Acne is a word that strikes fear in the hearts of women and men everywhere & is the most common skin complaint globally. None acne sufferers may not understand how much acne can affect one’s life, because it seems trivial. Although it is cosmetic and not life-threatening, people with chronic acne suffer a loss of self-esteem, it affects their quality of life, often leading them to take the most extraordinary (dangerous ) measures to get rid of it.
I know because I was one of them.
My goal with this post is to identify the different types 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 clogged, usually with oil or dead skin cells leading to bumps on your skin. Acne is more common among teenagers but is on the rise in adults due to pollution & stress adult-onset acne.
What Causes Acne?
All acne is a result of clogged pores from a variety of causes. Your age, genetics and lifestyle are responsible for the different types of acne.
The 4 main causes of acne are
- Excess production of oil (sebum)
- Hormonal imbalance
- Bacteria( P.acnes)
- Presence of dead skin cells
Your treatment depends on the type of acne you have.
The Types of Acne
There are 2 main categories of acne non –inflammatory acne and inflammatory acne.
Non- 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 causes a response which leads to acne breakouts.
Non –inflammatory Acne
Non-inflammatory acne is either blackheads or whiteheads usually without a swelling. Blackheads occur when the follicles are open while with closed follicles are whiteheads. Both blackheads and whiteheads 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 exfoliate with ingredients like salicylic acid, tea tree oil and Niacinamide or professional extractions
While sebum and dead skin cells contribute to inflammatory acne, the overgrowth of bacteria plays a role in clogging 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 the pores are destroyed from severe infection. They are small raised, closely clustered red painful bumps. Papules respond to topical drying agents like benzoyl peroxide, acne patches and topical antibiotics. Don’t ‘’pop’’ a papule because it may lead to scarring.
Pustules also form when the walls around your pores break down but are filled with pus and have an opening on the skin. This is 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 it with an acne patch or topical treatment
Inflammatory acne responds well to topical drying agents like Benzoyl Peroxide & salicylic acid
- The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
- NIP+FAB Salicylic Fix Concentrate Extreme 2%
- Paula’s Choice 2% BHA liquid
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
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 are 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 is the complete guide to exfoliation, my dermaplaning experience and understanding the acid mantle which plays a role in acne.
Say Good-Bye To Pimples
✅ Get the step by step guide on which products will work for your acne & why they work.
✅Discover the ingredients you must have in your routine (if you want results
✅Get actual product recommendations so you have a ready-made routine – no trial and error