What’s going on beneath your skin? Acne is a common skin condition that causes oily skin, spots, burning, irritation and pain. It arises when pores become blocked, and secretions, or sebum, build up in the skin. Different symptoms and types of spots may require different treatment, and it can be good to know which category your acne falls into.
Acne may affect the face, back and chest, though chest acne is less common. These are the six different types of spots acne can cause:
Whiteheads, or closed comedones: Small white or yellowish bumps on the surface of the skin. These clogged pores may be firm and won’t empty when squeezed.
Blackheads, or open comedones: Similar in appearance to whiteheads, blackheads are black or yellowish bumps on the skin. They are filled with excess oil and dead skin cells, not dirt as many believe. It is the pigmentation of the lining of the hair follicle that causes their dark colour.
Papules: Small red bumps that may feel tender or sore.
Pustules: Similar to papules but with a white tip due to a build-up of pus in the centre.
Nodules: Larger, often painful lumps that develop beneath the surface of the skin.
Cysts: Large boil-like lumps filled with pus. These have the highest risk of permanent scarring, especially if squeezed.
Mild acne consisting of mainly whiteheads and blackheads can often be treated with common topical benzoyl peroxide preparations, available through chemists/pharmacies without a prescription. Moderate to severe acne may require stronger medicines, given in certain combinations, in a specific order, to monitor results. Dr Fox recommends that anyone seeking acne treatment online first see a doctor, as it is important to rule out other non-acne causes of spots and rashes, as well as diagnose any hormonal disturbances or other conditions that may cause an increase in acne.
Acne treatments can be separated into the following categories:
- Topical benzoyl peroxide creams, lotions or gels
- Topical antibiotics
- Topical retinoids
- Combination topical treatments
- Antibiotic tablets
It may be necessary to try different treatments before you find one that works, and care must be taken in order to avoid using two treatments with the same active ingredients at the same time.
A doctor can help you determine the right plan of action depending on your case of acne. A standard treatment plan usually begins with a single component topical preparation, moving on to a dual component topical preparation before moving on to oral antibiotic tablets or retinoids in combination with a topical treatment.
See acne treatment plans from Dr Fox here.