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Your Shop Good Zit Guide

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By Alex McClung, Shop Good Product Expert and Holistic Facialist

You’re doing everything right. Right? You’re being mindful of nutrition, you’re cat-cowing your worries away, and wouldn’t dream of going to bed with your makeup on. Yet still, you find new landscapes of blemishes popping up (pun intended) anywhere from the line of your lips to the small of your back! Navigating breakouts can be a daunting endeavor for so many of us. But, is your acne is trying to tell you something? Although it may seem like Morse code, there’s good news! Those dots and dashes that have you lost in translation and rapidly losing patience are absolutely communicating with you. Consider us your translator, here to help you crack the code of just what your particular brand of blemish is trying to say and how to be the best listener. 

Let’s break down the 6 most common types of acne you may have experienced, but perhaps not recognized, and discuss the best tricks to keep them at bay!


Comedonal acne is non-inflammatory and is considered a mild form of acne. A comedo occurs when pores are blocked by excess sebum (the natural oils produced by our skin) and/or keratin plugs which are an accumulation of dead skin cells. Comedonal acne most often falls into two categories that are likely all too familiar. 

1. Blackheads (AKA Open Comedones) – Blackheads are caused by the melanin within the keratin plugs coming in contact with oxygen from the open pore and becoming oxidized. Oxidation causes the melanin to darken and appear as black, pin-prick like spots on your nose and chin. 

2. Whiteheads (AKA Closed Comedones) – Whiteheads develop when the debris within the pore become trapped by a layer of skin creating a closed comedo. This blockage often appears as a flesh-colored bump typically found on the forehead and chin.

The Fix: Our skin has an intuitive cycle of regeneration about every 28 days. As part of this renewing cycle we shed millions of dead skin cells, and sometimes our skin needs a little boost to help shake off the excess. To encourage cell turnover and keep dead skin cells from becoming trapped within pores, try lightly exfoliating once or twice a week with a mask like Ursa Major’s 3-Minute Flash Mask. Containing enzymes, AHAs and BHA’s, this mask will help slough away those cells and improve texture gently. For an added complexion boost – help your skin detox and rest with a daily cleanser like Tata Harper’s Purifying Cleanser (*in store only!*). Willowbark (the natural precursor to salicylic acid), fruit enzymes, and white clay work to decrease sebum production and decongest pores leaving the skin bright and ready for a new day. 


These moderate to severe types of acne occur when the healthy bacteria that occupies our skin becomes trapped inside a blocked pore with their favorite snacks: dead skin cells and sebum, leading the bacteria to invite it’s friends and rapidly multiply. This event triggers your white blood cells to attack the infection which leads to those painful red bumps we’ve come to know as ‘zits’. Two commonly seen types of inflammatory acne are papules and pustules, and these can appear on the face, neck, shoulders, chest. And yes, even the caboose! 

3. Papules – Papules are typically hard and do not always form a white head. They occur as the result of the pore becoming so overwhelmed by bacteria and debris that the wall of the pore actually breaks, leading to pain and redness.

4. Pustules – Pustules occur when that same broken wall results in white blood cells rushing in to reverse the infection taking place. This immune response puts the pus in pus-tules and creates the white or yellow head we have come to recognize as a traditional zit.

The Fix: For decades, the traditional approach to treating papulopustular acne was to get tough on your skin. Growing up we were given the harshest astringents and grittiest scrubs with the promise of a brand new complexion. Luckily, we now have a better understanding of how counter-productive these methods can be and have full permission to treat our blemishes with kindness. To pamper your pimples, try healing them with the Clear Skin Advanced Spot Serum from Province Apothecary. This formula penetrates deeply with organic turmeric to kill bacteria while nourishing the surface irritation with jojoba and sea buckthorn. It’s the perfect treatment for a pimple that’s perhaps already been picked. 


Nodulocystic acne is the real problem child of the inflammatory acne family. This severe type of breakout can be quite painful, and often affects the face, neck and back. They are very different from our blackheads and pustules, although they may join forces and can cause scarring. The causes are often genetic, but can also be a result of hormonal changes. You will recognize a nodulocystic breakout by it’s eponymous indicators, nodules and cysts.

5. Nodules – Nodules occur when bacteria and debris become trapped deep within the layers of the skin. They are characteristically hard, flesh-toned or red, and can last for weeks. 

6. Cysts – Cysts also occur deep beneath the surface of the skin, however they are typically softer and filled with fluid. Like pustules, cysts are caused by the pore wall cracking under pressure only much further down. They are similar in appearance to boils, and because of the depth of infection you probably won’t be seeing a white head. 

The Fix: No matter how many times the experts tell us “do NOT pop your pimples”, when an unwelcome visitor graces your cheek it’s nearly impossible to put down the magnifying mirror. Due to the ‘underground’ nature of nodules and cysts, it is very difficult to adequately extract these blemishes at home without further damaging the already sensitive surrounding skin. While you’re giving your blemishes space to heal, an effective way to soothe the swollen and painful symptoms of cystic acne is to ease inflammation inside and out. To calm redness and irritation try using Activists’s Manuka Honey 300+ MGO (*in shop only!*) as a spot treatment or mask. Manuka honey has been shown to reduce inflammation, battle bacteria, and even fade scarring! You can also swap out your regular cleanser with this healing powerhouse for a yummy and potent alternative. How sweet is that!? 

Pinpointing the exact internal causes of severe acne is difficult, but we know that inflammation whether due to stress, hormonal changes, or hand-me-down genes from mom, is a trigger. Inflammation = heat in the body and in Traditional Chinese Medicine excess heat can throw all of our systems out of harmony. To cool things down internally consider Zilch Acne Formula, an all natural herbal supplement containing 17 raw superherbs that work to decrease toxicity and promote circulation for rapid healing. 

As always, with severe acne an important first step is to visit your dermatologist to fully understand what treatment options are available to you before making any major changes to your routine. Have you experienced a facial with our holistic estheticians yet? 

Okay, so now that we’re well-versed in the big 6 acne types and ready to begin the journey to healing, remember that every body is unique. What may have cured your sisters bacne or your bestie’s hormonal chin breakouts may not be the right solution for your individual needs. While having an open dialogue with your body is so empowering, being comfortable in your own beautiful skin -wherever it is- is always the best place to start! 


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