Acne Treatment

Latest update: February 26, 2024
Medically reviewed by: Jennifer Trent MD, FAAD


Acne is a common skin condition that affects many people worldwide. It usually develops in teenagers but can sometimes extend into adulthood as well. Acne is caused by several factors such as excess oil, clogged pores, and bacteria on the face. When glands excrete too much oil and clog the pores, pimples form. Pores can also get clogged by dead skin cells, which form blackheads and whiteheads. Bacteria that live on the skin get caught inside the pores and cause painful breakouts. Women are more prone to acne during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause because of fluctuating hormone levels.

There are two main types of acne; non-inflammatory and inflammatory.

Non-inflammatory acne occurs when oil and dead skin clogs pores. These form comedonal acne, such as blackheads and whiteheads. If left untreated, whiteheads can develop into inflammatory acne.

Inflammatory acne develops when bacteria enter the pores and inflame the area. 
This results in conditions such as papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. Acne often forms in excessive oil-producing regions such as the forehead, nose, and chin, also known as the T-zone.

Acne can be very damaging to one's confidence. 

Several treatments can help acne, such as oral medications, chemical peels, light therapy, and topical medications. Spironolactone is an oral medication that helps regulate hormone levels and reduces oil production in the skin. Accutane is another popular oral medication that helps clear acne.  The treatment lasts 4 to 6 months.  The most common side effect is skin dryness, but it has many other severe ones. Antibiotics and birth control pills can also help to reduce bacteria on the skin and regulate hormones respectively. 

Chemical peels use acids such as glycolic and salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin. They help to generate new skin cells resulting in a brighter-looking complexion. 
Professionals recommend 4-6 treatments. Patients may experience some redness and peeling after each session.

Photodynamic Therapy combines a topical photosensitizing cream with light technology. This treatment kills bacteria and reduces oil production. LED Light Therapy incorporates red and blue lights to reduce oil production, kill bacteria, and decrease inflammation to prevent 
future breakouts.

There are several topical treatments for acne, such as antibiotics, retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid.  Topical antibiotics kill the bacteria that contribute to inflammatory acne.  

Retinoids decrease oil production and unclog pores which helps comedonal acne.  It also removes brown spots left by acne.  Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid unclog pores as well.
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CHEMICAL PEELS | the good, the bad & my choice peel

Dr. Davin Lim, a dermatologist, lets us know his thoughts on chemical peels. He gives us a rundown of what he uses and explains the differences between them. He gives his opinion on peels in general and then gets more specific. He explains the importance of picking the correct peel to treat the specific condition.

What It’s Like To Get A Chemical Peel For Acne Scars | Beauty Explorers | Beauty Insider

This video starts with a warning about graphic content. Caroline Aghajanian, a producer at Beauty Insider, investigates chemical peels by getting one done on herself! She visits Blue Medi Spa in California to have the procedure performed and shares her experience with us. The procedure is shown and the results are assessed as they occur. Will the peel be worth it in the end?