That is a word that strikes fear in the hearts of women and men everywhere and is the most common skin complaint globally. For a none acne sufferer, it may seem vain or excessive for someone to feel so strongly about something that seems trivial. Because it is cosmetic and not life-threatening, however people with acne suffer a loss of self-esteem. In really bad cases affects their quality of life, often leading them to take the most extraordinary measures to get rid of it.
I know because I was one of them.
My goal with this post is to identify the different type and causes of acne to make it easier for you to identify and subsequently treat. That way you do not spend your money on products that will not work because of the type of acne that you have.
What is acne?
Acne occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells leading to the formation of bumps on your skin. Acne tends to be most common among teenagers but recently due to pollution and stress adult-onset acne has become more common.
Causes of acne?
All acne occurs due to clogged pores irrespective of the cause. Age and genetics are responsible for the different types of acne and may be due to the following
- Excess production of oil (sebum)
- Hormonal imbalance
- Bacteria( P.acnes)
- Presence of dead skin cells
To get the best treatment it is important to identify what type of acne you have.
Types of acne
There are 2 main categories of acne non –inflammatory acne and inflammatory acne. None inflammatory acne is caused by a blockage in your hair follicles from dead skin cells and sebum. While inflammatory acne occurs from P. Acnes infecting your hair follicles, which in turn causes a response from the body that can lead to acne breakouts.
Non –inflammatory acne
Non-inflammatory acne is either blackheads or whiteheads and does not normally don’t cause swelling. When the follicle is open they are called blackheads while closed follicles are whiteheads. Both blackheads and whiteheads tend to respond well to over-the-counter (OTC) treatments like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoid or sulphur.
How to treat blackheads
Apply a mask with ingredients like kaolin clay, charcoal, sulphur or salicylic acid
How to treat whiteheads
Apply a mask or on exfoliate with ingredients like salicylic acid, tea tree oil and Niacinamide or professional extractions
Although sebum and dead skin cells contribute to inflammatory acne, the overgrowth of bacteria plays a role in clogging up pores. This leads to infections deep beneath the skin’s surface which tends to be painful and difficult to treat.
There are four types of inflammatory acne: papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.
Papules occur when the walls around your down from severe inflammation from the bacteria. They are usually small raised, red painful bumps and are often clustered together. Papules respond well to topical drying agents like benzoyl peroxide, acne patches and topical antibiotics. Do not try to ‘’pop’’ a papule because it will likely lead to scaring since it doesn’t have an opening.
Pustules also form when the walls around your pores break down but are filled with pus and have an opening on the skin. This a pimple you can pop as long as you do it properly because it is filled with pus and have a clear opening scaring is unlikely. Otherwise, leave it alone or cover with an acne patch or topical treatment
Inflammatory acne responds well to topical drying agents like
- Benzoyl Peroxide
- Salicylic acid
- Retinols- Retin-A, Differin, Adapalene gel
- Peter Thomas Roth sulphur mask
- Dr Dennis Gross Clarifying Colloidal Sulphur Mask
- Sunday Riley Saturn Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask
- Topical antibiotics –clindamycin
Severe inflammatory acne
Nodules are a more severe form of acne with hard, painful, inflamed swelling located deep under the skin. They are like larger deeper papules and can cause complications like dark spots and scarring.
These should not be treated at home because of their size and the severity and require prescription medication.
Cysts pus-filled large, soft, painful, swelling deep under the skin. They are located deeper than nodules and are the most severe type of acne blemish. Because of their size and severity cysts often lead to scarring.
Treatment of severe can should not be attempted at home to reduce the likelihood of complications like scaring. The treatment options include
- Antibiotics, such as tetracycline, doxycycline, and amoxicillin
- Oral contraceptives for hormonal-related acne
- Chemical peels targeted to acne-prone skin (Salicylic acid, retinol )
- Topical and oral steroids
- LED therapy to combat bacteria
- Oral retinoid, like isotretinoin form of vitamin A this has severe side effects and should be the last resort.
- Loss of self-esteem
To learn more about my experience with having a chemical peel so check out the post on my chemical peel experience in Abuja, which is a great treatment for acne. Another set of posts which you may enjoy are the complete guide to exfoliation, my dermaplaning experience and understanding the acid mantle which plays a role in acne. If this was helpful please share on social media and subscribe below.