Updated November 20, 2020Everyone knows that feeling you get when you roll out of bed in the morning only to find your face covered in painful, red bumps. Acne can be a frustrating condition. Almost everyone experiences it at some point in their lives. But a lot of people aren’t successful at getting rid of it.Much of your success or failure in the battle against acne depends on having a good understanding of what causes it, what kind of acne you have, and what treatment works for it. Below, we’ll outline ten common and effective treatments, as well as which ones are best for which acne type.Common Treatments Based on Acne TypeNot all types of acne are the same, so they’re not going to respond to the same treatment. The only constant is that it’s important to keep your face clean and your pores unclogged. A gentle cleanser will reduce oil and contaminants on your skin, helping to fight breakouts regardless of whether you have inflammatory or noninflammatory pimples.Treatments for Noninflammatory AcneNoninflammatory acne is acne without swelling. This is often easier to treat than inflammatory acne. It can usually be knocked out by some common drugstore cleansers and spot treatments.1. Salicylic AcidThis beta-hydroxy acid might just be the most common acne treatment on the market. It works by exfoliating the skin to remove dirt and oil from pores. You can get this acne treatment in just about any form, from gels to cleansers to pads to spot treatments.2. Mandelic AcidAnother acid that gently exfoliates, this alpha-hydroxy acid can help even skin tone, treat melasma, reduce rosacea, and treat acne. A lot of mandelic acid treatments come in the form of peels, serums, and cleansers.3. Glycolic AcidYou might be noticing a pattern of mild acids that gently exfoliate the skin to unclog pores, and you’d be right! In this case, glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid derived from sugar cane. Not only can it help reduce acne, but it can also reduce the appearance of fine lines and help even skin tone. This treatment comes in the form of serums, creams, drops, and more.4. Black CharcoalCharcoal masks work a little differently than the mild acids listed above. These face masks function by sitting on the surface of the skin, drawing dirt and oil up, and then absorbing them. When you peel the mask off, the bad stuff in your pores goes with it. You might even see them hanging off the peeled mask. Yuck!Treatments for Inflammatory AcneInflammatory acne is acne accompanied by swelling. It is usually tougher to treat because it’s got more to do with hormones/bacteria and is often rooted deeper in the skin. Topical treatments include:5. RetinolKnown for its power as an anti-aging compound, this vitamin A derivative can also treat acne. It does so by helping dry skin out to reduce the oil layer that sits on top of it. Watch out for over-drying with this powerful compound that comes in gels, serums, and cream forms.6. AdapaleneAnother topical retinoid, this powerful acne-fighting compound only recently became available over the counter. Like retinol, this gel can be used to fight multiple types of acne. Also like retinol, you should watch out for over-drying of the skin.7. Benzoyl PeroxideThis powerful antimicrobial agent fights acne by killing bacteria on the skin. The skin can also absorb benzoyl peroxide spot treatments. This means they can fight subcutaneous pimples as well as surface acne. This treatment comes in lots of forms, including foams, gels, creams, lotions, and cleansers.8. HydrocortisoneThis one is a more painful option usually reserved for stubborn, cystic zits. It works by relieving inflammation in swollen cysts. One shot of this corticosteroid can zap a zit within a couple of days with few side effects. Since it requires a visit to the doctor and can be an uncomfortable experience, a lot of people opt for less aggressive treatments first.Medication Acne TreatmentsSometimes external treatments aren’t effective. If that’s the case, it may be necessary to use more drastic measures.9. Oral antibioticsIf the bacterial infection causing your acne is stubborn enough, your dermatologist may prescribe oral antibiotics to kill the infection. These include both tetracycline and macrolide-based medications. It’s easy to get on a cycle of breaking out, using antibiotics, breaking out again, and using antibiotics again. So it’s best to exhaust your topical options first. If these don’t work, antibiotics can be an effective option.10. AccutaneBecause of its often-dangerous side effects, this prescription medication is considered a last resort for severe acne that has resisted all other forms of treatment. Many doctors are reluctant to prescribe it because it can cause major symptoms like mood changes, mental health problems, birth defects, and sun allergies. If your acne is severe enough to disrupt your life and so stubborn that no other treatment has worked, you could consider speaking with your dermatologist about this medication.As with all medications and supplements, do not start or stop a medicine without first speaking with your doctor.Causes of AcneNow let’s talk a little about what acne is. This common condition is caused by blocked hair follicles in the skin. The pores fill with oil, dead skin cells, dirt, and product. This causes whiteheads, blackheads, and other kinds of pimples.Hormone fluctuations can cause acne as well. This is why teenagers often have zits during and right after puberty. Women can also experience breakouts as their hormone levels alternate throughout the month.Bacteria is also commonly involved with the formation of acne. Lots of times, when pores get clogged with contaminants, it creates a perfect medium for bacteria growth. Infection can spread through the skin, causing additional breakouts.Acne TypesLet’s also delve a little deeper into inflammatory vs noninflammatory acne so you can better decipher which type you have.Noninflammatory AcneThis type of acne usually sits on the epidermis rather than deeper in the skin. Pimples are normally small and can pop up anywhere. There are two main kinds of noninflammatory zits: blackheads and whiteheads.BlackheadsThese are caused by pores being clogged with oil, dirt, dead skin cells, and other contaminants. With blackheads, the top of the pore remains open, which gives the head of the pimple a dark color.WhiteheadsThese are also formed when the pore clogs with dirt, oil, etc. But when the top of the pore closes up, it forms a whitehead.Inflammatory AcneInflammatory acne is different. These pimples are often painful, usually red, and always swollen. They also form deeper in the skin, meaning they can become embedded underneath the epidermis and last for a long time.PapulesThese happen when your pore walls start to weaken from inflammation. Your pores will become hard, painful, and red.PustulesThese are basically papules, only they’re filled with pus, so they often have yellow or whiteheads. Again, these will be red, swollen, and painful.CystsCystic acne can happen when your pores get deeply clogged. The resulting rock-hard bumps form so deep underneath the skin they can feel like a marble in your face. These bumps are the largest and often most stubborn forms of acne. They’re typically very painful and often leave dark marks called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.FAQsWhat kind of bacteria is associated with acne?According to Scientific American, one main strain of bacteria causes acne: Propionibacterium acnes. This bacteria loves to colonize the anaerobic, oil-rich environment of your sebaceous follicles. The good news is that Scientific American also says there are several strains of bacteria that can help fight acne.Are there other things I can do to prevent pimples besides using acne products?Yes! One big thing you can do is eat a diet that helps your body regulate its hormones and reduce oil production. A lot of people think greasy foods like French fries contribute to oily skin, but this is not true. Foods that contribute to acne are actually high glycemic index foods and foods that cause inflammation.Is it true tanning can fix acne?Some people say that sun exposure can help acne, but this is a myth. While a tan may cover up the redness associated with acne, it won’t clear up the acne itself. Also, UV rays are much more dangerous than pimples. So you shouldn’t use them as a “natural” treatment. Always wear sunscreen, and be sure to use protective clothing, hats, and a stronger SPF if you’re outside during the sun’s peak hours.At what age will my acne finally go away?It’s typical for acne to clear up once puberty is over, usually sometime in the late teens or early twenties. However, adult acne is still common. There is no “set age” for acne to clear up because everyone’s skin and body are different.Can I do anything about acne scarring?Yes! There are wonderful treatment options available to help heal pockmarks and lighten hyperpigmentation. These treatments include lightening serums like hydroquinone, alpha-hydroxy acids, niacinamide, and vitamin C. Salicylic acid can also help smooth acne scars as well as healing acne itself.What’s the best acne treatment?Because there are different kinds of acne, there is no clear “winner” here. The right acne treatment for you depends on what kind of acne you have and your skin type. The best way to find out what works is to try different treatments and see how your skin responds.Bottom LineAcne can be a difficult problem to deal with at any age, especially if you have oily skin. Constant breakouts that just won’t seem to go away can be incredibly frustrating and make you feel helpless. Worse still, acne never has a one-size-fits-all treatment. But if you put in the effort to find the skincare routine that works for you, you can beat the bumps for good.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. 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