There are several different types of acne and not all have the same approach to treat. This article explore what the differenced are and how you should go about treating them
Acne can appear in a number of different forms, each with their own symptoms and appearance. They can also be separated into two types – inflammatory and noninflammatory acne. Each type of acne has different treatments too, so it’s essential that you know what you are dealing with.
What Type Of Acne Do I Have, And How Can I Treat It?
Acne affects approximately 80% of young adults – Using the US as a classic example there are around 40-50 million Americans (1) suffering with acne at any given time.
Common forms of acne can be recognised as:
- Pimples ( Also referred to as Pustules)
Depending on the type that you have, your treatment could vary. Its absolutely essential to identify and then use the correct treatment for your type of acne (2).
Doing so can reduce the risk of longer term complications, scarring and dark spots.
Blemishes can usually be associated with one of two categories, this is determined by wether they cause the surrounding skin to become inflamed.
Let’s look at the types and their relative differences.
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The most common forms of noninflammatory acne are whiteheads and blackheads. They are very unlikely to cause any inflammation or become painful. Common areas are the face and forehead.
The correct term for these are Closed Comedones.
Usually white in colour (but can be skin coloured too). The centre is usually white with a reddish coloured halo surrounding it. They can ocassionaly be found with a hair coming out of the centre and sometimes appearing to be trapped within a larger blemish.
They are caused when dirt, oil and bacteria becomes trapped inside a closed pore or hair follicle.
The skin surrounding a whitehead may often be tight or wrinkled, especially in the case of larger cases. The good news is that whiteheads do not generally cause any scarring.
AKA Open Comedones, these appear as smallish black or dark brown coloured spots, usually around the nose and chin. They sometimes having a slightly raised appearance.
The surrounding skin is usually normal and its quite normal for the centre of the blackhead to appear darker than the edges.
The black colour does not come from dirt, its the trapped oil and bacteria that has been oxidised as it gets near to the open surface of the skin
How To Treat Noninflammatory Acne
Cases of non inflammatory acne tend to respond well to over the counter treatments including creams, toners, gels and moisturisers.
The following ingredients are known to be effective in the treatment of blackheads and whiteheads.
- Salicylic acid
- Benzoyl Peroxide – With this, use sparingly as it can really dry the skin, cause irritation and also will stain clothing.
Some lifestyle changes can also help, try to do the following –
- Wash the face with lukewarm water and soap twice a day
- Wash the entire body every 2 days
- Eat a sensible diet, ditching ready meals, fast food and those high in sugar
- Drink lots of water
- Don’t over expose the sun to the sun
- Wear a good quality sunscreen.
One thing to stress, you should never pop or squeeze these kinds of blemishes.
Doing so can make the situation worse and cause Cysts, Scarring, Nodules, Pitting and Skin Discolouration.
Inflammatory Types Of Acne
Acne blemishes that cause inflammation include:
They vary in severity
Mild forms Of Inflammatory Acne
These can be identified as bumps under the skins surface. usually solid to the touch, pinkie colour and raised. Usually the surrounding skin is red and slightly swollen
Papules do not have a visible centre ( like whiteheads) and they do not have the widened appearance associated with blackheads
They develop when black or whiteheads became irritated, affecting the surrounding skin ultimately causing inflammation and swelling.
( aka pimples) – Large tender bumps with clearly visible circular centre.
The centre is filled with a yellow or white pus cause by a collection of immune cells and bacteria. The base of the bump has a red or pink base.
Typically Pustules look like a larger, inflamed version of a whitehead. These are most commonly found on the chest and back.
Treating Mild Forms Of Inflammatory Acne
You can use some over the counter treatments to try and reduce the appearance of this type of acne.
Using products with benzoyl peroxide can be quite effective but as we mentioned above just use with care.
It can be very harsh on the skin, causing extreme dryness and it can also stain your clothes.
You can also try:
Washing the infected area with cool water and soap, making sure that your hands are very clean. An alternative is to wash gently using a clean facecloth twice a day.
Apply a warm cloth or compress to the skin, you can buy these in pharmacies and they can help draw infected, trapped skin cells, dirt and oil to the surface.
Use a product contains Salicylic acid to help remove dead skin cells and trapped dirt.
Moderate and Severe Forms Of Inflammatory Acne
These are hard, inflamed and painful lumps that are located deep into the skin. the look like larger papule but have no visible centre.
They develop when the skins cells and tissues become damaged by clogged pores deep beneath the surface.
They are a severe form of acne , and are known to cause scarring and/or discolouration.
Very large painful lumps that are soft to the touch.
They are usually white or red in colour and are filled with pus.
They tend develop far deeper into the skin than nodules, and are regretfully the MOST Severe type of acne breakout.
Cysts can cause skin complications including acne scarring.
Treating Moderate to Severe Forms Of Inflammatory Acne
It’s very unlikely that you can successfully treat these types of severe breakouts at home, you will probably need to seek the assistance of a consultant dermatologist or other specialist doctor.
They can provide a number of treatments (3) that include:
- Topical corticosteroids
- Antibiotics including doxycycline, amoxicillin and tetracycline
- Oral Contraceptives
- Steroid Injections
- Systemic Retinoids such as isotretinoin
- Chemical Peels
- Photodynamic Therapy
- Clinical drainage of large cysts