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Types of Acne and Acne Treatments

There are several different types of acne that plague us at some stage of our lives. From the very young to the mature skin types, acne can be a painful and debilitating disorder of the skin. Let's take a look at the different forms of acne and how that can be treated and managed. 

Acne types

I have a "breakout”, a term most commonly used to describe all forms of acne. This is not an accurate description of what acne is as not all forms spread across the skin.

Clogged pores most commonly cause acne, and these may be attributed to:

  • excess oil production (sebum)

  • bacteria

  • hormones

  • dead skin cells

  • ingrown hairs

Acne is associated with hormonal fluctuations within the body and is mostly experienced during the teenage years, but adults can experience acne, too. It is becoming more common for mature skins both males and females to experience adult acne.

Determining which type of acne, you’re experiencing is key to successfully treating and managing acne.

There are two types: -

  • Noninflammatory

  • Inflammatory

The categories of these two types of acne are listed below:

  • open comedones (blackheads)

  • closed comedones (whiteheads)

  • papules

  • pustules

  • nodules

  • cysts

Unfortunately, some skins present with multiple types of acne.

Noninflammatory acne skin types include blackheads and whiteheads. There is generally no inflation and swelling. This acne skin type responds well to gentle exfoliation treatments and home care that consist of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Salicylic acid is the preferred acid for treating noninflammatory acne. It gently exfoliates the skin, removing traces of dead skin cells that block the pores of the skin that leads to blackheads and whiteheads.

Blackheads (open comedones)

Blackheads is a combination of sebum and dead skin cells, blocking the pores of the skin. The pore stays open, resulting in the black colour seen on the surface.

Whiteheads (closed comedones)

Whiteheads form when a pore gets clogged by sebum and dead skin cells. The top of the pore is closed over and looks like a small bump protruding from the skin.

Whiteheads are difficult to treat because the pores are closed over. Topical retinoids and Salicylic acids are best used when treating comedonal acne.

Inflammatory acne

Pimples and pustules that are red and swollen are referred to as inflammatory acne.

Sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria can also play a role in clogging up pores in inflammatory acne skin conditions. Bacterial infections deep beneath the skin’s surface result in painful hard acne spots, often referred to as cystic acne and are extremely hard to get rid of.

Topical retinoids are best when combatting inflammatory papules and pustules and cystic acne. 

Papules Papules are severe inflammation in the surrounding tissue of your pores that is hard, clogged and tender to the touch. The skin around these pores is usually pink.  Pustules Pustules are pores filled with pus and peptides from the skin. They often have yellow or whiteheads on top with the surrounding tissue being pink or red in colour. Nodules Nodules are deep under the skin and grow larger due to irritation. Nodules are so deep under the skin; a prescription medication is necessary to clear them up. Cysts Cysts are deeper than nodules and are a combination of bacteria, sebum, and dead skin cells and are painful to the touch. Cysts are white or red in colour and are the largest form of acne. Cystic acne is also the most likely to scar. The severity of each type of acne? The mildest forms of acne are blackheads and whiteheads. These forms can be treated with topical exfoliators and oral medications. Comedones respond well to topical retinoids and Salicylic based ingredients. The more moderate forms of acne are pustules and papules. These types of acne will benefit from regular cleansing and antibacterial and anti-inflammatory treatments using enzymes, glycolic and Salicylic acid and LED light therapy. Homecare should consist of a gentle AHA cleanser and spot treatment. The most severe form of acne is nodules and cysts. Mostly untreatable a dermatologist is recommended. Treatments can consist of enzyme and Salicylic acids, with topical retinoids. Picking or popping nodules and cysts lead to scars and damage to the skin. Treating acne takes time and it is important to be patient, follow the advice of your clinician and do the proper home care protocol.



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