2 Primary Forms of Acne and How to Treat Them

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We have pretty much all dealt with an acne outbreak at some point.  The severity and quantity of these breakouts can vary from one person to the next, but everyone knows the feeling of an unwanted blemish (or several).  Most will reach for specialized skin treatments, using a facial cleanser marketed for acne-prone skin, a spot-correcting treatment, or even a home remedy like toothpaste.  The problem with such products, however, is that the type of acne and how it should be treated can be just as individual as the person who has it.  There really is no simple cure-all for acne.  Instead, it’s important to first understand which type of breakout you are experiencing.

Identifying and Treating Non-Inflammatory Acne

Non-inflammatory acne is distinguished by breakouts that are not accompanied by swelling.  Instead, these blemishes occur when pores become clogged by oil and dead skin cells.  In some cases, the pores will close, and a bump will form at the surface.  These are commonly known as whiteheads.  In others, the pore is clogged but remains open at the top where oxygenation gives it the darker color associated with blackheads.

Because, non-inflammatory acne such as whiteheads and blackheads occur as a result of clogged pores, it can respond quite well to topical treatments and specially-formulated cleansers.  For patients who deal with these types of breakouts regularly, it is important to look for skincare and beauty products labeled as “non-comedogenic,” meaning they won’t clog pores.  Products containing salicylic acid, a natural exfoliator, are also useful for cleaning deep into pores and preventing future buildup.

Identifying and Treating Inflammatory Acne

While non-inflammatory acne can be bothersome, it can also be relatively mild and simple to treat when compared to inflammatory forms.  These types of breakouts are exacerbated by the presence of bacteria, making them swollen, red, and often hard and painful to the touch.  Inflammatory breakouts can appear as any of the following:

Papules – Papules are small, raised pimples that do not contain pus and are typically red and surrounded by swollen tissue.

Pustules – Pustules differ from papules in that they contain pus as a result of white blood cells attempting to fight off the bacterial infection in the pore.

Nodules – Nodules occur in the later stages as an infection progresses.  These are more deeply rooted than papules or pustules and present under the skin’s surface as hard bumps that are tender to the touch.

Cysts – The most severe stage of inflammatory acne is the development of cysts.  Like nodules, cysts form beneath the skin’s surface but at an even deeper level.  They typically appear as swollen, red lumps and are almost always painful.  Cystic acne is less prevalent than other forms, but it is also the most difficult to treat.

Unlike non-inflammatory acne, inflammatory forms usually require care beyond over-the-counter products.  In the case of papules and pustules, a dermatologist may prescribe an oral antibiotic and topical benzoyl-peroxide or retinoid treatments.  For those with more severe nodules or cystic acne, treatment may move beyond these stages and a prescription for isotretinoin, commonly known as Accutane, may be given.

Acne can be frustrating, particularly when it is difficult to treat.  The key to ridding your skin of breakouts is to first understand the exact form of acne you are dealing with.  From there, you and your dermatologist can develop a treatment regimen that attacks acne based on its root cause. 

For patients in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas, contact Dermasurgery Center and request an appointment.  Our practitioners will examine your skin, give you skincare recommendations, and prescribe any necessary ointments or medications to restore your skin to a smooth, healthy state.