Acne is made up of two types of blemishes:
- Whiteheads/Blackheads: Also called comedones, these blemishes are non-inflammatory and predominantly appear on the face and shoulders. As long as they remain uninfected, they are unlikely to lead to scarring.
- Red Pustules or Papules: Inflamed, pus-filled pores that can lead to scarring.
In normal skin, sebaceous glands under the skin produce an oily substance called sebum. Sebum moves upward to the top of each hair follicle, spilling out onto the skin surface with sloughed-off skin cells. Acne occurs when the hair follicle becomes clogged, preventing sebum and skin cells from being released. A whitehead appears when the opening is fully blocked while a blackhead appears if the opening is open. Red pustules or papules form when whiteheads or blackheads become inflamed.
It's important to not pick or scratch at individual acne lesions. Picking and/or scratching increases inflammation which may lead to long-term scarring.
Common Acne Treatments
Treating acne is a relatively slow process — there are no overnight remedies. Common treatments include:
- Benzoyl Peroxide: Effective for mild acne, it reduces hair follicle blockages.
- Oral & Topical Antibiotics: Treat any infection in the pores.
- Hormonal Treatments: Used for adult women with hormonally induced acne.
- Tretinoin: A derivative of Vitamin A and mainstay in acne treatment, it helps unplug the blocked material in comedones.
- Extraction: A small metal instrument is centered on a comedone then pushed down to extrude a blocked pore.