Acne is a very common skin condition caused by blockages of hair follicles by dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil. While it can affect anybody, it is most common in adolescents. Acne falls into two broad categories: non-inflammatory and inflammatory. Non-inflammatory acne does not cause inflammation or swelling of the skin, and it includes the mildest types. People can usually treat non-inflammatory acne on their own with over-the-counter products. If such treatments don’t work after six to eight weeks, it’s time to see a dermatologist. Different types of acne need different treatments.
Inflammatory acne does cause swelling and inflammation of the skin, and it can be a lot more serious than non-inflammatory acne. Patients with the more severe types of acne, such as cystic acne, should always see a dermatologist.
How is Acne Treated?
There are many treatments for acne. The dermatologist will recommend a treatment based on the type of acne and its severity. A patient with non-inflammatory acne consisting of whiteheads and blackheads can try an over-the-counter retinoid to unclog their pores. They should also use a benzoyl peroxide to kill the excess bacteria that can cause acne. If the over-the-counter medication doesn’t work, the patient should see their dermatologist to get a stronger medication. The dermatologist may also extract the comedones (blackheads and whiteheads).
The patient can also try over-the-counter drugs to treat the milder types of inflammatory acne, papules, and pustules (pimples). They can use products containing salicylic acid to unclog their pores and products containing benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria. Again, the patient should see a dermatologist if they haven’t gotten better after several weeks of treatment.
Nodular and cystic acne are the most severe types of acne and should always be treated by a dermatologist. The doctor may recommend oral antibiotics like tetracycline to kill the bacteria. In many cases, they will pair the antibiotic with benzoyl peroxide or a topical retinoid to reduce the risk of the bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotic.
Drainage and extraction are sometimes described as “acne surgery.” In drainage, the dermatologist places two iodine crystals in the middle of a large, pus-filled cyst. Over time, the cyst dries out and becomes a hard and brown mass. The dermatologist can then surgically remove it. While drainage is generally an inexpensive method, it takes time, and most patients prefer something quicker. It also the disadvantage of requiring a lot of follow-up visits so the dermatologist can check the cyst.
There are many different types of acne, and trying to figure out which one you’re dealing with and/or how to treat it can be a daunting task. Don’t try to do it alone, visit the dermatologists at Atomic Dermatology to get a comprehensive treatment plan. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation!