Understanding the Different Types of Acne and How to Treat Them.

By Aesthetics Academy of Virginia

Types of acne - Aesthetics Academy of Virginia

Acne is a common yet complex skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s not just a teenage problem – people of all ages can suffer from acne. The condition can range from mild to severe and can have a significant impact on an individual’s self-esteem and confidence. To effectively manage and treat acne, it is essential to understand its various types and the corresponding treatment options. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the different types of acne and provide an in-depth look at the latest treatment options available.


  • Introduction
  • Types of Acne
    • Non-Inflammatory Acne
    • Inflammatory Acne
  • Causes of Acne
  • Acne Treatment Options
    • Topical Treatments
    • Oral Medications
    • In-Office Procedures
    • Lifestyle Changes
  • Conclusion
  • References


Acne is a skin condition characterized by the occurrence of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts due to the clogging of hair follicles with dead skin cells, sebum (an oily substance produced by the skin), and bacteria. While acne is commonly associated with adolescence, it can affect people of all ages and can persist well into adulthood.

Although acne is not life-threatening, it can cause emotional distress and lead to permanent scarring if left untreated. As such, understanding the different types of acne and exploring the various treatment options is critical for effective management and prevention.

Types of Acne

There are two main categories of acne: non-inflammatory and inflammatory.

Non-Inflammatory Acne

Non-inflammatory acne is characterized by the presence of comedones, which are clogged hair follicles. There are two types of comedones:

  1. Open comedones (blackheads): These appear as small, dark spots on the skin. The dark color is not due to dirt but rather a result of oxidation of the sebum and dead skin cells in the open pore.
  2. Closed comedones (whiteheads): These are small, white or flesh-colored bumps on the skin. Whiteheads form when the pore is completely blocked, resulting in a buildup of sebum and dead skin cells under the skin’s surface.

Inflammatory Acne

Inflammatory acne occurs when bacteria invade the clogged pore, leading to inflammation and the formation of pus-filled lesions. There are four types of inflammatory acne:

  1. Papules: These are small, red, and tender bumps that occur when the walls of the hair follicle become inflamed.
  2. Pustules: These are similar to papules but contain pus. Pustules have a yellow or white center surrounded by red, inflamed skin.
  3. Nodules: These are large, solid, and painful lumps that form deep within the skin. Nodules occur when the inflammation extends into the deeper layers of the skin.
  4. Cysts: These are the most severe form of acne and are characterized by large, pus-filled lesions that form deep within the skin. Cysts can be painful and often leave scars.

Causes of Acne

Several factors contribute to the development of acne, including:

  • Excess sebum production: Overproduction of sebum can lead to clogged pores, which in turn can result in acne.
  • Hormonal fluctuations: Hormonal changes, particularly during puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy, can stimulate sebum production and contribute to acne development.
  • Dead skin cells: A buildup of dead skin cells can clog pores and lead to acne.
  • Bacteria: The bacterium Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) can multiply within clogged pores, leading to inflammation and the formation of acne lesions.
  • Genetics: A family history of acne can increase the likelihood of developing the condition.

Acne Treatment Options

There are various treatment options for acne, ranging from over-the-counter (OTC) products to prescription medications and in-office procedures. The choice of treatment will depend on the severity of the acne and individual skin type.

Topical Treatments

Topical treatments are applied directly to the skin and are suitable for mild to moderate acne. Some common topical treatments include:

  1. Benzoyl peroxide: This OTC medication kills bacteria that contribute to acne and helps to unclog pores. It is available in various concentrations, with higher concentrations being more potent but potentially more irritating to the skin.
  2. Salicylic acid: This OTC treatment helps to exfoliate the skin and unclog pores. It is particularly effective for treating blackheads and whiteheads.
  3. Topical retinoids: These prescription medications, derived from vitamin A, help to unclog pores and prevent the formation of new acne lesions. Examples include tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene.
  4. Topical antibiotics: Prescription topical antibiotics, such as clindamycin and erythromycin, can help to kill acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation.
  5. Azelaic acid: This prescription medication helps to unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and lighten dark spots that can be left behind after acne heals.

Oral Medications

Oral medications may be prescribed for moderate to severe acne or acne that has not responded to topical treatments. Some common oral medications include:

  1. Oral antibiotics: These medications, such as doxycycline, tetracycline, and minocycline, help to kill acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation. Oral antibiotics are usually prescribed for a short period to minimize the risk of antibiotic resistance.
  2. Hormonal therapies: For women, hormonal therapies, such as combined oral contraceptives and anti-androgens like spironolactone, can help to regulate hormonal fluctuations that contribute to acne.
  3. Isotretinoin: This powerful oral retinoid is reserved for severe, cystic acne that has not responded to other treatments. Isotretinoin can cause serious side effects and requires close monitoring by a healthcare provider.

In-Office Procedures

In-office procedures can be helpful for treating acne and improving the appearance of acne scars. Some common in-office procedures include:

  1. Chemical peels: These treatments involve using a chemical solution to remove the top layer of skin, promoting the growth of new, healthier skin. Chemical peels can help to unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and improve skin texture.
  2. Microdermabrasion: This procedure uses a machine to exfoliate the skin, removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores. Microdermabrasion can help to reduce the appearance of acne scars and improve skin texture.
  3. Light and laser therapy: These treatments use various types of light and laser energy to target acne-causing bacteria, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the production of collagen to improve the appearance of acne scars.
  4. Corticosteroid injections: For large, painful cysts, a healthcare provider may inject a corticosteroid directly into the lesion to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Lifestyle Changes

In addition to medical treatments, lifestyle changes can help to prevent and manage acne. Some recommendations include:

  1. Gentle skin care: Use a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser to wash your face twice daily and after sweating. Avoid harsh scrubbing and over-cleansing, which can irritate the skin and worsen acne.
  2. Moisturize: Many acne treatments can be drying to the skin. Use a non-comedogenic moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated and healthy.
  3. Sun protection: Some acne treatments can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
  4. Stress management: Stress can exacerbate acne. Incorporate stress-reducing practices, such as exercise, meditation, or deep breathing exercises, into your daily routine.
  5. Diet: Although the role of diet in acne remains controversial, some studies suggest that a low-glycemic-index diet and limiting dairy consumption may help to reduce acne.


Understanding the different types of acne and their respective treatments is crucial for effective management and prevention. By working with a dermatologist or aesthetician, individuals can develop a customized treatment plan that addresses their specific acne concerns and promotes healthy, clear skin.


  1. Zaenglein, A. L., Pathy, A. L., Schlosser, B. J., Alikhan, A., Baldwin, H. E., Berson, D. S., … & Bhushan, R. (2016). Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 74(5), 945-973.
  2. Tan, A. U., Schlosser, B. J., & Paller, A. S. (2017). A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, 4(2), 56-71.
  3. Bickers, D. R., Lim, H. W., Margolis, D., Weinstock, M. A., Goodman, C., Faulkner, E., … & Dzubow, L. (2006). The burden of skin diseases: 200

If you’re passionate about skincare and helping others achieve clear, healthy skin, then Aesthetics Academy of Virginia is the perfect place for you to start your journey. Our academy provides comprehensive training on the management and treatment of acne, as well as other aesthetic procedures, and our experienced instructors ensure that you have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in this field.

By enrolling in our academy, you’ll gain access to cutting-edge techniques and technologies that are used in the industry today. Our training is hands-on, allowing you to apply what you’ve learned in real-life scenarios and prepare you for your future career. Our courses are designed to be flexible, allowing you to learn at your own pace and fit your studies around your other commitments.

At Aesthetics Academy of Virginia, we believe that education is the key to success, and we’re committed to helping our students achieve their goals. We provide ongoing support and guidance, even after you’ve completed your training, to ensure that you’re fully prepared to enter the workforce and make a difference in the lives of your clients.

Aesthetics Academy of Virginia