Acne affects just about everyone at some point in life, regardless of age. When hair follicles or pores are clogged by oil and dead skin cells, acne starts to form. There are different types of acne, and these call forth various level of severities.
While it typically results in spots and red bumps on the surface of our faces, acne can also appear on the face, shoulders, back, neck, chest, and upper arms.
It is important to know how to identify the different types of acne and what can be done to treat or prevent them. Adopting the wrong treatment can annoy the acne even further and cause further skin inflammation or permanent scarring.
Acne is segregated into two major categories - non-inflammatory and inflammatory. While some can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications, some may require the help of an aesthetic doctor or a dermatologist.
Non-inflammatory acne typically does not swell or cause redness in the skin. Of all types of acne, these are fairly common and are essentially painless, making them much easier to eliminate.
The common types of non-inflammatory acne include whiteheads and blackheads.
Whiteheads appear as small bumps, often white - or flesh-coloured, surrounded by a red halo. When the whitehead is larger in size or appears bumpy, the skin around it may appear tight or wrinkled. For the most part, whiteheads do not cause significant scarring.
Blackheads come about when whiteheads are exposed to air, causing discolouration. They are black- or dark-coloured spots in the form of slightly raised bumps. Unlike whiteheads, there may be less redness in the surrounding skin.
Inflammatory acne is a severe form of acne and has a higher likelihood of causing secondary complications such as scarring or pitting. Non-inflammatory acne aggravated by touch or the surroundings can also turn into inflammatory acne.
The common types of inflammatory acne include:
Papules do not have a visible center or widened pores. Instead, they are solid yet tender to touch, pink and appear raised. These only form when a whitehead or blackhead becomes too irritated and damage the surrounding skin. This, in turn, causes the affected area of the skin to slightly swell and turn red - also known as inflammation.
Pustules have a well-defined circular center and are much larger and more tender than papules. The bump carries a pink or red base and a center filled with white or yellow pus. Pustules generally look like the bigger and more inflamed versions of whiteheads, as immune and bacterial cells in the skin have gathered to form pus.
Nodules emerge when clogged pores damage tissues and cells that are deep beneath the skin’s surface. This particular type of acne is hard to the touch and appear as deep-rooted inflamed lumps that are painful. As it is more severe, skin complications such as dark spots and scarring are some common aftermaths.
Cysts are filled with pus and materialize in very large and soft, red or white lumps, trapped deep within the layers of skin. This highly severe type of acne tends to be the largest in size, painful and typically result in scarring.
Acne should be left alone for it to heal properly. Should it be picked at or squeezed, it can result in permanent scarring. When acne penetrates deep into the skin and damages the deeper layers, the inflammation rises to the surface and breaks down the surrounding skin, causing indentation known as scarring.
The type of acne scars developed varies in accordance with the type of acne and how it was treated. In most situations, light red or brown scars left on the skin will clear up with time but severe types of acne such as cystic are more likely to leave behind permanent scarring as it heals.
While stress does not directly cause acne, it does play a role in elevating the size and condition of the bumps. Knowing how to alleviate and manage stress is crucial in preventing and treating acne.
Similar to wounds, acne also heals slower when a person is under stress. When the healing process takes a longer time, acne is left on the skin for an extended period which makes it more susceptible to bacteria and inflammation.
Glutathione is an antioxidant produced in cells that contain anti-inflammatory properties, which are crucial for preventing acne. A study suggested that people suffering from acne have lower levels of glutathione in the skin than non-acne sufferers. This powerful detoxifier has shown effectiveness in fighting anxiety and depression and helps with gut issues - another issue linked to acne.
When stress levels are increased, glutathione levels in the body are also reduced, resulting in higher production of acne.
Due to hormone fluctuations, acne breakout is aggravated by clogged hair follicles, increased sebum production in the pores, and the production of acne-causing bacteria called Propionibacterium Acnes.
Acne in women can be triggered due to various reasons such as hormone changes during puberty, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.
Puberty in women typically happens between the ages of 10 to 17. During this period in life, hormonal acne usually forms on the T-zone, namely the forehead, nose, and chin areas.
Hormones are known to fluctuate even more during menstruation and pregnancy. As an adult, hormonal acne often appears on the lower part of the face such as on the cheeks and around the jawline.
Women in their 40s and 50s may still experience hormonal acne during menopause due to a drop in oestrogen levels or an increase in androgen hormones such as testosterone.
Teenage acne commonly lasts for around 5 to 10 years and goes away during the early 20s. This can occur in both males and females. In comparison, adult acne is more prevalent in women than in men. As women get older, acne breakouts occur a lot less frequently but are known to recur in their 30s.
Non-inflammatory acne can be persistent and pop up once every few days, but they will eventually go away on their own when not prodded at.
As a rule of thumb, the complete clearing of inflammatory acne can take up to 2 to 3 months as the skin cell completes a full turnover cycle.
The treatments for acne and acne scars differ greatly, both depending on numerous factors like the specific cause(s) and skin type. While treatment of acne scars focus on reducing size and depth of the scar, treatment of mild acne can be well managed with the following methods:
Chemical peels use glycolic or salicylic acid to remove the outer layers of the skin. This treatment works best on lighter scars.
Dermabrasion is a skin-resurfacing procedure that requires multiple rounds of treatment. It utilizes a rapidly rotating device that removes the outer layer of skin to bring newer, healthier skin cells to the surface for a smoother texture.
Laser resurfacing removes the damaged top layer of skin to tighten the middle layer using medical-grade lasers. This treatment is time efficient and leaves behind smoother, cleaner skin.
Microneedling uses needles to create tiny pricks around the scars. This helps form pockets of healing that stimulate collagen production to effectively reduce the depth of a scar.
Acne facials are skin condition-specific facial treatments that utilize the use of potent ingredients and precise techniques to extricate and eliminate stubborn and active acne.
Using the latest Korean-style scientific technologies, Illumia Therapeutics’ skin experts can match you with the right acne or acne scar treatment that is suitable for your skin type. Specially designed acne facials are also suitable for acne-prone skin to manage existing acne and prevent acne recurrence.
Schedule a consultation with our therapists to determine the best acne facial for your skin today.
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