Depending on the type of acne and how many acne lesions you have, acne can be categorised as being either mild, moderate or severe. These groupings are sometimes used by medical professionals to determine what type of treatments are likely to work. They can also be helpful in enabling people to understand and manage their acne.
There are no set definitions as to what exactly counts as mild, moderate or severe acne. However, the descriptions below serve as a general guide. Please note that this is just one method of classifying acne. When deciding whether you think you have mild, moderate or severe acne you should also consider how long you have had acne; whether or not your acne leaves scars; how many different treatments you have tried that have not been successful; and if and how your acne is impacting on your mental and emotional well-being. These factors are also extremely important in determining acne severity.
Please note that the use of the word ‘lesion’, both on this page and on this site more generally, is used to refer to any kind of acne blemish or spot. This includes blackheads, whiteheads, papules and pustules (inflamed acne spots), acne cysts and acne nodules (large, inflamed acne spots). For more information on the different types of acne visit our ‘Acne Types’ page.
Mild acne is described as having 20 or fewer blackheads or whiteheads; 15 or fewer inflamed acne lesions; or having 30 or fewer acne lesions in total.
Moderate acne is described as having between 20 to 100 blackheads or whiteheads; 15 to 50 inflamed acne lesions; or having between 30 to 125 acne lesions in total.
Severe acne is described as having more than 5 acne cysts or nodules; more than 100 blackheads or whiteheads; more than 50 inflamed acne lesions; or having more than 125 acne lesions in total.