to Prevent and Treat Facial Blemishes

It is important to clean your hair, face and to remove the excessive dirt, oil and bacteria on the skin to prevent facial blemishes. Over-cleansing should be avoided as it worsens the skin problem. 

Natural Remedies for Treating Facial Blemishes

Home remedies are helpful in fading the facial blemishes, which are not caused by any underlying medical problems. Some of these consist of: aloe vera, witch hazel and apple cider vinegar.

Food Diary for Finding the Cause of Facial Blemish

Maintain a food diary to find out if there is any food item that is triggering the acne and gradually eliminate that food to see if there is any improvement.

Eating foods rich in vitamins C and E are really beneficial for the health of the skin (15).

When to consult your doctor?

Facial blemishes for the most part are harmless even if they look unappealing. However, in some cases they can be a sign of a serious problem, which needs a hospital visit. For this reason, always consult your doctor in case of:

  • If there are any changes in the color or size of the blemish.
  • If there are irregular borders to the blemish.
  • If there is bleeding from the blemish.

All these can be an indication of skin cancer.

If virus is the cause of the blemishes, then the appropriate treatment is recommended by the doctor.

Pustules, nodules or papules can be signs of a skin infection and for treatment topical or oral medications along with other types of medications like topical retinoids are prescribed.

If ingrown hairs are causing the appearance of the facial blemishes and are not responding to home treatment, then consult your doctor to remove the trapped hair and treatment.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 2, 2024

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