How to Get Rid Of Every Type of Acne10.11.2021
If you have acne and don’t feel clear skin, no matter how many creams, spot treatments, or moisturizers you use, it could be that you aren’t treating the right kind of acne. Most people associate acne with the red, angry spots that you see in commercials.
Acne is a broad term that can encompass many skin conditions and breakouts. Understanding the reasons we get acne is key to understanding the various types. Entiere Dermatology founder Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin MD, a board certified dermatologist, said that acne is caused by a disorder in the hair follicle (aka, the pore), and the sebaceous (aka, the oil gland) attached to it. Her explanation is that acne-prone skin has more oil, which causes dead skin cells in the pores to clog.
Dr. Levin says that the sebum and dead skin cells get trapped in the pores, creating an oxygen-deprived environment for P. Acnes, a naturally occurring bacteria. This bacteria lives in the hair follicles, multiplies quickly, and causes inflammation. This inflammation can lead to the acne we associate with the term.
Deanne Mraz Robinson MD, a board certified dermatologist, said that inflammatory acne is characterized by papules and pustules on the skin, nodules, and cysts. Non-inflammatory acne is also known as whiteheads or blackheads. Continue reading to find out what type of acne you have, and how to treat it.
Whiteheads and Blackheads
Dr. Robinson says that blackheads and whiteheads both form clogged pores. They are non-inflammatory and don’t cause swelling. There is a difference in the way the pores are open and closed. Dr. Levin explains that a whitehead is a thin skin layer covering the pore. This traps the plug under the surface. “The oil in the pores isn’t exposed oxygen so it stays white or yellowish. This is the natural color of sebum, dead white blood cells, or pus.”
Dr. Robinson explains that blackheads are clogged pores which are open at their surface. This means that the dead skin cells and sebum in the pores are exposed to the atmosphere. Its signature black color is due to the oxidation it experiences when it is exposed.
Salicylic acid can be used to get rid of blackheads and whiteheads. Dr. Robinson says that salicylic acid works by exfoliating the skin and removing dead skin cells. It also keeps pores clear and open. The Neogen Pore Zero Peeling Moousse ($30) works. The latest vegan version of the brand’s TikTok is viral Pore Tight Peeling Masque ($30).
Blackheads can be very responsive to chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid, because they are usually open. Sometimes whiteheads may require patience and more time, Dr. Robinson says. Dr. Robinson recommends that you use retinol if your whiteheads don’t change significantly after a few weeks. This is an effective treatment for removing dead skin cells.
- The Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform ($88) is a fan favorite. Sephora reviewers agree that it is well worth the money.
Inflammation can cause papules to appear as pink or red bumps. Dr. Robinson says that if the pores become clogged with skin cells and bacteria, it causes redness and swelling. You will often see red bumps on the skin’s surface that are painful and small.
Benzoyl peroxide, in addition to its ability to reduce skin swelling and kill bacteria, can also be used. Dr. Levin says that benzoyl peroxide can fight acne in many ways. It can also deliver oxygen to the pores. She explained that bacteria thrives in oily environments without oxygen. Therefore, benzoyl peroxide stops it from multiplying and causing more of them to grow.
American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), recommends that you use a benzoyl-peroxide-infused facial wash at least twice daily.
- CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser ($12) is an effective and affordable option that won’t dry the skin.
Dr. Robinson says that these acne lesions look a lot like a papule but contain pus. You’ll see a yellowish center around the lesion’s heads. These are the pimples you might want to pick at in order to remove the pus. Dr. Levin says it’s not a good idea. She advises against picking because it can make the problem worse and lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can last for months.
Treatment for pustules can be the same as those for papules but with a higher frequency. Use a chemical exfoliant or retinol at least once a week to treat pustules. You should alternate between them to avoid further irritation.
- Differin Gel ($13) is a good choice, even though not all retinoids work the same. It was created with tolerability and is therefore a great starter product for sensitive adult skin.
You can also make an appointment with your dermatologist for an in-office treatment of red and blue LED light therapy if you don’t see results with topical products. Dr. Robinson says that this treatment has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial benefits which decrease the bacteria element in acne.
Nodules, Cysts and Other
According to the AAD these inflammatory acne blemishes can penetrate deeply into the skin and cause permanent scarring. A dermatologist can prescribe oral medication to treat this type of acne if the treatment for pustules or papules fails to work. Dr. Robinson says, “I will prescribe oral isotretinoin (aka Accutane) to the right candidates.” Although the drug is controversial, it can be very beneficial for patients with this type of acne.
Dr. Levin suggests quick solutions to this type acne. These include corticosteroid injections to decrease inflammation and reduce pain. Also, extractions to remove inflamed or deep-rooted cysts.
These treatments are not the only options. Both dermatologists believe lifestyle changes can also help to reduce inflammation. Dr. Levin says that research and data show that diets with high glycemic levels (high blood sugar) can increase acne risk. This is due to hormones that are given to cows. It is important to manage stress. Dr. Robinson says that stress can cause cortisol levels to rise and trigger an inflammatory response. This causes acne to become more severe.
Although lifestyle changes are not a panacea for all, it is worth looking into if there are any improvements in acne.
Dr. Levin advises that you consult a doctor if you don’t see any improvement in your acne, or if you aren’t certain which type of acne is causing it. A board-certified dermatologist can help diagnose the type of acne and other inflammatory disorders such as rosacea, perioral dermatitis, which may look similar to acne. This diagnosis is different from acne and will require a different treatment.