Clear Skin Ahead: Navigating Acne

Acne impacts millions of people worldwide — from teenagers to adults, it’s one of the most common skin conditions. 

Acne impacts millions of people worldwide — from teenagers to adults, it’s one of the most common skin conditions. 

As you likely know acne is characterized by the appearance of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and deeper lumps (such as cysts or nodules) that occur on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, and upper arms. Unless you’ve been supremely lucky, chances are you’ve dealt with some variant of the skin condition.  Still, not all acne is created equal — each kind has different types and treatments. 

Understanding the types of acne, their causes, and effective treatments can help manage existing breakouts and negate new ones. 

The Types of Acne

Acne is generally classified into two main types: non-inflammatory and inflammatory.

Non-inflammatory acne is the more mild type. It includes blackheads and whiteheads. Blackheads appear as small, dark spots on the skin. They’re the result of pores clogged with a mix of sebum (the oil your skin produces) and dead skin cells. The dark appearance isn’t due to dirt but to the oxidation of the sebum and skin cells when they’re exposed to air.

Whiteheads form when pores get clogged completely by sebum and dead skin cells, creating small, flesh-colored or white bumps. Since the clogged pore is closed, the contents do not oxidize, remaining lighter in color.

Typically non-inflammatory acne can be managed and treated in-office by a dermatologist and at-home with topical treatments. 

Inflammatory acne, on the other hand, is more severe and occurs when the clogged pores become infected with bacteria, leading to inflammation. This type can be more painful and has a higher risk of scarring.

It includes papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts: 

Papules: Small, red, raised bumps caused by infected hair follicles.

Pustules: Similar to papules, but filled with pus.

Nodules: Solid, often painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin.

Cysts: Large, pus-filled lesions that are typically painful and can cause scarring.

Causes of Acne

Unfortunately, there isn’t just one identifiable cause of acne: Oftentimes, it’s a multitude of factors including a mix of lifestyle and genetics. Below are just a few: 

Excess Oil Production: Overactive sebaceous glands produce excessive sebum, leading to clogged pores.

Dead Skin Cells: Accumulation on the skin surface can clog pores.

Bacteria: Bacteria can get trapped in clogged pores, leading to inflammation.

Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations during puberty, pregnancy, and certain medical conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can increase oil production. This is why acne is so common in teenagers. 

Diet: Some research suggests that certain foods might exacerbate acne.

Stress: Stress does not directly cause acne, but it can worsen existing conditions.

Treatments for Acne

Treatment options vary depending on the severity and type of acne. Effective management often involves a combination of topical treatments, oral medications, lifestyle changes, and dermatologist care. 

Topical treatments are often the first course of action to treat acne. Topical treatments can be creams, serums, cleansers, and the like; they include ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids. 

Benzoyl Peroxide: Kills bacteria, removes excess oil, and exfoliates dead skin cells.

Salicylic Acid: Helps break down blackheads and whiteheads and reduces inflammation.

Retinoids: Derivatives of Vitamin A that increase cell turnover and prevent clogging of hair follicles.

While milder treatments can be purchased over the counter, there are stronger options a dermatologist can prescribe.  

Oral Medications are used for more advanced acne. Antibiotics such as tetracycline and minocycline help reduce bacteria and fight inflammation. Additionally, oral contraceptives or anti-androgens are often effective in women experiencing acne linked to hormonal imbalances.

As a last resort, isotretinoin — a powerful drug used in severe cases of acne that have not responded to other treatments — may be prescribed. 

In-office treatments like chemical peels, LED light therapy, and facial extractions are common ways we address patients with acne. 

Chemical Peels remove the top layer of skin, which includes dead skin cells that could clog pores. Light Therapy targets bacteria and reduces skin inflammation, and extracting blackheads and whiteheads clear blockages.

Understanding acne and the variety of treatment options available can empower and help you to find treatment plans that address your specific skin needs. If you or a loved one is ready to change their skin and take the next step in their acne management, give us a call: (208) 888-0660.

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