How To Get Rid Of Pimples: The Types Of Acne And Tips To Get Clear Skin

It usually happens on a big day, whether it's the morning of prom, a wedding, or a job interview: We look in the mirror to find our forehead covered in pimples. Out of desperation, we squeeze it, pop it, and put any over-the-counter (OTC) acne product we can find. Despite several attempts, the pimples have gotten worse, and we've run out of options, and ask ourselves: how do we get rid of acne?

In SciShow's video, "How Do You Get Rid of Acne?" host Michael Aranda explains that acne, or acne vulgaris, is the most common skin disease, with an estimated 80 percent of all people getting it at some point. Acne forms when the hair, sebum (the oily substance produced by skin's oil glands), and skin cells clump together into a plug. The bacteria in the plug causes swelling, and when the plug breaks down, a pimple grows. There are many types of pimples, with the most common types including: whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.

The type of pimple determines what's the best acne treatment for us. Often, we'll hear we should wash our face frequently to prevent acne, but acne isn't caused by dirt or by the natural oil, it's already on our face. Washing too much can actually irritate the skin and make it worse.

The way to get rid of acne is to reduce the factors that come together to cause breakouts.

Doctors advise against popping zits, because we run the risk of pushing the infection out of the hair follicle and into the surrounding skin, instead of out to the surface. This can also spread bacteria to non-infected pores, leading to irritation, more inflammation, and taking longer for it to heal.

Acne treatments try to lower sebum production; stop dead skin cells from clumping together in the pores; prevent bacteria growth; and lower inflammation. Treatments can range from mild to aggressive, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Mild Acne: Blackheads And Whiteheads

Topical OTC medications are usually effective in treating this type of acne. Benzoyl peroxide, a chemical compound that kills bacteria, works by decomposing into super reactive forms of ozygen, which bind to and destroy the molecules the bacteria need to survive. Salicylic acid is another common OTC treatment that doesn't kill the bacteria, but stops them from replicating. It also works by breaking down skin cells and keratin to help unclog the pores.

Inflammatory Acne: Papular Pimples Or Cystic Acne

Stronger treatment is needed to reduce inflammation, which usually means prescription medication. Antibiotics, the kind that are also used to treat bacterial infections, from strep throat to urinary tract infection, can aid acne. They work by stopping bacterial growth and reducing inflammation.

Retinoids, which are compounds related to vitamin A, also help get rid of acne.

Birth control or corticosteroids are useful in reducing sebum production. They regulate female hormones and lower the amount of androgen hormones being produced. The less androgen receptors at work means less sebum products, which means less acne.

Scarring: Cystic Acne

Cystic acne can sometimes leave scarring, but there are ways to reduce it. They don't treat or prevent acne itself, but they do reduce the bumps and scars left over from bad breakouts. Dermabrasion is a treatment that uses a gentle sanding tool to wear down layers of skin that have scarred over from cystic acne, but it only works for people with lighter skin.

Layer resurfacing is another treatment that removes skin layer by layer until the scar has smoothed out. Meanwhile, chemical peels work by peeling off the dead skin cells to reveal healthy skin underneath.

Acne can persist well into our 40s and 50s, but the use of treatments can help reduce the appearance of pimples. Acne can make many of us self-conscious, but it's normal, treatable, and most importantly not life-threatening.

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