Types of Acne and How to Treat Them

About Face

When your skin breaks out, it makes you want to put a bag over your head, hide behind your hair, or stay home and watch Netflix. Even if not noticeable to others, that little pimple is all that you see when you look at yourself in the mirror. Acne can affect your self-esteem and mental well-being. But what are some of the different types of acne, and what can you do about them?

woman applying acne cream to her pimples

Cystic Acne

One of the most serious and hard-to-treat forms of acne is known as cystic acne. As the name suggests, this is when large, red, painful cysts form below the surface of the skin. It is the result of an infection from bacteria, dry skin cells, and oil clogging your pores and is common in those with hormonal imbalances. Although this type of acne may lessen as you age, it can also be treated with medication prescribed by a doctor, but it may require more than one medication. Some doctors also suggest steroid injections. Cystic acne is very prone to scarring, so avoid picking at it.

Fungal Acne

Fungal acne is caused by yeast, which is a fungus, and results in a series of small, uniformly sized pimples, as well as skin irritation and often itching. It affects the hair follicles and may appear after taking certain medications, wearing tight or wet clothes, having a suppressed immune system, changing your diet, or spending time in warm climates. The best way to treat fungal acne is by removing the acne-causing yeast from the surface of your skin. There are both over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help, but you can also fight fungal acne by showering frequently, especially after sweating; wearing loose-fitting clothing that doesn’t rub the skin and allows it to breathe; or washing your skin with a dandruff shampoo.

Noninflammatory Acne

You’ll most likely not make it through life without experiencing blackheads and whiteheads. But luckily, these forms of acne are among the easiest to treat. Both blackheads and whiteheads fit under the category of noninflammatory acne, meaning that these pimples don’t tend to swell. They are caused by the pores getting clogged by oil and other substances secreted by the skin along with dead skin cells and bacteria. Blackheads and whiteheads are usually treated with medications or cleansers made with salicylic acid, or a topical retinoid. In more severe cases, oral medications prescribed by a doctor, laser treatments, chemical peels, or microdermabrasion may be used.

Inflammatory Acne

Inflammatory acne is red and swollen and frequently results from the pores getting clogged by bacteria, in addition to the usual dead skin cells and oil. Types of inflammatory acne include papules, pustules, and nodules, as well as the cysts discussed above. Papules occur when the clogged pore breaks down, releasing the bacteria and other foreign particles into the surrounding area, thus causing inflamed lesions that appear as small, red, and sometimes painful bumps on the skin. Pustules are similar to papules except that, as the name implies, they contain pus and have white centers on the skin’s surface. In the case of nodules, the bacteria inside the clogged pore causes an infection deep within the skin, resulting in large and tender bumps. Inflammatory acne is best treated with medication – either topical or oral treatments (such as benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, or birth control pills containing both estrogen and progesterone), depending on the type and severity of the acne.

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