Are acne and pimples the same? There is a misconception that acne refers only to pus-filled or cystic lesions, but that is not the case. There are several grades or types of acne, ranging from the typical black and whiteheads to the more severe cystic acne.
According to Dr Manasi Shirolikar, Consultant Dermatologist and Founder of Online Consulting Brand drmanasiskin.com, "Acne occurs due to the clogging of your hair follicle or 'pore.' Clogging can be due to oil and dead skin cells, dust and pollution, or using the wrong skincare products."
"The clogged pore then swells and may become inflamed - seen as redness. It may then form pus or a cyst. Acne is also influenced by many factors such as genetics, food and lifestyle habits, stress, and hormones," she explained.
Forms of acne
There are 4 primary grades or forms of acne.
Grade 1 - Comedones, also known as blackheads and whiteheads.
Grade 2 - Papule, a skin-coloured bump on the skin.
Grade 3 - Pustule, when the bump becomes filled with pus.
Grade 4 - Nodules and Cysts, usually not seen on the surface but felt under the surface as small lumps.
Peak time of acne attack
"Generally, festive and wedding seasons have a surge in acne due to food habits and binge eating, including eating a lot of sweets. It's ironic because most people would want their face at its clearest at that time," said Dr Manasi.
"Due to sweat in summers and humidity in monsoons, acne can increase. Winters are typically a respite for acne-prone skin."
Dr Manasi recommended that it is essential to understand the type of acne before beginning to treat it. Type 1 and 2 can be treated with simple exfoliants or over-the-counter salicylic acid treatments. You can additionally use face washes with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
"Type 3 and 4 are more serious and require to be treated by a dermatologist who would typically give you anti-acne medicated gels containing antibacterial ingredients or adapalene. You may even be given oral medications such as antibiotics or isotretinoin," said the doctor.
How to prevent
Dr Manasi suggested maintaining a good skincare routine, which is essential to prevent acne. This would include cleansing, moisturizing, using sunscreen, and exfoliating regularly using salicylic acid.
Additionally, incorporate good skin care habits such as not picking on your skin, not popping your pimples, not using toothpaste or kitchen ingredients on your skin, not sleeping with makeup on, and not touching your face too often, especially with unclean hands.
Dr Manasi said, "Your diet also impacts your skin. Foods with a high glycemic index (typically fast food or sugary foods) increase the oil in your skin and lead to more acne formation."
Safe ingredients to use regularly for acne prevention:
"A salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide face wash is a good start. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are also available as leave-on spot treatments. These work best on type 1 and type 2 acne," she added.
You can also use calming ingredients like Centella to decrease inflammation. Niacinamide and azelaic acid also help to prevent acne.
However, if your acne is not controlled by the above or is long-standing, consulting a dermatologist is advisable.
"Stay away from home remedies as much as possible. Many of my patients have tried them as a quick fix, which has usually worsened their acne," the doctor cautioned.
She also recommended not using any product you find in advertisements. Choosing products according to your skin type is always the ideal way.