Acne is a common condition that affects people of all ages. This skin condition appears due to clogged pores, manifesting in different severity ranges. Many people find acne annoying because it may damage their healthy skin and leave dark spots.
To prevent acne breakouts, you must know the different ways to properly care for your skin including acne treatments. Fortunately, we have written down a complete guide on effectively treating your skin for a more healthy and rejuvenating glow!
What is acne?
Acne is a skin condition that occurs when oil and dead skin cells clogging hair follicles. It typically appears as lumps on the skin surface. They also vary in size. Some are small, while the others can be large and cause breakouts.
Some pimples’ centres have holes, but it’s also possible for acne to be completely closed without any holes. Acnes that develop without holes usually take more time to recover.
In addition, acne can also grow and broaden across different areas of your skin. Some pimples may develop singularly, whereas other conditions may cause acne to spread and infect a wider skin surface area.
What causes acne to develop?
Acne develops due to oil, dead skin cells, and dirt accumulating on the pores. The bacteria from the three elements will lead to swollen and red pores, thus known as acne.
It’s also possible for pimples to get contaminated with white substances made up of bacteria and dead white blood cells, which is known as pus.
Acne development does not usually come on its own. Some factors can cause this condition, such as:
Some people are more likely to develop acne if their parents had acne during adolescence or adulthood. Human immunity to Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) or bacteria that cause acne will be determined by genetics, implying that acne breakouts may run in families.
Acne breakouts may occur due to hormonal fluctuations, particularly in women during their menstrual cycles. Acne is also common among teenagers as they enter puberty due to hormonal changes. Furthermore, some women reported acne breakouts during the premenopausal and menopausal stages.
Environmental issues such as air and water pollution may trigger acne breakouts. The germs contamination may cause the bacteria accumulation to get worse. This condition will lead people who live in an area with poor air and water quality to struggle with acne.
A poor diet of greasy and unhealthy fast-food meals is more likely to cause acne. Food intakes lacking vitamins and healthy fibres can increase skin oil production, thus making skin more prone to develop acne.
Can allergies cause acne?
Although there is no evidence that allergies cause acne, there are several cases where sensitivity to specific food or germs affects acne development. Your body can produce excessive antibodies to eliminate the allergen from foods or germs and exhibit pimples on your skin.
Acne symptoms can vary depending on the severity of it. These are the different types of acne that may present on the skin, according to Healthline:
Types of acne
- Blackheads: Blackheads are small bumps that emerge due to clogged hair follicles. They are the mild acne type and appear as black pits. This type of acne contains sebum and can grow on the face (e.g., chin and nose), back, and shoulders.
- Whitehead: Whitehead is acne that forms due to accumulating dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria inside the pores. Whiteheads look like tiny white lumps and will not cause inflammation to the skin.
- Papules: Papules appear as lumps with less than 1 centimetre around. This type of acne usually has distinct borders and can cause skin colour and texture changes.
- Pustules: Pustules are bumps on the skin surface that contain yellowish fluid called pus. Pustules are typically big pimples and may cause mild to moderate painful sensations.
- Fungal acne: Fungal acne is a yeast overgrowth inside hair follicles. This condition can develop due to excessive oil production that clogs the pores simultaneously with yeast and bacteria. In most cases, fungal acne appears as a cluster of tiny whiteheads.
- Nodules: Nodule acne looks like small bumps that emerge under the skin surface. This type of acne may appear similar to your skin tone or turn red as the infected area becomes inflamed. In addition, it’s common for nodules to be painful to touch.
- Cystic acne: This is the severe type of acne that develops underneath the skin surface. It is more common in people with oily skin and typically occurs due to a combination of bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells.
Acne severity level
Acne severity level defines the proper treatment for your acne issue. NHS has listed the following acne severity categories:
- Mild: Mild acne condition mostly consists of whiteheads and blackheads. At the same time, there are a few occurrences of papules and pustules appearing. This level is sufficient to treat by using acne gels or creams available over-the-counter.
- Moderate: Moderate acne level typically appears as widespread whiteheads and blackheads. This condition also causes many papules and pustules. It’s possible to treat moderate acne using over-the-counter (OTC) products, but you can accelerate the healing process by using prescribed medications.
- Severe: Severe acne condition primarily causes painful sensations, manifesting into large papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts. In addition, it’s common for people to experience inflammation caused by severe acne. It’s highly advisable to seek specialised treatments and medications from a professional to cure severe acne.
Types of acne scarring
In many cases, acne scarring is inevitable. Once the wounds heal, it’s common for acne breakouts to develop as scars. NCBI has listed the following types of acne scarring that occur depending on the skin condition:
Physical trauma triggers hypertrophic scars, leading to excessive collagen production to recover the scarring. As a result, this type of scar appears as thick and raised wounds on the skin surface.
Acne breakouts can form hypertrophic scars during the healing process. Another similar condition that could develop from inflamed skin is a keloid scar.
Dense fibrous tissues might develop into both hypertrophic and keloid scars. However, people can have keloids due to genetic factors in major circumstances. This factor is what differentiates hypertrophic and keloid scars.
Atrophic scars appear as indented skin surfaces due to wounds that heal below the normal skin layer. Acne scars can form atrophic scars when the skin tissues lack collagen during the healing process.
Several acne scarring types belong to the atrophic scar category. The said category distinguishes these types of depressed scarring based on the size (i.e., damage area), the depth of the wound, and the difficulty of removing it.
Here are the different types of blemishes identified as atrophic scars:
- Rolling acne scars: Shaped like pits with sloped slides, rolling acne scars are the type of scarring that is often shallower than other atrophic scars and relatively simple to heal. However, if not treated right away, rolling acne scars will leave a mark as these damages make the skin look wavy and uneven.
- Ice pick acne scars: It appears as narrow sunken pits and typically reaches deeper into the skin than other atrophic scars. Since it damages deeper layers of skin, removing them can be a challenge.
- Boxcar acne scars: These scars appear as oval or round depressed scars that resemble crater-like shapes. It is referred to as a “box” due to its defined edges and squarish form on the epidermis.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a discoloured acne scarring that occurs due to an increased melanin production during the skin inflammation healing process. PIH typically appears as dark spots that range from dark brown to a greyish-blue colour.
PIH is more common in darker skin tones (i.e., Fitzpatrick IV-VI). Patients who suffer from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and wish to resolve the issue will need a sequence of specialised topical and clinical treatments.
Post-inflammatory erythema (PIE) is an inflammation scar identified by its red or purple marks. This type of acne scar exhibits red or purple discolouration as the blood vessels on the skin surface are damaged.
PIE often occurs on lighter skin tones (i.e., Fitzpatrick I – III). Resolving PIE will need proper care and should not be confused with PIH treatments. PIE has its specialised methods; using PIH treatments can worsen the issue.
Do certain foods cause acne?
As mentioned before, diet may trigger acne formation. Certain kinds of food might stimulate an acne reaction. Hence, it’s highly recommendable to maintain a healthy diet by reducing or abstaining from these ingredients:
- Excessive sugars: Foods and beverages that contain excessive amounts of sugar have high glucose levels. When your body absorbs too much glucose, it will trigger an increase in insulin production; thus causing acne to develop.
- Dairy products: Consuming dairy products like cow’s milk, cheese, and yoghurt can stimulate the body to produce insulin-like hormones. This type of hormone is known for triggering acne breakouts.
- Greasy foods: Digesting greasy foods that contain excessive oil and salt can lead to the skin overproducing oil. Too much oil on the epidermis can clog the pores, and that causes acne breakouts to occur.
Misconceptions about acne
There are many misconceptions about acne management. Many people tend to get tricked by these myths on preventing and treating acne problems. We’re here to let you become aware of what these misunderstandings are.
Fortunately, you can save yourself from any unwanted negative effects by reading the common misconceptions about acne that we have listed below:
- It would be best if you washed your face more often. Frequently cleansing your face with a facial cleanser has become a common myth that is ineffective in treating acne breakouts—cleansing your face more than twice a day may strip your skin’s natural oil and dry out your skin.
- Toothpaste can treat acne. Dabbing toothpaste on acne breakouts will only irritate your skin. Toothpaste mostly contains acidic pH that is unsuitable for your skin. The ingredients may upset your skin and lead to rashes.
- It’s OK to pop your pimples. Popping your pimple could lead to inflammation and introduce germs into your acne. It’s highly advisable to strain from squeezing your zits as it may also lead to acne scars (e.g., ice pick scars, rolling scars, and boxcar scars) that are relatively difficult to heal.
- You need to harshly exfoliate your skin to get rid of acne. Using scrubs to exfoliate your face during acne breakouts will only harm your skin. Scrub products tend to be abrasive to your skin and cause inflammation in a worst-case scenario. Instead, opt for a mild face wash to clean your acne breakouts.
- Makeup causes acne. Makeup products will not irritate your skin as long as you’re using the right products. In addition, acne is more likely to develop if you forget to remove the makeup and clean your face before sleeping.
- Only people with oily skin can develop acne. While it’s true that oily skin is more prone to developing acne, it’s not true that acne will form on this skin type respectively. Other skin types such as normal and dry skins are also likely to develop acne if not being taken care of properly.
- Only teenagers have acne. It remains correct that acne is more common in teenagers. However, adults can also develop acne caused by various factors, such as hormone fluctuation, genetics, and the environment.
- Acne will go away on its own, so we don’t need to treat it. While this statement is partially true, treating acne can benefit you as soon as it emerges. By treating acne immediately, you can prevent the acne from becoming worse. In addition, you can also avoid the scars from forming since that is challenging to remove once it develops.
Topical acne treatments
Although a few skincare products claim to eliminate acne, in most cases, patients will be required to apply specialised topical acne medications in most cases.
The following list is the available topical acne treatments:
Benzoyl peroxide is available in both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription. This ingredient effectively combats acne due to its bactericidal and comedolytic properties. You can choose benzoyl peroxide that ranges from 2.5 – 10% concentration based on your acne severity.
Although benzoyl peroxide is proven to be effective in eliminating acne, there are some side effects that many people experience—the common effects include skin irritation, purging, and increased sensitivity to UV rays.
Protecting your skin from worsening these side effects will require you to apply sunscreen. By applying sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, you can also protect your skin from sun damage and hyperpigmentation.
In addition, side effects from benzoyl peroxide typically last for 8 – 10 weeks. If you see no improvements after 12 weeks, it’ll be best to consult with your medical aesthetics doctor.
Salicylic acid helps improve acne breakouts by shedding the dead skin cells, making the pores clean, and minimising inflammation. This ingredient is also effective in eliminating comedones, reducing oily skin, and relieving inflamed skin.
Salicylic acid is available in both over-the-counter (OTC) and by prescription. You can get 0.5 – 2% concentration without a prescription. However, if your acne breakouts are relatively severe, treatment with a higher concentration of salicylic acid can be prescribed for you.
It’s not uncommon for salicylic acid to have side effects. However, you can always consult with a medical aesthetics doctor if you experience any of these downsides:
- Dry skin
- Flaky skin
- Burning sensation
- Red and itchy skin
Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) works by cleansing clogged pores from dead skin cells, sebum, and bacteria. It is also effective in maintaining pores’ cleanliness, preventing further acne breakouts. The following list is the derivative from AHA ingredients:
- Citric acid
- Glycolic acid
- Lactic acid
- Hydroxycaproic acid
- Hydrocycaprylic acid
- Malic acid
- Tartaric acid
Glycolic acid and lactic acid are superior to topical acne treatments out of the seven derivatives. In addition, it usually takes 2 -3 months for you to notice the optimal results from AHA. Moreover, you will need to apply AHA consistently to quicken the healing process.
Topical antibiotics for acne work by restraining and eliminating the growth of P. acnes bacteria. However, you will need to consult with a professional to get topical antibiotics as this medication can have negative side effects if misused.
Your medical aesthetics doctor may prescribe you a specific type of antibiotics gels depending on your skin condition and acne severity. It’s common for them to use clindamycin, erythromycin, or tetracycline as acne treatments.
If your medical aesthetics doctor prescribed you topical antibiotics, you need to ensure that you use the medication appropriately and follow the instructions accordingly. Most importantly, you will be required to finish all the prescribed antibiotics to avoid antibiotic resistance.
In addition, using topical antibiotics might increase your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. It will be best to apply SPF to protect your skin from sun damages.
Azelaic acid was a treatment for hyperpigmentation acne scars treatment. However, its antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties can simultaneously heal hyperpigmentation and acne breakouts.
Azelaic acids are available in both prescription and over-the-counter products. You can get the prescribed products with 15 – 20% concentrations to get a more optimal result.
Using only azelaic acid can help you reduce acne. However, azelaic acid is proven to perform more effectively when combined with other ingredients, such as niacinamide or Vitamin C.
Like other topical treatments, specialists may advise you to apply SPF when using azelaic acid. Sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 can protect you from further damage caused by UV rays.
Retinoid contains vitamin A that is effective in treating mild to moderate acne. You may use retinoid creams to heal blackheads, whiteheads, and other types of acne that are relatively simple to heal.
This ingredient works by peeling the dead skin cells and stimulating new cell growth. Retinoid is also proven to cleanse the sebum on the skin surface and purify the clogged pores.
Although retinoid gives excellent results for acne, you can’t combine it with benzoyl peroxide. In addition, using retinoids may increase the sunburn risk. Thus it requires you to consistently apply SPF to avoid any damage caused by UV rays.
Several skincare products may be effective to treat your acne breakouts. However, you might want to consider using products specified for acne-prone skin types.
Additionally, it would help if you restrained yourself from using excessive products. Using too many products may cause adverse effects on your skin. Instead, you can use basic skincare products, such as micellar water, facial wash, toner, moisturiser, and sunscreen.
Clinical acne treatments
In some occurrences, topical acne treatments don’t give significant improvement. Moreover, the sequence of products might take a longer time to show the optimal results.
Patients who wish to heal their acne more effectively can opt for clinical acne treatments. Here is the list of clinical treatments that are proven to diminish acne and improve skin condition:
Laser treatment can be a solution to treat your acne breakouts. Typically, lasers work by delivering monochromatic light at various wavelengths. As a result, this method will eliminate the bacteria that causes acne formation.
Other than treating acne breakouts, laser treatment can also reduce the appearance of acne scars. Several types of scarring, such as discolouration (e.g., PIH and PIE) and atrophic scars (e.g., boxcar, ice pick, and rolling scars), can be effectively minimised by undergoing this procedure.
If you wish to undergo this treatment, you should choose Revlite Laser as it provides fast and effective results. Patients who undergo Revlite Laser also experience minimal discomfort with no downtime.
Although Revlite Laser treatment may effectively treat your acne breakouts as well as acne scars, patients will unlikely achieve an instant result. Your medical aesthetics doctor may recommend you to get four sessions with a two-week interval until you can notice the optimal effects.
Radiofrequency (RF) is a clinical procedure that delivers RF energy into deep skin layers. This treatment will shrink the oil glands that cause acne formation when treating acne breakouts.
If you suffer from stubborn acne and wish to undergo this procedure, you can choose AGNES radiofrequency treatment. With AGNES radiofrequency, patients may benefit as this method treats acne from its root.
Additionally, AGNES radiofrequency is a minimally invasive treatment with little to no downtime. However, patients will unlikely notice an immediate effect. Ideally, it will take up to 3 sessions until patients see a significant improvement in their skin condition.
Light-based therapy helps diminish acne breakouts. It’s also safe and convenient, leaving little to no negative side effects. Typically, there are three types of light therapy:
- Blue light therapy: Blue light therapy is the most common light therapy used to treat inflamed acne or pimples caused by bacterias. Blue light’s wavelength has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effects that effectively eliminate bacterias on pores.
- Red light therapy: Red light therapy works differently than blue light therapy. This type of therapy doesn’t have an anti-microbial effect like the former. However, red light therapy still has an anti-inflammatory effect, making it possible to promote breakouts healing and diminish scarring visibility.
- Sciton Broadband Light (BBL): BBL uses pulsed light with adjustable wavelengths. BBL promotes new skin cell growth and collagen production by heating the skin. As a result, patients may reduce the appearance of their uneven complexions caused by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and post-inflammatory erythema.
A chemical peel can be another clinical treatment for acne breakouts. This technique will involve acid-like solutions such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or retinoic acid application onto the skin epidermis.
Choosing a chemical peel method can effectively treat mild acne conditions and improve skin appearance simultaneously. However, the results are relatively short-term, and patients will need to repeat the treatment to maintain the optimal outcomes.
The extraction technique will involve a professional removing blackheads and whiteheads using specialised tools. This facial treatment can instantly remove the appearance of mild acne, but this type of extraction is inadvisable if you have inflamed acne.
The steroid injection method involves a medical aesthetics doctor administering steroids onto the skin surface. This procedure mostly treats severe acne such as nodular and cystic acne.
In many cases, patients who struggle with stubborn acne find the topical products not to be working. Fortunately, a steroid injection can be an effective solution to minimise persistent acne breakouts.
Oral acne medications
Moderate to severe acne may be challenging to remove despite using topical products and undergoing clinical treatments. Additionally, it’s often for moderate to severe acne to reoccur and lead to frustration.
If you experience moderate to severe acne breakouts, you shouldn’t be worried as there are still oral medications that may treat your skin condition. Generally, a doctor may prescribe you these medications to treat your acne from the inside:
Antibiotics will help in eliminating bacteria that cause acne formation. If we previously mentioned topical antibiotics, oral antibiotics will also help treat breakouts.
If you suffer from stubborn acne, your doctor may prescribe you these types of antibiotics:
However, you must be careful when consuming antibiotics. It’s highly recommended to follow your doctor’s instructions. Improper antibiotic consumption may lead to bacterial resistance and make acne breakouts worsen.
For many people, especially women, hormonal imbalance can cause stubborn acne. As a result, birth control containing estrogen and progestin may help balance hormones and treat persistent acne breakouts.
However, if you wish to consume oral contraceptives as acne medications, you need to pick the ones with both estrogen and progestin. Consuming birth control that only has one of the elements may cause your acne to worsen.
Although birth control might help eliminate acne breakouts for many people, this alternative may be unsuitable for people with several conditions. Web MD cited that taking birth control is not safe for the following people with these pre-existing conditions:
- Pregnant or attempting to conceive
- Under the age of puberty
- Over the age of 35 and a smoker
- Have a migraine history
- Have hypertension and vascular disease
- Have a history of heart disease
- Have a history of breast cancer, abnormal uterine bleeding, and liver disease
- Have a history of blood clots
Accutane or isotretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A, similar to retinoid. This oral medication is relatively safe to use as vitamin A is also naturally produced by the human body.
Many people who struggle with stubborn moderate to severe acne may take Accutane as an option. According to Web MD, this medication responds well in treating persistent breakouts that have failed other treatments.
Although Accutane is a powerful drug for curing stubborn acne, pregnant or trying to conceive might want to avoid consuming Accutane. You must take these precautions seriously as Accutane has a high risk of causing miscarriage and congenital disabilities.
Additionally, Accutane may cause several side effects, such as:
- Chapped lips
- Dry and itchy skin
- Eyelids and eyes irritation
- Joint and muscle pains
- Hair thinning
- Increased sensitivity to sun exposure
Due to its side effects, it’ll be good if everyone who wishes to consume Accutane consult a doctor first. Your doctor can guide you through the information regarding the drug and how to consume it safely.
After reading this article, we assume you have figured out the causes, types, scarring probabilities, and proper treatments for acne breakouts. Let’s have a brief recap of what we discussed!
Acne is a common skin condition that is caused by various factors. Acne breakouts also range from mild to severe levels. Thus each condition will need different treatment and proper care. It’s also possible for acne to lead to inflammation and scarring.
Fortunately, we got you covered with a wide range of available treatments. Please consult with our medical aesthetics doctor and determine the right treatments for your skin!