THINGS THAT GO BUMP: acne types and treatments

I still get surprised by the crazy methods my clients sometimes will tell me they've used to get rid of a pimple. It's a pretty funny list;  lemons, crazy glue, toothpaste, duct tape...truly heard it all. Any bump or breakout on your face is undesirable, and sometimes these drastic measures are taken, I get it! But the key to getting rid of it, is figuring out what it is because one size does not fit all when it comes to over the counter acne treatments. If you've been having bothersome skin issues, let me highly encourage you to visit a medical esthetician or dermatologist to treat your skin. But for the occasional pimples and those pesky blackheads, read on! 

All the pores on your pores (all 20,000 of them) have their own little route that makes oil from your oil glands get to the surface of your skin. When too much oil gets produced (usually related to hormonal shifts) thats where things go wrong. That extra oil gets blocked up, and gets stuck. Add in some hair follicles to cause trouble, dead cells on the surface to clog it even more, and throw in some bacteria, and now you have some type of bump. 

Lets start from little to big..

Blackheads are just oil trapped in the pore, air makes oil oxidize, and thats why the oil turns dark. These aren't caused by bacteria so they won't respond to oral or topical antibiotics, or topical disinfectants like sulfur or benzoyl peroxide. Blackheads respond really well to salicylic acid or prescription topicals like Retin-A. Visit a good facialist to remove them professionally, we have a methodical way to do this without harming the skin. Pore strips work pretty well if your blackheads aren't deep.  If you must squeeze a few, place a warm washcloth on the area first for about a minute, then with fingers wrapped in cotton, squeeze gently. Give yourself a time limit of no more then a minute or two, and then wash your face again. Once they are removed, stick with regular exfoliation (learn about that here), and get on a salicylic acid product. I love Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil Free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment or Pro-Active Clarifying Night Cream. 

Milia are those hard small white bumps that look like a pimple, but isn't a pimple. Theres no white goo and it can't be squeezed out. There isn't a product that can remove them, but you can prevent them with proper exfoliation and retinoids if you are prone to them. These need to be physically removed by an esthetician or a dermatologist. We have disposable tiny lancets and needles to open it and extract it. Sounds barbaric but its painless, I promise.

Pimples, papules, and pustules are the most common type of acne lesions. They are pink or red, usually filled with fluid and oil, and sometimes a little sore. This is usually an easy form of acne to take care of using a combo of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide since they involve bacteria and inflammation. For more then the occasional one, or for acne that doesn't respond to over the counter methods, we might add in a prescription product. Don't pick! Its tempting, but think about the red mark that will linger for weeks. Use a salicylic acid product every morning (mentioned above) and for nights, dab on a really well formulated benzoyl peroxide product, try Clinique Acne Solutions Emergency Gel Lotion, or Kate Sommerville's Anti Bac Clearing Lotion. 

Cysts and nodules are the most difficult types of acne to treat. These buggers are usually painful, because they pass through nerves and are deep into your oil gland. Sometimes they can lead to scarring if left untreated; the size of it damages the the skins tissue around. Run, don't walk to your dermatologist. For the occasional cyst, they can do a little steroid injection to try to deflate it. For persistent cystic acne, sometimes oral medication is necessary.