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Acne: Types and Treatments

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

treat acne

Although cases of acne may be mostly closely associated with adolescence, acne is a skin condition that can occur at any age, and may be triggered or worsened by a number of different factors, including stress, changing hormone levels, skin care products, naturally oily skin, and even outdoor humidity.

Individuals with acne may suffer from emotional distress such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and even depression. Fortunately, a number of treatment options are available to control and even eliminate acne, improving your self-confidence and your overall quality of life. Read on to learn more about the different types of acne that can develop on your skin, as well as treatment options you and your (acne doctor) may want to consider.

Common Types of Acne

Not all cases of acne are the same—and the type of acne you develop can determine the best approach to treatment.

Common types of acne include:

  • Blackheads: These blackened bumps mark follicles that have become clogged with dead skin and oil.

  • Whiteheads: Although whiteheads are clogged with dead skin and oils similar to blackheads, these whiteheads have resulted in a fully. closed follicle that creates a bump on the skin.

  • Papules: One of the earliest (stages of a pimple), papules are small bumps, typically pink or red, that represent a whitehead that has become inflamed.

  • Pustule: This is the common pimple, with a white head containing pus, and red inflammation surrounding it. Pustules can develop in lesions that look like a common variety of acne, and these pustules carry a risk of skin scarring if scratched at or irritated.

  • Nodule: These are hard, large pimples that have penetrated deeper into your skin. They're likely very inflamed and sensitive to the touch, and will be larger than a typical pustule.

  • Cyst: Large cysts are filled with pus, can be hard to the touch, and can cause scarring. It's best to have cysts drained by a skincare doctor.

  • Fungal acne: Lesions of red, inflamed follicles are sometimes caused by yeast that infects the follicles.

The Difference Between Acne and Pimples

While pimples are a by-product of acne, the key difference between these two conditions is that acne is an underlying disease, and pimples are a symptom of acne. In addition, pimples can develop on their own even when a person doesn't have an acne condition.

While you can treat (pimples on your forehead), for example, eliminating individual pimples likely won't improve the condition of your acne. But if you do have acne, effective acne treatments can get rid of the underlying acne, which will also rid your skin of its pimples.

When Does Acne Stop?

Because the causes and complicating factors of acne are unique to each individual, there's no standardized time in your life when acne will go away on its own. Typically, acne is most likely to develop around the start of puberty between 10 and 13 years of age, and while treatments may be necessary to control the condition and eliminate pimples and skin inflammation, many cases of adolescent acne are resolved by the time you reach your early twenties.

Keep in mind, however, that this may not be the case for everyone. Stress and other acne triggers could cause acne to last longer than normal, and they could even trigger new cases of acne in adulthood—even if you didn't deal with acne as a child.

With an acute case of acne, effective treatment can help you alleviate or even resolve your acne condition within weeks. For this reason, it's helpful to consult with a dermatologist as soon as acne develops, giving you a head start on treating and eliminating this condition before it gets out of control.

Treatment Options for Acne

When acne develops, you don't have to deal with the condition's physical and emotional discomfort on your own. A number of treatment options can help you quickly address acne, including:

  • Retinoids to prevent clogged follicles. While retinoids dry out your skin by reducing the oil sitting on your skin and in your pores, retinoids can also increase sun sensitivity. They can also trigger (acne purging), a process where the skin responds to topical treatments by sloughing off skin and making the acne look even worse than before—although the effects of this purging are only temporary.

  • Antibiotics. In addition to (topical antibiotics for acne), your skin doctor may also recommend oral antibiotics if you have moderate to severe acne.

  • Dapsone. This topical gel may be particularly beneficial to women struggling with acne.

  • Salicylic acid. Although the benefits of this active ingredient may be limited, it is a common ingredient found in (acne lotion).

  • Chemical peels. While this may offer visible improvement for mild cases of acne, these peels typically don't produce long-lasting results.

  • Light therapy. Certain uses of light therapy have proven effective in treating acne, although the results have been mixed and success may depend on a number of factors, including your amount of light exposure during treatment.

Keep in mind that these therapies aren't exhaustive, and most require the approval of a dermatologist to seek out these treatments. If you're struggling with acne, you don't have to suffer alone. Schedule a meeting with a skin doctor to evaluate your skin condition and find the treatment option that works for you.

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