Acne can be frustrating, embarrassing and impact how you feel in your skin. Depending on the severity of your acne, treatments will differ.
How should you treat acne?
Never pick, pop, poke or squeeze acne. It may increase the inflammatory response and create scars. Below are highlights of treatment options.
Gels or creams can be applied on the skin that kill bacteria or reduce oil.
For mild-to-moderate acne:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) products that contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, retinoid, salicylic acid, or sulfur may help.
- Another OTC is green tea lotion, which can combat some of the genetics related to acne. A natural anti-oxidant, green tea protects the skin against inflammation caused by sunlight and other sources and reduces the inflammatory response to bacteria caused by some hormones.
- Prescription-strength products such as antimicrobial, retinoid (vitamin A), prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic, or even salicylic acid creams can treat mild to moderately severe acne. These can be prescribed alone or in combination with other ingredients.
Oral acne medication targets bacteria and reduces inflammation. Options for moderate-to-severe acne include:
- Antibiotics (helps to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation)
- Birth control pills and other medicines that work on hormones, sometimes reduce can acne in women (testosterone or estrogen blockers)
- High-dose prescription vitamin A, called isotretinoin (usually for severe cystic acne)
Laser and Light Therapies
Other options for acne are laser and light treatments. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, no one laser or light treatment can treat pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, acne cysts, and acne nodules. Here are some of these options:
Blue, red, and blue + red light devices: Treat pimples, try visible light like blue, red and both combined. At-home (less powerful but safe) and in-office treatments are available.
Infrared light: Treat pimples, including those that develop on the back.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT): Treat acne. During PDT, a solution that makes the skin more sensitive to light is applied to acne-prone skin and then a laser or light device treats the skin.
Photopneumatic therapy: Treat blackheads, whiteheads and some pimples with intense pulsed light (IPL) laser with a gentle vacuum.
How to prevent acne breakouts?
- Hands-off approach. Avoid touching acne-prone skin, which can increase oiliness, irritate your skin, and encourage the growth of bacteria.
- Cleanse skin. Good hygiene is important, including after workouts. Use gentle, non-abrasive cleansers, clean finger tips and warm water (not hot) for face and other acne-prone areas.
- Hydrate skin. Use hydrating oil-free moisturizers.
- Choose cosmetics carefully. Look for oil-free or mineral-based solutions that are hypoallergenic.
- Keep oily hair off skin. Oil-free hair products are available.
What about scars from acne? Are there treatments available?
Yes. Treatment options to reduce or remove acne scarring include:
- Chemical peels, which dissolve dead skin cells on the surface
- Laser resurfacing to remove layers of skin precisely, allowing new skin cells to form during healing
- Microdermabrasion to exfoliate surface skin with abrasion and suction
- Micro-needling, which is designed to break down scar tissue, promoting your body to respond by producing collagen and elastin fibers