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How to Treat Different Stages of Acne

Although acne is a common skin problem, it can be very complicated, from its causes to treatments. It has the same characteristics, but can be unique to everyone. There are different types of acne and there are several stages of the problem. Skin professionals also said that acne can be different at different periods of life.

How to determine acne severity

woman with acne
image credit: Hubbell Dermatology & Aesthetics

There is no general way of classifying acne severity. Skin care professionals classify acne in somewhat different method.

Most dermatologists applies grades to categorize the severity of cne. They use grades like grade I being the mildest and grade IV being the most severe. But generally, they use the simplest and the straightforward way: mild, moderate, and severe. There is no clinical procedure to determine the severity of an acne. A dermatologist just simply do a visual inspection of the skin. The skin can move between these grades since acne most likely wax and wane on its own.

Now, it is time to learn the grades of acne severity of each of acne type. We will use Grade I – Mild Acne, Grade II – Moderate Acne, Grade III – Severe Acne, and Grade IV – Cystic Acne.

Grade I Mild Acne

Mild acne, also known as “flat acne” is non-inflammatory. It may not progress beyond this grade. Or, it can be an early signal for a severe case. Being non-inflammatory, there are no redness and bumps.

Grade I acne has open comedones commonly known as blackheads. These skin blemishes are results of clogged pores due to excess waxy sebum – an oily substance released to lubricate skin.

Most people thought that blackheads occur when dirt are trapped in the sebum. Blackheads are actually the results from oxidation at the time when sebum is exposed to the air. They can be seen anywhere on the face, in the T-zone of the forehead, chin, and nose.

Over-the-counter acne products are enough to treat mild acne. Find acne products that are water-based with salicylic acid. This ingredient is a strong element to unblock pores. The simplest home remedy is steaming. It opens and clears pores.

Grade II Moderate Acne

Moderate acne is characterized by whiteheads which are closed comedones, some with slight swelling and mild inflammation. They also appear in greater numbers. These skin blemishes tend to grow randomly across the face rather than only in the T-zone. Papules and pustules may also be present, which are the types of skin blemishes that generally people associate with acne.

Papules are raised red bumps due to bacteria that damaged the pores with no fluid inside. Unlike mild acne that stays in the outer layer of your skin, papules tend to come from inside the dermis. Sometimes, they grow independent of acne making it difficult to determine the real skin condition.

Like papules, pustules are raised red bumps, but they are as white at the top due to accumulated white blood cells and debris.

Both papules and pustules indicate the presence of bacteria where inflammatory is due to the reaction of the body’s immune system to the infection.

You can use topical treatments that can cleanse your skin and destroy the bacteria that cause the problem. Or, you can maintain the right levels of moisture. The skin needs oil to remain soft and lubricated, therefore the goal of the treatment should be something that can relieve the inflammation, not remove the oil from your face.

Grade III Severe Acne

Acne can develop to Grade III when blemishes grow in larger numbers. Inflammation is more distinct. Blemishes can be dense that they are distributed and joined together. This condition results to the whole area of the skin being infected instead of just a single pore. When this occurs, the texture of the skin is compromised opening to high risks of acne scarring.

When the infection spreads deeply into the skin, avoid abrasive exfoliants. This is because corrosive exfoliants tend to spread the infection instead of relieving it. Dermatologists are licensed to prescribe medicinal treatments like topical and oral antibiotic treatments to minimize inflammation. Consult with your dermatologists before acne develops into grade 3 acne.

Also, avoid squeezing or popping pimples, papules and pustules because they tend to spread the bacteria and multiply risks of breakouts. It can also spread infection by forcing the infection deeper into your skin.

Grade IV Cystic Acne

Grade IV or cystic acne is marked by big, angry-looking blemishes on the face and jaw line. They can also affect the arms, shoulders, neck, upper body, and back. They result in cysts – deep blemishes which are more than 5-mm in diameter. They look like a boil with a soft, tender surface but is painful to the touch.

Nodules are hard, painful bumps similar to cysts but have pus or other fluids. They can last for several week, or even months and go dormant only to re-grow later.

With Grade IV stage, scarring is inevitable. Dermatologists treat them to reduce scarring and long lasting damage to skin. They give prescription-strength topical treatments and oral medications. In some cases, dermatologists may inject corticosteroids directly into the bigger cysts and nodules.

woman with flawless skin
image credit: Onedio

Even mildest acne is enough to affect your life by ruining your self-esteem causing you to avoid interactions with others. Regardless of the type of acne that you have, always remember that there are always ways to treat and control it. To treat it, you must know what you are facing and dealing with. It is easier to treat mild acne with over-the-counter acne products. However, with severe types, you need to see and consult with your dermatologist. Just trust your dermatologist to help you develop an effective treatment program for your acne for healthier and clearer skin.

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