A Pimple-Fighting Strategy for Every Type of Acne

Written by HeyDoctor Medical Team

Once you’ve figured out what kind of acne you have, here’s how to fight it.

Now that you’ve figured out what kind of acne you have by checking out our Pinpointing Your Pimples guide, how do you treat it?

Mild acne

Mild acne, which doctors define as fewer than 30 total pimples, can often be treated with over-the-counter medications such as the following:

  • Benzoyl peroxide creams, which kill the acne-causing bacteria
  • Salicylic acid creams, which help slough off dead skin cells, preventing clogging of pores.
  • Other helpful ingredients, such as resorcinol and sulfur

It could take up to eight weeks to see improvement, so hang in there and be patient.

Moderate acne

Moderate acne is defined as having between 30 and 125 total pimples. This kind of acne often responds well to prescription medications such as antimicrobial creams (which target the acne bacteria) or retinoids (which are essentially large, topical doses of vitamin A and promote faster and more effective skin regeneration). Stubborn acne often responds well to prescription retinoid creams that can help prevent acne in the longer term.

Severe acne

Cystic acne should be examined by a doctor and treated ASAP to reduce scarring. You’ll likely be given a prescription for an oral medication such as doxycycline and/or a topical retinoid like Retin-A.

Preventive measures

Finally, some studies indicate that there are lifestyle choices you can make to ease your breakout woes. Here are some good tips:

  • Wash your face with a gentle cleanser twice a day. Don’t strip your skin of needed moisture by using harsh soaps, and don’t overwash — that can actually make your complexion worse by irritating your already inflamed skin.
  • Protect your skin from the sun by wearing sunscreen. For some people, sun exposure can exacerbate acne.
  • Use water-based and non-comedogenic skincare products to avoid irritating and inflaming your skin.
  • Avoid a lot of friction or pressure on the skin. Did you know there is a special kind of breakout caused by heat, friction, and pressure? It’s called acne mechanica, and it’s sometimes called the “sports acne” because it occurs frequently in those who wear helmets or baseball caps.
  • Try putting an absorbent material between your skin and your sports equipment and shower immediately after exercising.
  • Keep yourself hydrated.
  • Cutting back on simple carbohydrates like sugary drinks may also help reduce acne.
  • Hormonal birth control (see below!).

Hormonal treatments: spironolactone and birth control

Ladies, guess what? Some oral contraceptives can also clear up acne. The FDA has approved three types of birth control pills for the treatment of acne, specifically Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, and Yaz, but research has shown that other combination pills are just as effective for treating acne.

There is also a medication called spironolactone that decreases testosterone and can help control hormonal acne.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HeyDoctor, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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