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What are the Different Types of Acne Control?

L. Burgoon
L. Burgoon

Acne control is split into three broad categories: simple cleansing, prescription medications, and laser or chemical treatments. The acne’s severity helps dictate the most appropriate treatment. While milder cases of acne usually are handled with over the counter treatments, more acute blemish outbreaks often call for working with a physician or dermatologist for effective acne control.

It may be helpful to first understand more about acne to understand control options. When a pore becomes blocked with dead skin cells, oil gets trapped under the skin’s surface. The resulting bacteria growth generally causes two kinds of acne. Whiteheads occur when the trapped dead skin and bacteria stay below the skin’s surface. Blackheads result when the materials open to the surface, oxidizing the oil.

A boy with acne.
A boy with acne.

Acne is a very common problem, especially among teenagers, and often is best controlled by regimented skin care. Gently washing one’s face one to two times per day helps remove dead skin cells and wash away surface oil that may contribute to pimples. Acne control for mild or moderate cases may call for cleansers with benzoyl peroxide to unplug pores or for slightly harsher ingredients, such as salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acid. Both dry out blemishes and peel off the top layer of skin.

Skin care products for acne-prone skin can help reduce oiliness and blemishes.
Skin care products for acne-prone skin can help reduce oiliness and blemishes.

More severe acne cases often require medication. These can come in prescription-strength cleansers and topical creams or in oral pill form. For example, a doctor may prescribe a cleanser or cream with more concentrated salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. A doctor also may prescribe a topical retinoid to help clear pores. These topical solutions often are combined with oral medications for acne control. Low-dosage birth control for women and spironolactone have both proven helpful to regulate hormones that may cause increased acne.

Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.
Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.

Chronic pimples resistant to cleansing and medication sometimes need additional medical intervention. Laser and light treatments target oil glands with the goal of slightly damaging the glands so they produce less acne-causing oil. Some laser and light treatments aim to kill the underlying bacteria that lead to acne. Acne sufferers also may attempt chemical peels to strip away dead skin and oil or microdermabrasion to unclog pores. Most doctors will not recommend these more invasive treatments for acne unless a patient shows no improvement with better cleansing or prescription medications.

Low-estrogen birth control is often prescribed for women with acne problems.
Low-estrogen birth control is often prescribed for women with acne problems.

Regardless of the acne control methods employed, it is important to remember several things about blemishes. First, they are a normal part of life and something faced by almost every person at some point. Second, skin and pores change as a person develops, so modifying one’s approach to pimple control may be necessary over time. Third, people suffering from acne should never pop or pick at pimples, which causes additional inflammation and may lead to scarring.

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    • A boy with acne.
      By: Jörg Hackemann
      A boy with acne.
    • Skin care products for acne-prone skin can help reduce oiliness and blemishes.
      By: picsfive
      Skin care products for acne-prone skin can help reduce oiliness and blemishes.
    • Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.
      By: Gordana Sermek
      Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.
    • Low-estrogen birth control is often prescribed for women with acne problems.
      By: cristi180884
      Low-estrogen birth control is often prescribed for women with acne problems.
    • Depending on the cause, certain types of acne naturally disappear without treatment.
      By: Cheryl Casey
      Depending on the cause, certain types of acne naturally disappear without treatment.