How Is Acne Treated?

How Is Acne Treated?

It is estimated that anywhere from 40 million to 50 million people deal with acne each year in the United States. Although teenagers are the age group most affected by acne due to changing hormones, acne can also affect children and adults. Fortunately, there are a myriad of accessible acne treatments, from topical creams to laser acne removal. General hygienic processes such as exfoliating skin and refraining from wearing tight clothing can also keep oil glands from clogging up. In the following article we answer the questions what is acne, what causes acne and how is acne treated. Learn more about the many popular treatment options for this common skin condition. 

What Is Acne?

Acne is a common skin condition in which skin pores become clogged by a variety of substances, including hair, dead skin cells, bacteria and oil. These blockages can result in the appearance of blackheads, whiteheads, nodules, and other forms of inflammatory acne. 


Blackheads are a form of acne that occurs when pores become clogged with a combination of dead skin cells and sebum. In blackheads, the bottom of the pore becomes clogged, while the top of the pore stays open. 


Also known as closed comedones, whiteheads are a form of acne that usually occurs when pores get clogged by sebum and dead skin cells. Unlike blackheads, whiteheads occur when the top of these pores close up and form white bumps at the top layer of the skin. Whiteheads may be more difficult to treat than blackheads because the pores are already closed, making it difficult for skin treatments to burrow below the epidermis. There are, however, a few products that can help treat whiteheads, including topical retinoids which contain salicylic acid. 

Inflammatory Acne

Inflammatory acne often appears as small red bumps that become swollen and grow over time. It differs from whiteheads and blackheads in that it is often caused by bacterial infection. The most common types of inflammatory acne include nodules, cysts, pustules, and papules. 


Nodules are solid bumps of acne that occur below the surface of the skin. Dermatologists use the term nodule to describe any growth which occurs underneath the skin and is at least 1 centimeter in size. The symptoms and side effects of a nodule depend on where it occurs. Nodules which appear around the thyroid, throat, and mouth can often be the most painful because they affect eating and swallowing.  


Like other forms of acne, cysts appear when pores are clogged by a combination of bacteria, dead skin, and sebum. Cysts are the largest type of acne and their presence usually indicates that pores have been severely infected. If cysts appear on your skin, it is important to seek immediate treatment. When left alone, benign cysts can cause infection and even blood poisoning. 


These pesky bumps usually appear after the walls surrounding your pores are broken down by infection or inflammation. Pustules are usually filled with pus and their rupturing can cause the appearance of red or white heads on the surface of the skin. 


Papules are miniscule forms of acne that occur as a result of severe inflammation. Like pustules, papules often appear after pore walls have collapsed. Papules can cause the surrounding skin to become hard and pink, and can result in the appearance of clogged pores that are tender to touch. 

Where Does Acne Occur?

Most acne occurs on skin that contains the highest quantity of sebaceous oil glands. These surfaces include the back, shoulders, face, and chest.  

What Causes Acne? 

Acne is a predominantly hereditary condition that typically affects people most during their teenage and young adult years. Increased activity of these hormones can result in acne when combined with skin and fatty acids. The following factors can significantly worsen acne that is already present:

  • Fluctuating hormone levels
  • Air pollution
  • Certain weather conditions
  • Tight clothing and headgear
  • Genetics
  • Stress

How Is Acne Treated? 

Most cases of acne are relatively mild and may be treated by improving hygiene and using certain non-prescription medications. The ideal treatment option for acne may depend on factors such as age, severity of acne, affected area of the body, and the effectiveness of over-the-counter remedies. 

Although not approved treatments, certain types of birth control contraceptives can also decrease acne. The United States Food And Drug Administration has approved the use of multiple types of birth control for the treatment of acne, including estrogen and progesterone birth control. 

Back Acne Treatment

Mild back acne can be treated at home without the use of prescription medications. You can treat back acne by avoiding tight clothing, keeping skin washed and clean, and using clean linens. Topical creams and gels such as Benozyl peroxide, systolic acid, and a retinoid gel can also help clear up back acne. 

Chest Acne Treatment

Chest acne is often caused by poor hygiene, tight shirts, and genetic factors. It can affect the central chest near the sternum or the whole chest area extending out to the shoulders. A few effective ways to treat chest acne include using an exfoliating body wash, applying non-comedogenic lotions, showering regularly, and using an anti-acne shower product that contains salicylic acid. 

Laser Acne Treatment

Laser treatment is most useful in eliminating scarring caused by significant, sustained acne. The process is fairly accessible for most people and usually begins by focusing a light on the top layer of the skin to break up acne scar tissue. After this tissue is corroded, new tissue begins to grow and replace the old scarred skin. It is important to note that laser acne treatment does not usually completely destroy acne, but rather reduces the appearance of scars and the associated pain. 

Scalp Acne Treatment 

Most forms of scalp acne develop when hair follicles and scalp pores are clogged by oils and hair products. A person’s pores may also become clogged if they do not wash their hair frequently or if they wear headgear that causes friction against the scalp. Scalp acne can cause persistent inflammation that may result in the occurrence of serious scalp conditions, including fungus, mites, and Staphylococcus Epidermidis. 

Many people who develop scalp acne require a topical antibiotic treatment to help nurse their scalp back to health. Medicated topical antibiotics can be purchased with a prescription from an online or brick-and-mortar pharmacy. 

How To Determine Which Acne Treatment To Use

Determining which acne treatment to use depends on the severity and frequency of your acne, as well as any possible reactions you might have to the treatment's ingredients. The best way to decide on an acne treatment is to first visit your dermatologist or healthcare provider. He or she should be able to tell you which treatment and schedule is best for your acne and genetics.

A dermatologist will closely examine your skin to see which types of acne lesions are present. They may then classify your acne as one of the following:

Mild: Noninflammatory acne, including whiteheads and blackheads. Noninflammatory acne can usually be cleared using over-the-counter products that contain salicylic acid.

Moderate: Moderate acne is usually inflammatory and includes papules and pustules. Most cases of moderate acne can be treated with prescription medications including tretnoin, a topical cream. Cloud9 Healthcare offers tretinoin prescriptions at prices lower than competitors'. You can visit Cloud9's treatment pages to start your journey towards receiving a tretinoin prescription.

Severe: Severe inflammatory acne may include the appearance of cysts around the affected areas. Severe acne may require treatment using topical creams and surgery in the most severe cases.

How Is Acne Treated? Summary 

Acne is a common skin condition in which skin pores become clogged by a variety of substances, including hair, dead skin cells, bacteria and oil. These blockages can result in the appearance of blackheads, whiteheads, nodules, and other forms of inflammatory acne. 

There are many available treatment options for acne including prescription medications, general hygiene practices, and topical creams. If left untreated, severe acne may require more potent antibiotics. 


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