Three common types of acne, and how to treat them

01.25.2017

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Acne: we all get it, but it’s not all created equal. The good news? Once you’ve figured what type of acne you have, you’ll have greater success treating and preventing it going forward. From blackheads to cysts, learn how to identify and conquer three different kinds of breakouts:

Type: Hormonal Acne

What it looks like: Sudden breakouts that occur around the same time each month, usually along the lower third of your face—chin, mouth and jawline. They may get worse about a week before your period.

Cause: Hormonal acne is exactly what it sounds like: the dirty work of fluctuating hormones. When testosterone levels increase and estrogen levels decrease, our skin goes into overdrive, producing excess oil.

How to treat it: When it comes to hormonal acne, prevention is better than a cure. Proactively treating skin around your time of month can greatly reduce the severity of hormonal breakouts. Be diligent about cleansing with a gentle, non-drying cleanser, and be sure to use an oil-free moisturizer. Consider adding a toner to your daily routine—particularly one with astringent, antimicrobial properties—which can prevent hormonal acne from happening in the first place. If pimples do pop up, spot treat as needed with known acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and witch hazel.

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Type: Cystic Acne

What it looks like: Large, tender, inflamed pimples. Oftentimes, cystic acne appears as small, smooth boils deep under the skin’s surface, and will never come to a head.

Cause: Cystic acne is largely a genetic condition. The cause may be either overactive oil glands, hormonal imbalance, or a surplus of the bacteria that creates acne.

How to treat it: While cystic acne is notoriously tough to treat, don’t despair—there are a variety of things you can do to fight it. In addition to two gentle (keyword: non-drying) cleanses per day,  exfoliate every other day to buff away bacteria and keep pores clear. We highly recommend using probiotic skincare, which helps keep your skin’s pH in perfect balance. Cleansers and moisturizers that contain probiotics are especially helpful for cystic acne since they regulate bacteria levels at AND below the skin’s surface. Finally, consider adding another layer of prevention to your routine with an internal supplement—anything with anti-inflammatory properties like vitamins A, C, E, B1 and B5 are especially effective.

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Type: Comedonal

What it looks like: Bumpy skin, blackheads, and the occasional whitehead

Cause: In short, a “comedone” is just a fancy word for a clogged pore or follicle. Open comedones are blackheads, while closed comedones are whiteheads. However, they’re both caused by the same thing—blocked, congested pores. Comedonal acne is especially common in people whose skin doesn’t turn over quickly.

How to treat it: You can pretty much blame comedonal acne on your clogged pores, so look for products with salicylic acid, willow bark and ginkgo biloba. These ingredients help keep pores clear by removing excess oil and dead cells from the skin’s surface. Physical exfoliation is an essential step with comedonal acne, too, since it both unclogs pores and stimulates cellular turnover. Another great option for getting rid of pore-clogging surface debris? Steaming your skin at home. However, be sure to cleanse immediately after steaming — that way, you’ll rid skin of any remaining acne causing bacteria before your put on moisturizer.

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2 thoughts on “Three common types of acne, and how to treat them”

  1. I didn’t realize there were these three different types of acne out there. I think it’s important that we are able to identify these types of acne early on so that we can take steps to combat it and prevent it from getting worse. Depending on your acne situation, you may need to contact a dermatologist to get a better idea of what kind of treatment options may be best for you specific skin conditions.

  2. My son has been struggling with his acne for a while. He has tries to keep his face clean, but he still has issues. I didn’t realize cystic acne is mostly genetic and that there are different professional treatments that can help limit the amount of acne you experience. I’ll be sure to share this information with my son.

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