The Taxonomy Of Zits


Whether it’s big and juicy or small with potential, there are many forms of blemishes, not limited to simply whiteheads and blackheads. Herewith, an examination of the different categories of pimples and their popping possibilities.


Pustules are your classic zit—typically large and red with a yellow-y, cloudy pus-filled asymmetrical center comprised of necrotic (dead) inflammatory cells.


  • Gooey Pustules: Big, full, juicy, and screaming to be fucked with.
  • Crusties: Pus-filled, yet dry on top, making it impossible to cover with makeup.
  • More-than-meets-the-eyes: For this special kind of pustule, plenty of pus oozes out of the head once it’s lanced, but then when pressure is applied, more cloudy pus erupts from some nether region, occasionally with an accompanying bursting sound.
  • Bleeders: Actually, most pustules will bleed if excessive squeezing is employed. The rule of thumb here is to stop squeezing as soon as blood begins to appear, or you’re in danger of scarring.

These suckers are ready to go. There are all kinds of recommendations given by experts, mostly involving a sterilized needle for lancing, and some tissues or Q-Tips for squeezing, to decrease contamination. Dr. Oz, however, suggests that the proper way to lance it would be to insert a needle into the head, horizontally, and then lift it up, ripping the head entirely. Here’s an instructional video:


Whiteheads differ from pustules in that they’re smaller and lack inflammation surrounding the pus. They occur when a pore gets blocked, trapping sebum (oily secretions), bacteria and dead skin to get trapped. The result is that little white bubble on the surface of the skin.


  • Overnighters: Whiteheads have a particularly quick life cycle, which is why sometimes you can go to bed with clear skin, and then wake up with an unexpected minefield.
  • Clear Audibles: These whitehead actually have a colorless pus and make a snapping sound when popped. Many times, they will appear in clusters.
  • Shooters: The kind that hit the mirror.

Some dermatologists will prescribe topical ointments that are perfect for dehydrating these types of spots. But what’s the fun in that?


Blackheads are essentially the same as whiteheads—trapped sebum, dead skin, and bacteria—except that the pore is only partially blocked. You’d think that the black spots were caused by dirt, but actually, that’s just what happens to the pus when it’s oxidized. Gross right?


  • Tubers: Squeezing these is much like squeezing a tube of toothpaste, with the pus compacted into a short cylindrical stream. Tubers have their own subset of categories that involve the circumference of the spot. Sometimes they will be rather wide, and when squeezed, leave something of a hole on the surface of the skin. Other times, they will be the size of pinpoints, barely noticeable to the human eye, unless you’re obsessing over your skin during extreme-closeups with your mirror.
  • White Squigglies: This is almost always—but not limited to—blackheads appearing on noses. When squeezed, they emerge as wiry, white squiggles.
  • Long Curly Qs, aka, Extreme White Squiggles: On those rare, but undeniably satisfying, occasions a seemingly routine blackhead will, upon squeezing, reveal itself to be a veritable geyser of a winding white stream.

For some, few activities are more engrossing than a search and destroy session in the bathroom mirror, looking for blackheads on the chin or nose. While squeezing with fingers works just fine in most cases, extractors are recommended to minimize the spread of bacteria all over the face, as well as the risk of bursting some blood vessels that would only make matters worse.


Papules are classified by being a red, solid elevated blemish with no signs of liquid. In many cases, they could be early-stage pustules, but sometimes, it’s another kind of irritation, like chickenpox or some kind of disease.
Do not fuck with a papule. You don’t really know what it is. Either wait until it comes to a head, or go see your doctor.


Rosacea can take many forms, but generally, it’s classified as a redness of the skin, affecting the T-zone area, mainly of women between 30 – 60. Also known as “gin blossoms” for it’s association with alcohol consumption, rosacea tends to pop up on heavy drinkers. Other causes include sun exposure, stress, wind, and varying temperatures.
While some types of rosacea can be accompanied by a rash of papules and pustules, it’s typical form is red splotches, of which there’s nothing to squeeze.


This is simply acne vulgaris that appears on the back. Depending on its severity, it can take many forms, from pustules and papules to whiteheads and blackheads, either in small numbers or large clusters.
Because of the difficulty of the location, extracting back blemishes is something of a team effort. Unfortunately for zit-popping enthusiasts, the glory of the pus is usually only witnessed by the helper. Be careful who you trust, though, as scarring is a large risk.


Again, depending on the person, the amount and types of acne on the chest varies among individuals. However, the most common forms—that are not acne vulgaris—are either tiny papules or tiny pustules.
Because chests are not exposed to the elements nearly as much as faces, the area can be quite sensitive. Trying to squeeze a pustule, however small, in this region can sometimes be painful.

Sebaceous Cysts

Caused by blocked sebaceous glands or hair follicles, sebaceous cysts are the motherload of pimples. Huge, round, and generally smooth, they contain fatty white material called sebum, which, upon extraction, tends to look like cottage cheese, or even cream cheese. Unless hereditary, sebaceous cysts are rare—think once-in-a-lifetime.
Technically, because they are so large, and because they are cysts, these should be removed surgically. A safe, non surgical method for removing sebaceous cysts involves coaxing out the wax-like material inside by melting it with hot compresses over a series of days. However, as evidenced on YouTube, many people try their own methods for dealing with sebaceous cysts, like knives. This could lead to scarring or infection.

Image via Faiz Zaki/Shutterstock.

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